Proteins play an important role in humans and other mammals not only for cellular functions of the body but also for responding to viruses. Humans have been facing a vast array of viruses since ancient times. These viruses have helped a lot in human evolution. They are driving factors for the change in the species and genomes. Till now scientists did not have any tool or means to study or trace the impact of viruses that have been spread globally across different species.
Recently, a new study conducted by the researchers of Stanford University has revealed the impact of viruses on the evolution of humans over time. The findings from this research were recently published in eLife via an article called “Viruses Are a Dominant Driver of Protein Adaptation in Mammals.” The findings in the study say that “30% of all the protein adaptations since humans’ divergence with chimpanzees have been driven by viruses.”
In the previous studies conducted by various experts, interactions between viruses and proteins based exclusively on individual proteins that were directly involved in the immune response were focused upon. This study was the first one to take place on a global scale and to include all types of proteins.
The researchers were looking to identify all the proteins known to physically interact with viruses — sorted out a list of fascinating 1300 proteins. Big-data algorithms were developed by the researchers to browse the genomic databases and compare the evolution of virus-interacting proteins to other proteins. We have been living with viruses for billions of years, the study shows that those interactions with viruses have affected every part of our cells and immune system.
The Stanford team has been inspired by their results and is now using the experience to delve deeper into previous viral epidemics, looking for information that will help combat disease. Looking at the impact of these viruses on different populations might give us a new understanding of our continuous virus warfare.