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Antiviral Effects of Ancient Infections Observed in Human Genome

Traces of ancient infections can be found in the human genome where they may offer protection against modern viruses, according to a study appearing this week in Science. Endogenous retroviruses are abundant components of mammalian genomes and are descended from ancient retroviral germline infections. In several mammals, the envelope proteins encoded by these elements protect against exogenous viruses, though this activity has yet to be confirmed in humans. But a team led by Cornell University researchers has now scanned the human genome and uncovered many envelope-derived sequences with potential antiretroviral activity. They found that one envelope-derived protein called Suppressyn — which is expressed in the developing placenta and is capable of binding to a receptor for a wide number of retroviruses — could restrict infection by extant mammalian type D retroviruses. The team speculates that Suppressyn may have been preserved in the human genome for its ability to shield the early embryo and nascent germline from infection. "The human genome may hold many other retrovirus-derived proteins with protective effects against viral infection," they write.

The Scan

ChatGPT Does As Well As Humans Answering Genetics Questions, Study Finds

Researchers in the European Journal of Human Genetics had ChatGPT answer genetics-related questions, finding it was about 68 percent accurate, but sometimes gave different answers to the same question.

Sequencing Analysis Examines Gene Regulatory Networks of Honeybee Soldier, Forager Brains

Researchers in Nature Ecology & Evolution find gene regulatory network differences between soldiers and foragers, suggesting bees can take on either role.

Analysis of Ashkenazi Jewish Cohort Uncovers New Genetic Loci Linked to Alzheimer's Disease

The study in Alzheimer's & Dementia highlighted known genes, but also novel ones with biological ties to Alzheimer's disease.

Tara Pacific Expedition Project Team Finds High Diversity Within Coral Reef Microbiome

In papers appearing in Nature Communications and elsewhere, the team reports on findings from the two-year excursion examining coral reefs.