Latency of Animal Viruses

Viruses that remain dormant in cells for a long period of time with no viral activity, signs or symptoms are called provirus or latent virus. Some latent viruses do not become incorporated into the chromosomes of host whereas some do.

A provirus does not directly make new DNA copies of itself while integrated into a host genome in this way. Instead, it is passively replicated along with the host genome and passed on to the original cell's offspring; all descendants of the infected cell will also bear proviruses in their genomes. Integration can result in a latent infection or a productive infection. In a productive infection, the provirus is transcribed into messenger RNA which directly produces new virus, which in turn will infect other cells. A latent infection results when the provirus is transcriptionally silent rather than active. A latent infection may become productive in response to changes in the host's environmental conditions or health, the provirus may be activated and begin transcription of its viral genome. This can result in the destruction of its host cell because the cell's protein synthesis machinery is hijacked to produce more viruses. It is thought that provirus may account for approximately 8% of the human genome in the form of inherited endogenous retroviruses.

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