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the genome or part of the genome of a virus integrated with the genetic material of the host cell into united molecules of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). A provirus may result from the infection of cells by certain temperate viruses. Both DNA-containing and some RNA-containing viruses, such as oncornaviruses, can become proviruses. In the latter case, the formation of a provirus is preceded by reverse transcription, that is, by DNA synthesis using the viral RNA molecule as a template.
The provirus replicates during the division of cell chromosomes, with which it may be transmitted from cell to cell. Some of the provirus genes, and occasionally most of them, are usually inactive (repressed) and do not form corresponding proteins. Active provirus genes may cause hereditary changes in cell properties. Examples of such changes are lysogenic conversion and transformation of cells caused by oncogenic viruses. Under certain conditions, the provirus becomes independent of the regulatory systems and begins replicating autonomously. In the case of DNA-containing viruses, this process is accompanied by the liberation of viral genetic material from the cell chromosome. The mechanisms of the formation, functioning, and replication (induction) of the provirus have been studied most thoroughly in temperate bacteriophages. In such viruses, the provirus is called a prophage.
V. I. AGOL