Marx, Preston A. California Primate Research Center, University of California, Davis, California.
Last reviewed:September 2020
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- Specific retrovirus genera and diseases
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
A family of ribonucleic acid viruses that possess reverse transcriptase. Retroviruses (see illustration) are viral members of the Retroviridae family and utilize ribonucleic acid (RNA) as their genetic material. In general, retroviruses are distinguished by four characteristics: (1) genetic information is stored in the form of RNA; (2) each single virus particle or virion [panel (c) in the illustration] possesses the enzyme reverse transcriptase; (3) virion morphology consists of two proteinaceous structures—a dense core and an envelope that surrounds the core [panel (a) in the illustration]; and (4) the viral reproductive cycle requires the synthesis of a deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) copy of the viral genome and insertion of that DNA into the genome of the host cell. Medically, numerous diseases in animals, including humans, are caused by retroviruses. See also: Animal virus; Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA); Ribonucleic acid (RNA); Virus; Virus classification
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