Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Virus epidemic within our genome revealed

Date:
May 1, 2012
Source:
University of Oxford
Summary:
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 genome.

Ancient viruses infest the 'dark matter' of our DNA.
Credit: Dmitry Sunagatov / Fotolia

Scientists from Oxford University have uncovered clues as to how mammal genomes became riddled with viruses. The research, supported by the Wellcome Trust, reveals important information about the so-called 'dark matter' of the human 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 viral 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'.

'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,' said Dr Gkikas Magiorkinis of Oxford University's Department of Zoology, lead author of the study.

Dr Robert Belshaw of Oxford University's Department of Zoology, who led the research, said: '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.'

A report of the research, entitled 'Env-less endogenous retroviruses are genomic superspreaders', is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Oxford. 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:

University of Oxford. "Virus epidemic within our genome revealed." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120501210558.htm>.
University of Oxford. (2012, May 1). Virus epidemic within our genome revealed. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120501210558.htm
University of Oxford. "Virus epidemic within our genome revealed." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120501210558.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

AP (July 28, 2014) West African nations and international health organizations are working to contain the largest Ebola outbreak in history. It's one of the deadliest diseases known to man, but the CDC says it's unlikely to spread in the U.S. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) 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


How Ancient Viruses Became Genomic 'superspreaders'

Apr. 23, 2012 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 ... read more
from the past week

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