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The endogenous retroviruses are inherited elements transmitted trough the germline of most animal species and their biological role is still controversial. Ovine Pulmonary Carcinoma (OPC) represents a good model for studying the interactions of endogenous retroviruses with their exogenous counterparts. The type D exogenous retrovirus known as Jaagsiekte Sheep Retro-Virus (JSRV) is necessary and sufficient to cause OPC in domestic and wild sheep, but both affected and unaffected animals host in their genome 15 to 20 copies of related endogenous retroviruses named endogenous JSRV (enJSRV). In this study we evaluated the expression of enJSRV gag sequences in ovine foetal and placental tissues. RNA in situ hybridisation was performed on tissue sections of thymi, lymph nodes and lungs from ovine foetuses and related placentas, taken at a late stage of development. Reverse transcriptase- in situ polymerase chain reactions were also carried out on placental samples to better define the involved cells. In foetal tissues, specific signals were observed in the thymus medulla, lymph nodes and, at a lesser extent, in foetal bronchiolar cells. In the placental tissues, positive areas were detected in various cell types in the sincythium-and cyto-trophoblast. These data demonstrate that en JSRV RNA is largely expressed in a broad spectrum of cells including tissues which are critical for the development of the immune system.
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