Wednesday, 17 October, 2018

Viruses affected gene flow between humans, Neanderthals

Neanderthals viral defenses UNiesert Frank Vincentz , via Wikimedia Commons
Samantha Long | 06 October, 2018, 20:53

Neanderthals mysteriously disappeared about 40,000 years ago, but before vanishing they interbred with another human species that was just beginning its global spread, said researchers from the Stanford University in the US. When they arrived, they met up with Neanderthals who, along with their own ancestors, had been adapting to that geographic area for hundreds of thousands of years.

The scientists compiled a list of more than 4,500 genes in modern humans that are known to interact in some way with viruses.

Even though Neanderthals went extinct nearly 40,000 years ago, modern Europeans and Asians have 2% of Neanderthal DNA. "But that closeness also meant that Neanderthals could pass on protections against those viruses to us". Luckily, the Neanderthals' immune systems evolved genetic defenses against these viruses that were also passed on to humans, according to a study reported in Cell. Then the researchers cross-referenced the list with the database of the DNA of Neanderthal and identified 152 total fragment. People brought infections that Neanderthals had no normal resistance to. Newly found data shows that modern humans encountered some of the most aggressive viruses, for example ancient strains if influenza and herpes and H.I.V.as soon as they left Africa nearly 70,000 year ago.

In their new study, published online October 4 in the journal Cell, the scientists show that the genetic defenses that Neanderthals passed to us were against RNA viruses, which encode their genes with RNA, a molecule that's chemically similar to DNA. However, when humans migrated to Europe for the first time, they were completely vulnerable to ancient RNA viruses.

"It is anything but a stretch to envision that when present-day people got together with Neanderthals, they contaminated each other with pathogens that originated from their particular surroundings", David Enard, a colleague educator in nature and developmental science at the University of Arizona, said in a news discharge. Earlier this year, researchers analyzed 7,000 years of the virus is found in human teeth of the Neolithic period.

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In 2016, while working at Stanford University with scientist Dmitri Petrov, Enard found about 33% of all protein adjustments in the human genome were activated by viral contaminations.

"Many Neanderthal sequences have been lost in modern humans, but some stayed and appear to have quickly increased to high frequencies at the time of contact, suggestive of their selective benefits at that time", Petrov says.

Basically, Neanderthals developed immune protection against RNA-containing viruses that triggers in the cell the synthesis of viral DNA. "Our research aims to understand why that was the case". "This study suggests that one of the roles of those genes was to provide us with some protection against pathogens as we moved into new environments".

The study concluded that interbreeding between ancient humans and Neanderthals provided us the immunity against some ancient viral epidemics. This could potentially inform better ways to monitor for and treat future epidemics.

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