Most Drosophila transposable elements are LTR retrotransposons, some of which belong to the genus Errantivirus and share structural and functional characteristics with vertebrate endogenous retroviruses. Like endogenous retroviruses, it is unclear whether errantiviruses retain some infectivity and transposition capacity. We created conditions where control of the Drosophila ZAM errantivirus through the piRNA pathway was abolished leading to its de novo reactivation in somatic gonadal cells. After reactivation, ZAM invaded the oocytes and severe fertility defects were observed. While ZAM expression persists in the somatic gonadal cells, the germline then set up its own adaptive genomic immune response by producing piRNAs against the constantly invading errantivirus, restricting invasion. Our results suggest that although errantiviruses are continuously repressed by the piRNA pathway, they may retain their ability to infect the germline and transpose, thus allowing them to efficiently invade the germline if they are expressed.
dans Nature communications , vol. 14 - pp 6096