I love viruses, and I love ERVs, but I am not the only one :-D
Here are some links to pieces people have written about these lovely pirates, from three different perspectives.
2-- Carl Zimmer is no stranger to viruses. While he is still a 'layman', he has turned a personal fascination into a professional interest in viruses and ERVs. I love his writing on viruses, and this latest piece is no exception:
We have a ton of ERV elements in our genome. Carl writes about a paper where scientists looked at some of the youngest ones (the ones most likely to retain some kind of function) in humans, and specifically looked at the viral promoters to see if any of them had been co-opted for host (human) use.
The Big Differences between humans and our closest ancestors is not necessarily our genes, but the expression levels of those genes. These scientists found one ERV promoter that might have played a role in altering a genes expression in certain parts of the human brain.
It is hard to tell the difference between 'An ERV promoter CAN do X' and 'An ERV promoter DOES do X', and Im not sure whether the scientists are there yet, but its a cool paper nonetheless. I totally missed this paper, so Im glad Carl caught it!
3-- If you want to read ERVs from a professional who is not me, there was a cool little bio piece on Ravinder Kanda a while back that I never got around to linking to. Dr. Kanda is a post-doc in the Zoology department at Oxford, who also got bitten by the ERV bug:
"Women in Science: Genome Invaders – Friend or foe?"
Women are getting into science to steal our genomes!11! Protect the purity of your bodily fluids.