Viral Protector

A retrovirus embedded in the human genome may help protect embryos from other viruses, and influence fetal development.

By | April 21, 2015

FLICKR, ELIFESome 9 percent of the human genome of is viral origin, and while the genetic material was long dismissed as useless junk DNA, recent research has demonstrated that many of these sequences are not always inactive. One of these so-called endogenous retroviruses, HERVK, is apparently expressed in human embryos, according to a study published this week (April 20) in Nature, and appears to play critical roles in viral defense and early development.

“The cells were full of viral [HERVK] protein products, some of which had assembled to form viral-like particles,” coauthor Joanna Wysocka of Stanford University told New Scientist of the three-day-old embryos she and her colleagues investigated. The viral products included a protein that prevented other viruses, such as influenza, from penetrating the embryo and coordinated the translation of certain host RNAs.

“[The work] shows that the protein products of a relatively ‘recent’ retrovirus integration”—HERVK took up residence in the human genome just 200,000 years ago—“are present very early on in the embryo, and could be involved in some critical developmental programs,” the Pasteur Institute’s Patrick Forterre, who was not involved in the research, told New Scientist.

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Avatar of: James V. Kohl

James V. Kohl

Posts: 481

April 22, 2015

The viral products included a protein that prevented other viruses, such as influenza, from penetrating the embryo and coordinated the translation of certain host RNAs.

Continued attempts to portray the obvious link from the balance of viral microRNAs and nutrient-dependent microRNAs to RNA-mediated ecological adaptations in the context of evolutionary theory should include what is known about the biophysically constrained chemistry of RNA-mediated protein folding in species from microbes to man.

Minimally, the works of fiction by Greg Bear and facts presented by Gunter Witzany and Luis Villarreal -- and other works from members of the RNA society should be included.

Until accurate representations of how the epigenetic landscape becomes the physical landscape of DNA in the organized genomes of all genera via their physiology of reproduction, reports like this one may continue to lead others to believe in the theories touted by population geneticists who, if not already dead, are among those who first invented neo-Darwinism.

 

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