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Thread: Did Ancient Viruses Spur Human Evolution?

  1. #1

    Did Ancient Viruses Spur Human Evolution?

    http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog...cient-vir.html
    When the mapping of the human genome was completed in 2003, researchers discovered a shocking fact: our bodies are littered with the shards of retroviruses, fragments of the chemical code from which all genetic material is made. This discovery has created a new discipline, paleovirology, which seeks to better understand the impact of modern diseases by studying the genetic history of ancient viruses.
    <more more>
    This is a very interesting and thought-provoking article. It goes on to describe the work of Thierry Heidmann who heads the Institut Gustave Roussy, on the southern edge of Paris. He isolated the genes of a retrovirus from the human genome and reassembled them to create a working infectious virus. That story is told in detail in another great article in the New York called "Darwin's Surprise". (Source)

    The most interesting argument is that viruses are an efficient way of bringing genes into our body from other organisms, genes that allowed us to evolve differently and faster than if we just haphazardly mutated genes. It is an ancient form of gene therapy that contributed to evolution. I have a feeling that as time passes, we will see more of this story. We did not just mutate our way through evolution, we were transfected to evolve.

    Wise.
    Last edited by Wise Young; 03-04-2009 at 06:01 AM.

  2. #2
    This is fascinating. So, if I wanted to state this in simple terms, could it be said that a virus in a way jumpstarted or fast-forward evolution. Could it be that we both evolved from adapted behavior and shaped by ancient viruses? It makes me wonder if there is a vein of truth within the pseudoscience of the paranormal. Several days ago a friend was telling me that he'd watched a video about "alien entities" that have visited Earth and played around with our DNA. It seemed far out-- at the time--hmmmmm.... thanks for the link.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Chaz19 View Post
    This is fascinating. So, if I wanted to state this in simple terms, could it be said that a virus in a way jumpstarted or fast-forward evolution. Could it be that we both evolved from adapted behavior and shaped by ancient viruses? It makes me wonder if there is a vein of truth within the pseudoscience of the paranormal. Several days ago a friend was telling me that he'd watched a video about "alien entities" that have visited Earth and played around with our DNA. It seemed far out-- at the time--hmmmmm.... thanks for the link.
    Chaz, let me just give you an interesting example of one family of genes that I think may have come from viruses: the BCL family of anti-apoptotic genes.

    Bcl-X is the major pleiotropic anti-apoptotic gene activated by retroviral insertion mutagenesis in an IL-3 dependent bone marrow derived cell line
    Joëlle Thomasb, Yann Leverrierb and Jacqueline Marvela
    19 March 1998, Oncogene Volume 16, Number 11, Pages 1399-1408
    Immunologie cellulaire, LBMC de L'ENS Lyon, CNRS UMR49 INRA LA 913, 46 allée d'Italie, 69364 LYON cedex 07, France

    aAuthor for correspondence
    bJ Thomas and Y Leverrier contributed equally to this report

    Abstract

    In order to identify genes capable of inhibiting apoptosis induced by different pathways, without inducing proliferation we have performed retroviral insertion mutagenesis in the IL-3 dependent bone marrow derived Baf-3 cell line. Out of 200 mutants obtained in three separate mutagenesis experiments, four mutants were resistant to multiple apoptosis inducing pathways (including growth factor starvation, staurosporine, etoposide and cyclosporin A) and did not proliferate in the absence of IL-3. These four mutants overexpress the bcl-X gene following a retroviral insertion 5' of the translation initiation site. These results indicate that the bcl-X gene is a major pleiotropic anti-apoptotic gene in Baf-3 cells. They also suggest that the Bcl-2 family of genes might be the only one capable of inhibiting apoptosis induced by multiple pathways without inducing cell proliferation.
    At it turns out, the Bcl-x and Bcl-2 genes can be inserted into plants and make them resistant to cell death that could make tomatoes and other fruits look rotten after freezing (Source). But I am thinking that this is a gene that may have been invented by viruses to keep their victims alive until the viruses can replicate themselves. As it turns out, this is a useful gene to have and animals have incorporated the gene into their development. It also can protect cells against the toxic effects of antibiotics. For example, if one transfects mice with adenovirus carrying the bcl-x gene, it protects the mice against aminoglycoside (a toxic antibiotic) induced hearing loss (Source).

    I would like to hypothesize that the bcl family of genes may have come from a virus that had evolved it to protect the cell after infection so that the virus can continue to replicate itself. For example, the African swine fever virus has a homolog of the bcl-2 gene (Source). A virus called the iridovirus contains antiapoptotic B-cell lymphoma (Bcl)-2-like gene (http://www.springerlink.com/content/f81012j324601085/">Source). Finally, the Epstein-Barr virus (which causes mumps) has a gene that is similar to the Bcl-2 gene (Source).

    Wise.

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