Friday, January 16, 2009

Research Link: RNA Viruses Invade Host DNA (Viral vs. RNA Conflict)

"RNA viruses were believed not to integrate into the host's genome under any circumstances (check out HIV, Shingles, EB). We found that illegitimate recombination between an exogenous nonretroviral RNA virus, lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus, and the endogenous intracisternal A-type particle (IAP) retrotransposon occurred and led to reverse transcription of exogenous viral RNA (enemy at the gates). The resulting complementary DNA was integrated into the host's genome with an IAP element. Thus, RNA viruses should be closely scrutinized for any capacity to interact with endogenous retroviral elements before their approval for therapeutic use in humans."

Research Link: Worm Research (Elegans, No?) - RNA, Odor Pathways, and Reproduction

"This implicates the real importance of RNA in controlling when proteins are made, and shows that the environment can actually change what RNA does."

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Self-Replicating RNA Born at Scripps & Bloggers' Respond

It was a big week for evolutionary/systems biologists and proponents/critics of RNA World Theory (vast oversimplification). Let's take a grade-school simple look at emerging RNA research.

The Big Bang: Gerald Joyce and Tracey Lincoln of Scripps Institute in La Jolla, CA, created short, simple RNA molecules (RC3) that could replicate themselves indefinitely.

Results of the research were published in Science's online journal January 8th.

Genoanthropology implications abound. As of yet, the adame RNA molecules (Adam/Eve; male-female RNA tribal orientations) created are can't acquire/process energy (metabolism). They also can't respond to their environments. Yet.

The seemingly crazy "we are soft spacesuits for our RNA" hypothesis is suddenly front and center, at least providing some decent weekend mental floss.

If the earliest self-replicating RNA couldn't acquire/process energy independently, this may have created the collaborative impetus for partnerships/coalitions between mitochondria, bacteria, and other sugar-processing compounds and organisms.

Mobility and the capability to respond to their environments (as well as a need to defend RNA individuals and colonies from attacking marauders such as viruses and other pathogens) could provide impetus for 'coding' lifesuits utilizing DNA. Thus an RNA - LUCA - DNA progression begins to look more theoretically interesting and potentially testable at some point in the near future.

All of this would be interesting enough if only a single type of self-replicating RNA were created, but Joyce and Lincoln created 12 'disciples' of self-replicating RNA.

In addition, some of the molecules were better able to compete for resources (corresponding genoanth tenet = tribal/cultural orientation of RNA involving competition and collaboration with each other and against external forms such as bacteria and viruses for resources).

Very exciting times, even for a hobby scientific theorist.

Further food for thought: (pictures!)

Saturday Bonus: Recent antibacterial/RNA research from Germany