Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Evolution In Action: Our Antibodies Take 'Evolutionary Leaps' To Fight Microbes

Date:
January 8, 2009
Source:
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
Summary:
With cold and flu season in full swing, the fact that viruses and bacteria rapidly evolve is apparent with every sneeze, sniffle and cough. A new report explains for the first time how humans keep up with microbes by rearranging the genes that make antibodies to foreign invaders. This research fills a significant gap in the understanding of how the immune system helps us survive.

New research explains for the first time how humans keep up with microbes by rearranging the genes that make antibodies to foreign invaders.
Credit: iStockphoto/Henrik Jonsson

With cold and flu season in full swing, the fact that viruses and bacteria rapidly evolve is apparent with every sneeze, sniffle, and cough. A new report explains for the first time how humans keep up with microbes by rearranging the genes that make antibodies to foreign invaders. This research fills a significant gap in our understanding of how the immune system helps us survive.

Related Articles


"We've known for a long time that our antibody-forming system adapts itself to every microbe we encounter," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal, "but what we didn't understand fully is exactly how this happens. Now that we know, we can begin to find ways to manipulate this process so illnesses can be prevented or made significantly less dangerous."

When the body encounters a foreign invader, like a virus or bacterium, it immediately begins to find a way to neutralize it by means of cellular or antibody-mediated defenses. Part of the process involves tailoring the genes that code for antibodies to specific viruses or bacteria. Researchers have known that this involves two types of genetic manipulation. One type changes a single gene at a time, and the other type changes multiple genes at the same time. In the report, scientists from Wayne State University in Detroit describe how multiple genes can be modified simultaneously to make the "evolutionary leap" necessary to stave off infection.

The basic setup of the experiment treated DNA responsible for making antibody molecules with an enzyme, called activation-induced deaminase, while the DNA was being copied by RNA polymerase. Like a scanner, RNA polymerase moves across the DNA to copy it. When this scanning process moved smoothly, there were either single mutations or no mutations. When the researchers made the RNA polymerase stall along the DNA (under certain conditions), it caused several mutations at once (cluster mutations) in the DNA, adapting our antibodies for a rapid and effective response to a new microbial invader.

"As the planet warms, infectious diseases may be one the biggest threats to human survival," Weissmann added. "Nowadays, mosquitoes, parasites and viruses cause diseases in the United States that were once isolated to warmer parts of the world. They evolve, and - a la Darwin - so does our immune system each time we meet a new microbial invader."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Chandrika Canugovi, Mala Samaranayake, and Ashok S. Bhagwat. Transcriptional pausing and stalling causes multiple clustered mutations by human activation-induced deaminase. FASEB J, 2009 23: 34-44 [link]

Cite This Page:

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. "Evolution In Action: Our Antibodies Take 'Evolutionary Leaps' To Fight Microbes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 January 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090105101501.htm>.
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. (2009, January 8). Evolution In Action: Our Antibodies Take 'Evolutionary Leaps' To Fight Microbes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 5, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090105101501.htm
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. "Evolution In Action: Our Antibodies Take 'Evolutionary Leaps' To Fight Microbes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090105101501.htm (accessed March 5, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Adults Only Get The Flu Twice A Decade, Researchers Say

Adults Only Get The Flu Twice A Decade, Researchers Say

Newsy (Mar. 4, 2015) Researchers found adults only get the flu about once every five years. Scientists analyzed how a person&apos;s immunity builds up over time as well. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Hormone Could Protect Against Diabetes And Weight Gain

New Hormone Could Protect Against Diabetes And Weight Gain

Newsy (Mar. 4, 2015) A newly discovered hormone mimics the effects of exercise, protecting against diabetes and weight gain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mount Everest Has a Poop Problem

Mount Everest Has a Poop Problem

Buzz60 (Mar. 4, 2015) With no bathrooms to use, climbers of Mount Everest have been leaving human waste on the mountain for years, and it&apos;s becoming a health issue. Mike Janela (@mikejanela) has more. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Tips to 'Skinny' Your Home

The Best Tips to 'Skinny' Your Home

Buzz60 (Mar. 4, 2015) If you&apos;re looking to reach your health goals this season, there are a few simple tips to help you spring clean your space and improve your nutrition. Krystin Goodwin (@krystingoodwin) has the skinny on keeping a healthy home. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins