Uncovering Links Between a Non-Retroviral RNA Virus and Symbiotic Dinoflagellate Using Endogenous Viral Elements
The study of viruses and their interactions with their hosts is one of the most fascinating and complex areas of biology. Recently, researchers have uncovered new links between a non-retroviral RNA virus and a symbiotic dinoflagellate, using endogenous viral elements.
What are endogenous viral elements?
Endogenous viral elements (EVEs) are fragments of viral genomes that have become permanently integrated into the DNA of their hosts. EVEs are found in the genomes of all kinds of organisms, from bacteria to mammals.
EVEs can be thought of as genetic fossils, providing a record of past viral infections that have left a lasting impact on the evolution of their host’s genome. In some cases, EVEs have been co-opted by their host’s cells for beneficial purposes, such as regulating gene expression.
What is a non-retroviral RNA virus?
Most viruses are either DNA or RNA-based, and most RNA viruses are retroviruses (such as HIV). Non-retroviral RNA viruses are a group of viruses that use RNA as their genetic material but do not replicate their genome using reverse transcriptase, a key enzyme found in retroviruses.
What is a symbiotic dinoflagellate?
Dinoflagellates are a type of unicellular organism found in aquatic environments. Some dinoflagellates live in symbiosis with other organisms, such as corals or clams, providing their partner with essential nutrients through photosynthesis. The symbiotic relationship between dinoflagellates and their hosts is critical to the health of many ocean ecosystems.
What did the researchers find?
The researchers sequenced the genome of a symbiotic dinoflagellate called Symbiodinium microadriaticum and found evidence of a non-retroviral RNA virus that had integrated itself into the genome of the dinoflagellate. The virus was found to be related to a group of viruses called Tetraviridae, which are known to infect insects and crustaceans.
The researchers also discovered that this viral integration had occurred multiple times in the evolution of S. microadriaticum, indicating that the virus had become an endogenous element of the dinoflagellate’s genome.
Finally, the researchers found that a protein produced by the viral gene in S. microadriaticum was similar to a protein produced by the same gene in insects and crustaceans that had been infected with Tetraviridae viruses. This suggests that the dinoflagellate’s viral gene has been co-opted for a beneficial purpose, potentially playing a role in the symbiotic relationship between the dinoflagellate and its host.
This study highlights the complex and fascinating interactions between viruses and their hosts. It also underscores the importance of understanding the impact of viral infections on the evolution of their host’s genome and the potential for beneficial co-option of viral elements in biological systems.
Hashtags: #virology #dinoflagellates #endogenousviralelements #Tetraviridae #biology #symbiosis