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Credits: Take it Science (TiS)

We know that evolution is the result of a constant adaptation of organisms and animals to several stimuli. It can be due to the epic battle between predators and prey, the procurement of food, the adaptation to adverse conditions and so on.

But which has been the major driver of mammals and human evolution? Today we might have an answer: David Enard and the senior author, Dmitri Petrov of Stanford University, have unveiled the key role played by viruses in human evolution.

Viruses interact with host cells through proteins called viral interaction proteins (VIPs). So the scientists have taken in exam a great deal of VIPs (1300) and a set of about ten thousand proteins conserved in mammals.  The result has been incredible: 30% of human proteins have been affected by viral induced evolution.

To better understand this relation, scientists analysed the proteins that differ between human and chimpanzee. They found that viruses have influenced 30% of these proteins. Viral-induced evolution influenced mostly proteins involved in the physical interaction between host cells and viruses, but also enzymes and weapons of immune system, protein involved in transcription, translation, protein modification, signal transduction, apoptosis, and transport.

So, as in a tug of war, viruses VIPs and mammal’s proteins have evolved to infect or escape.  

The best characterized viruses are human Immunodeficiency Virus type 1 (HIV-1), reported as the best-represented virus with 240 VIPs; others driver viruses are HPV, HCV, EBV, HBV, HSV, Influenza Virus, ADV, HTLV and KSHV having at least 50 VIPs.An example over all: the aminopeptidase N (APN). This protein is involved in entry in host cells of coronaviruses, the class of virus to which belong SASR and MERS. APN has been reported as one of the faster selected human protein.

The discovery of viral selective pressure in human evolution shed light on new potential drugs and treatment to fight against epidemic viruses.

But a question buzzes in mind: Will we stop evolving fighting viruses?!

Emanuele Sasso