Abstract # 49:

Scheduled for Saturday, September 17, 2011 03:35 PM-03:55 PM: Session 10 (Salon F (Sixth Floor)) Oral Presentation


HOW ANCIENT AND MODERN VIRAL INFECTIONS HAVE SHAPED PRIMATE GENOMES

S. Sawyer
University of Texas at Austin, Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Austin, Texas, USA
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Recent studies have unearthed a treasure trove of prehistoric virus ‘fossils,’ viral genomes or genome segments frozen millions of years ago as integrated copies in the genomes of diverse animal hosts. These fossils have led to the revelation that a broad range of mammalian virus families are older and more ubiquitous than previously appreciated. Long-term interactions between viruses and their hosts often develop into evolutionary arms races, where both parties continually jockey for dominance by acquiring beneficial mutations in their genomes. Our group has traced the molecular evolution of several key genes that have allowed primates to fend off or limit infection over tens of millions of years. These include the TRIM family of retroviral restriction factor genes, which have experienced exotic forms of evolutionary adaptation including rapid sequence evolution, gene duplication, exon capture, and copy number variation. We have also studied the evolution of DNA repair genes, which play a key role in the lifecycle of many mammalian viruses. We demonstrate how different primate and evolutionary forms of these genes support different levels of viral infection. We also demonstrate how this knowledge can be highly relevant to understanding the genetics of modern viral infections.