These findings by Julie Kerns, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in the Hutchinson Center’s Basic Sciences Division, published Jan. 25 in the open-access journal PLoS Genetics, present a striking example by which evolutionary studies can directly lead to biomedically important discoveries in the field of infectious diseases.
The immunity gene, called ZAP, is a key player in a newly discovered branch of antiviral defenses in mammals referred to as ‘‘intrinsic immunity.’’ Host proteins like ZAP can target intracellular stages of the viral life cycle to inhibit viral activity. The ZAP gene, first discovered in rats, thwarts a variety of divergent viruses, from retroviruses (like HIV) to alphaviruses (like Sindbis) to filoviruses (like Ebola).
Researchers believe ZAP functions by virtue of its RNA-binding abilities, which recognize specific sequences of the virus and target their viral RNA for destruction. Host-virus interactions are a classic example of genetic conflict in which both entities try to gain an evolutionary advantage over the other. This ‘‘back-and-forth’’ evolution is predicted to result in rapid changes of both host and viral proteins, which results in an evolutionary signature of positive selection, especially at the direct interaction interface.
“This suggests that we might be able to deduce host-virus conflicts purely by looking at rapidly evolving protein segments,” said Kerns, the lead author of the study, which was conducted in collaboration with senior author Harmit Singh Malik, Ph.D., of the Center’s Basic Sciences Division and co-author Michael Emerman, Ph.D., of the Center’s Human Biology Division.
The researchers found that there has been very little sequence evolution in the RNA-binding domain, which suggests that human ZAP may be similar to the rat gene in its viral RNA-binding specificity. However, surprisingly, the rapid evolution characteristic of “intrinsic immunity” genes was concentrated in a protein domain that was not even present in the originally discovered rat gene.
The authors found that humans encode two protein versions, or isoforms, from a single ZAP gene: a shorter version similar to the original rat gene and a longer version that possesses a rapidly evolving poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP)-like domain. In virological assays, the longer human ZAP protein isoform has higher antiviral activity. Thus, positive selection correctly predicted the more potent antiviral isoform of this protein.
The authors further suggest that ZAP is locked in a conflict with alphaviruses. The discovery of a potential human gene that can restrict alphaviral infection is particularly timely as the mosquito-borne alphavirus, Chikungunya, was responsible for a large epidemic in parts of Southeast Asia in 2006 and is now threatening to invade parts of Europe. The researchers believe this finding has important implications for the understanding of intrinsic immunity against viruses, and could potentially serve as a guide in the development of antiviral therapeutics.
“We think that a particular alphaviral protein may be playing an evolutionary ‘cat-and-mouse’ game with the ZAP gene,” Malik said. “Identifying this protein could lead to novel ways to tackle diseases caused by alphaviruses.”
Kristen Woodward | EurekAlert!
Don't Give the Slightest Chance to Toxic Elements in Medicinal Products
23.03.2018 | Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB)
North and South Cooperation to Combat Tuberculosis
22.03.2018 | Universität Zürich
Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.
The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...
An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.
The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...
In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.
Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...
Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.
They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...
A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...
23.03.2018 | Event News
19.03.2018 | Event News
16.03.2018 | Event News
23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences
23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy