Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Discovery of a more than 82 million years old hepatitis B virus

02.05.2013
Scientists of Münster University were able to detect prehistoric hepatitis B viruses in bird genomes / Publication in "Nature Communications"

The liver inflammation hepatitis B comprises 350 million chronic illnesses and is one of the most prevalent virus infections worldwide – and the ancestors of this virus existed for more than 82 million years.


Artistic size comparison of hepatitis B viruses and human lymphocytes
Copyright: somersault18:24

This was discovered by a group of scientists around Dr. Alexander Suh at the Institute of Experimental Pathology at the University of Münster, as they were able to detect prehistoric hepatitis B viruses in bird genomes. The renowned scientific journal “Nature Communications” published the team’s findings in its current issue.

The researchers’ study – which is part of the project “Phylogeny of Birds” funded by the German Science Foundation (DFG) – permits unprecedented insights into the early evolution of hepatitis B viruses of birds and mammals. “Viruses themselves do not leave behind fossils that would provide insights into their past”, notes Dr. Alexander Suh on the rationale of the Münster research group’s work. Instead, together with the group leader Dr. Jürgen Schmitz, and Dr. Jan Ole Kriegs from the LWL-State Museum of Natural History of the Westphalia-Lippe Regional Association (LWL), Suh decided to look for genomic remnants of paleoviral sequences in the DNA of host organisms, such as birds.

As insertions of viral sequences in the genome of a host change relatively slowly, it is possible to study viral DNA sequences that are many millions of years old, as noted by Dr. Jürgen Schmitz: “The prehistorical viral DNA becomes frozen in its original state at the time of insertion into the host genome and thus remains discernible as such until present – thus, we refer to these sequences as molecular fossils", says Schmitz.

This procedure for the analysis of molecular fossils permits the reconstruction of the early evolution of viruses. Suh and his colleagues were able to comprehensively demonstrate this on the example of prehistoric insertions of hepatitis B viruses in bird genomes. “A sensational finding was a nearly complete virus genome that has been preserved for more than 82 million years as a molecular fossil”, describes Suh. This molecular fossil thus stems from the Late Mesozoic – a geological period where dinosaurs still roamed on earth.
The researchers’ findings imply that mammalian hepatitis B viruses probably originated via a bird–mammal host switch. “Furthermore, our results indicate that the oncogenic X gene of human hepatitis B viruses emerged relatively late in the evolution of this virus family”, reports Suh. Hence, the Münster researchers’ sensational finding does not only provide insights into a millions of years old type of avian hepatitis B, but also into the extant characteristics of this very prevalent virus infection in humans.

Contact:

Dr. Thomas Bauer
Dekanat der Medizinischen Fakultät
der Westfälischen Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Ressort Presse & Public Relations
Phone: +49 (0)251 83-58937
E-Mail: thbauer@uni-muenster.de

Publication:
Suh, A., Brosius, J., Schmitz, J., Kriegs, J. O. (2013) The genome of a Mesozoic paleovirus reveals the evolution of hepatitis B viruses. Nature Communications, http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms2798

Dr. Christina Heimken | idw
Further information:
http://www.uni-muenster.de
http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ncomms2798

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Helping to Transport Proteins Inside the Cell
21.11.2018 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht UNH researchers create a more effective hydrogel for healing wounds
21.11.2018 | University of New Hampshire

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: First diode for magnetic fields

Innsbruck quantum physicists have constructed a diode for magnetic fields and then tested it in the laboratory. The device, developed by the research groups led by the theorist Oriol Romero-Isart and the experimental physicist Gerhard Kirchmair, could open up a number of new applications.

Electric diodes are essential electronic components that conduct electricity in one direction but prevent conduction in the opposite one. They are found at the...

Im Focus: Nonstop Tranport of Cargo in Nanomachines

Max Planck researchers revel the nano-structure of molecular trains and the reason for smooth transport in cellular antennas.

Moving around, sensing the extracellular environment, and signaling to other cells are important for a cell to function properly. Responsible for those tasks...

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Optical Coherence Tomography: German-Japanese Research Alliance hosted Medical Imaging Conference

19.11.2018 | Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helping to Transport Proteins Inside the Cell

21.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Meta-surface corrects for chromatic aberrations across all kinds of lenses

21.11.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Removing toxic mercury from contaminated water

21.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>