Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Viruses: More Survival Tricks Than Previously Thought

For what may be the first time, researchers have discovered a virus inside a host with a non-standard nuclear genetic code — one that differs from the standard genetic code that almost all living things use to produce proteins.

“The finding is significant because it shows that these viruses can overcome what appears to be an insurmountable change in the host genome,” said researcher Derek J. Taylor, professor of biological sciences at the University at Buffalo.

“So the fact that we haven’t previously seen any viruses in these species with a modified genetic code may not be because the viruses can't adapt to that shift. It may be that we haven't looked hard enough.”

The study, titled “Virus-host co-evolution under a modified nuclear genetic code,” was published on March 5 in PeerJ, a peer-reviewed, open-access journal in which all articles are freely available. The article is available at

Taylor’s co-authors on the study are UB PhD candidate Matthew Ballinger, former UB postdoctoral researcher Shaun M. Bowman, and UB Professor Jeremy Bruenn, all in UB’s Department of Biological Sciences.

The team of scientists discovered the highly adapted virus — a totivirus — in the yeast species Scheffersomyces segobiensis (a distant relative of human pathogens in the genus Candida).

In most living things, the genetic code comprises 64 elements called codons, most of which instruct the body to produce a certain amino acid, the basic building block of a protein. In S. segobiensis, however, the genetic code has been modified: A codon known as the “C-U-G codon,” which usually stands for the amino acid leucine, stands instead for the amino acid serine (a change that can affect how proteins function).

It had been thought that such a radical change in the genome may help host species evade viruses, which rely on hosts’ genetic machinery to create new viral proteins and replicate.

However, the presence of the totivirus in S. segobiensis shows that viruses may be more nimble than previously thought, able to overcome even this enormous hurdle. Intriguingly, the totivirus the researchers discovered has only one of the C-U-G codons left in its genome, suggesting that it may have purged that sequence as it adapted to the yeast host.

While viruses have previously been shown to infect organelles known as mitochondria with a different genetic code, this appears to be the first time a virus has been found to use the modified nuclear code of a complex, cellular host, Taylor said. Whereas the origins of the mitochondrial viruses remain mysterious, the current study was able to reconstruct the origins of the novel yeast virus.

The research team found a variety of odd and interesting evidence pointing to a history of co-evolution between totiviruses and yeasts with the modified code. For instance, the modified yeasts appeared to have incorporated genetic material from totiviruses into their genomes on at least four occasions. In total, evidence was found of past, or present, viral infection in five lineages of yeasts with a modified genetic code.

In the yeast Scheffersomyces stipitis, the scientists even identified a former totivirus gene that the host is now using to produce a protein.

“It’s a non-retroviral RNA virus gene being kidnapped and expressed as a protein by a cellular host in the absence of a current viral infection” Taylor said. The function of this protein is unknown, but the result is further evidence of the unexpected co-evolution between viruses and hosts with modified nuclear code.

Charlotte Hsu | Newswise
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Strong, steady forces at work during cell division
20.10.2016 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst

nachricht Disturbance wanted
20.10.2016 | Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Innovative technique for shaping light could solve bandwidth crunch

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA's MAVEN mission observes ups and downs of water escape from Mars

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>