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Baltimore Classification

Higher order taxa

Viruses; Retro-transcribing viruses; Retroviridae


  • Orthoretrovirinae (subfamily)
    • Alpharetrovirus
    • Betaretrovirus
    • Deltaretrovirus
    • Epsilonretrovirus
    • Gammaretrovirus
    • Lentivirus
  • Spumaretrovirinae (subfamily)
    • Spumaretrovirus
  • Unclassified Retroviridae

Description and Significance

Genome Structure

The genome of retroviridae is dimeric, unsegmented and contains a single molecule of linear. The genome is -RT and a positive-sense, single-stranded RNA. Minor species of non-genomic nucleic acid are also found in virions. The encapsidated nucleic acid is mainly of genomic origin but virions may also contain nucleic acid of host origin, including host RNA and fragments of host DNA believed to be incidental inclusions. The complete genome of one monomer is 7000-11000 nucleotides long. The 5'-end of the genome has a methylated nucleotide cap with a cap sequence type 1 m7G5ppp5'GmpNp. The 3'-terminus of each monomer has a poly (A) tract and the terminus has a tRNA-like structure. (source: ICTVdB Descriptions)

Virion Structure of a Retroviridae

The virions of a retroviridae consist of an envelope, a nucleocapsid and a nucleoid. The virus capsid is enveloped. The virions are spherical to pleomorphic and measure 80-100 nm in diameter. The surface projections are small or distinctive glycoprotein spikes that cover the surface evenly. The projections are densely dispersed and 8 nm long. The nucleoid is concentric or eccentric while the core is spherical. (source: ICTVdB Descriptions)

Reproduction Cycle of a Retroviridae in a Host Cell

Viral Ecology & Pathology

The pathogenesis of retrovirus has been concentrated on oncogenesis and more recently AIDS but retroviruses cause a variety of haematopoetic and neurological conditions. Some such conditions caused by retroviridae are paralysis, wasting, ataxia, arthritis, dementia and neuropathy.

It was recently reported that an ancient retrotransposon insertion is the cause of Fukayama-type muscular dystrophy, one of the commonest autosomal recessive disorders in Japan. This is the only known instance of insertional mutagenesis of the human genome caused by this type of element to date, but it seems certain that other examples will be discovered in the future.


ICTVdB Descriptions