Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How ancient viruses became genomic 'superspreaders'

Date:
April 23, 2012
Source:
Wellcome Trust
Summary:
Scientists have uncovered clues as to how our genomes became riddled with viruses. The study reveals important information about the so–called 'dark matter' of our genome.

Rows of different individuals’ DNA sequences aligned at the same position in the genome, showing some single nucleotide polymorphisms.
Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Scientists have uncovered clues as to how our genomes became riddled with viruses. The study, supported by the Wellcome Trust, reveals important information about the so-called 'dark matter' of our genome.

For years scientists have been struggling with the enigma that more than 90 percent of every mammal's genome has no known function. A part of this 'dark matter' of genetic material is known to harbour pieces of DNA from ancient viruses that infected our ancestors going back as far as the age of the dinosaurs.

Researchers at Oxford University, the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York and the Rega Institute in Belgium wanted to know how these ancient viruses got into their hosts' genomes in such abundance.

The team searched the genomes of 38 mammals covering a large range of species: from mouse, rat and bat to human, elephant and dolphin. Genetic material from all of the residing viruses was collected and then compared using mathematical models.

The findings revealed that one particular group of viruses had lost the ability to infect new cells. Their genetic material is still able to amplify itself but the whole lifecycle of the virus is passed within a single cell. This change, they found, was followed by a dramatic proliferation of the virus' genetic material within the genomes.

A comparison with all of the other viruses in the genomes revealed this to be a universal phenomenon, and that loss of cell infectivity is associated with a roughly 30-fold increase in the abundance of the virus.

The pattern resembles that which we see during epidemic outbreaks, whereby a small proportion of infected people are often responsible for most of the spread of an infectious agent to the rest of the population. They are described as 'superspreaders'.

According to the lead author, Dr Gkikas Magiorkinis from Oxford University's Zoology Department: "We know that much of the 'dark matter' in our genome plays by its own rules, in the same way as an epidemic in an infectious disease, but operating over millions of years."

Robert Belshaw from the same department, who led the study, goes on to explain: "We suspect that these viruses are forced to make a choice: either to keep their 'viral' essence and spread between animals and species, or to commit to one genome and then spread massively within it. This is the story of the epidemic within every animal's genome, a story which has been going on for 100 million years and which continues today."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wellcome Trust. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. G. Magiorkinis, R. J. Gifford, A. Katzourakis, J. De Ranter, R. Belshaw. Env-less endogenous retroviruses are genomic superspreaders. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2012; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1200913109

Cite This Page:

Wellcome Trust. "How ancient viruses became genomic 'superspreaders'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 April 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120423153138.htm>.
Wellcome Trust. (2012, April 23). How ancient viruses became genomic 'superspreaders'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120423153138.htm
Wellcome Trust. "How ancient viruses became genomic 'superspreaders'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120423153138.htm (accessed September 24, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Ice Age Wooly Mammoth Remains for Sale

Raw: Ice Age Wooly Mammoth Remains for Sale

AP (Sep. 23, 2014) A rare, well-preserved skeleton of a woolly mammoth is going on sale at Summers Place Auctions hope the 11.5-foot tall, almost intact specimen will fetch between $245,000 to $409,000. (Sept. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fox Bites Conn. Student And School Staffers In Rare Attack

Fox Bites Conn. Student And School Staffers In Rare Attack

Newsy (Sep. 23, 2014) A fox attacked a second-grade boy at a Connecticut elementary school Monday. It also attacked two school staff members and a woman and her dog. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Will Living Glue Be A Thing?

Will Living Glue Be A Thing?

Newsy (Sep. 23, 2014) Using proteins derived from mussels, engineers at MIT have made a supersticky underwater adhesive. They're now looking to make "living glue." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Tiger Kills Man at India Zoo

Raw: Tiger Kills Man at India Zoo

AP (Sep. 23, 2014) A white tiger killed a young man who climbed over a fence at the New Delhi zoo and jumped into the animal's enclosure on Tuesday, a spokesman said. (Sept. 23) Video provided by AP
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:

More Coverage


Virus Epidemic Within Our Genome Revealed

May 1, 2012 Scientists have uncovered clues as to how mammal genomes became riddled with viruses. The research reveals important information about the so-called 'dark matter' of the human ... read more

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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