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from other virus families, such as the vesicular stomatitis virus G protein (3, 50) and efforts to alter the receptor specificity of existing retroviral Env proteins by the incorporation of peptide or antibody domains that can bind to other cell-surface proteins (51, 52). An understanding of the principles governing cell entry by naturally occurring retroviruses will help in the design and application of these strategies.

A fascinating aspect of retroviruses is their utilization of diverse proteins for cell entry. The analysis presented here favors a mutational basis for retrovirus evolution to utilize new receptors, rather than acquisition and expression of cellular proteins that naturally bind to cell-surface receptors, but more information is needed to resolve this issue. Perhaps analysis of additional naturally occurring retroviruses and their receptors will reveal a clear example of acquisition of a cellular gene that enables utilization of a new cell-surface receptor for entry. Answers to these questions have important implications for the design of retroviral vectors with novel receptor specificities, and for the evolution of retroviruses, which are important agents of disease in humans and in animals.

I thank Michael Emerman and Greg Wolgamot for comments on this manuscript. This work was supported by grants from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health.

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