FREE NEWSLETTER: Econintersect sends a nightly newsletter highlighting news events of the day, and providing a summary of new articles posted on the website. Econintersect will not sell or pass your email address to others per our privacy policy. You can cancel this subscription at any time by selecting the unsubscribing link in the footer of each email.

posted on 13 January 2017

First 'Animal Cells' Could Have Been Created By Viruses

from The Conversation

-- this post authored by Sarah Maddocks, Cardiff Metropolitan University

When a virus infects a living cell, it hijacks and reprograms the cell to turn it into a virus-producing factory. Now scientists at the University of California have for the first time discovered just how extensive that reprogramming can be, effectively turning bacterial cells into animal or plant-like cells. This might even be how the cells of more complex organisms evolved in the first place.

The study shows that when a virus hijacks a bacterial cell, it quickly destroys the cell's normal structure, including its DNA. It then builds new structures that strongly resemble the nuclei found in animal, human and plant cells. The nucleus is the genetic control centre of a cell of such a "higher" lifeform but has never been seen before in a bacterial cell. This suggests that higher cells might have first evolved from ancient interactions between bacteria and viruses.

We know that viruses work by inserting their genetic material into a host cell, which the viral DNA uses to replicate itself. Eventually the cell bursts open to release the new, intact viruses that can then infect other cells and begin the process again.

Writing in Science, the California research team described how they labelled viral proteins with fluorescent markers. They were then able to use a type of video microscope to see in real-time exactly what happened inside their bacterial host cell as the viral infection progressed.

How viruses replicate. xxoverflowed/Flickr, CC BY

They discovered that the different viral proteins assembled inside the bacterial cell into functional machinery that looked and behaved a lot like the nucleus of a human cell. This nucleus-like structure was positioned at the centre of the cell by long, tube-like protein fibres, just like the proteins responsible for positioning a human-cell nucleus.

Outside the nucleus-like structure, viral proteins were being built into viral shells. These give viruses their unique shape and serve as a means of protecting and transmitting viral DNA. Once the shells were complete, they were transported to the nucleus-like structure where viral DNA was packaged into them, ready to be released as new viruses.

Complex cell origins

Despite extensive research on viral replication, this is the first evidence that viruses reprogram bacterial cells to behave more like human or animal cells. The similarities between viral replication and complex cell processes could explain how higher lifeforms might have first evolved from early relationships between much simpler organisms, such as bacteria and viruses.

In particular, it supports a theory known as "viral eukaryogenesis". This states that higher cells emerged when viruses took over bacterial cells and evolved to form a nucleus. This is similar to other theories that suggest mitochondria, the energy-generating "power-houses" of human and animal cells, were once free-living bacteria that existed inside early animal-like cells. Or that chloroplasts, which help plants convert sunlight into energy, were once free-living photosynthetic bacteria that evolved to be part of modern plant cells.

The results of this study could be pivotal for understanding how life evolved from relatively simple organisms into the complex and diverse life-forms that inhabit our planet today. In fact, this research redefines the long-held distinction between bacteria and higher organisms.

Also, viruses don't just infect bacteria. Viral infections are extremely common in humans and animals, for example flu. It is possible that in future this detailed knowledge of viral replication in bacteria could be applied to the study of human and animal viral diseases.

Sarah Maddocks, Lecturer in Microbiology, Cardiff Metropolitan University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

>>>>> Scroll down to view and make comments <<<<<<

Click here for Historical News Post Listing

Make a Comment

Econintersect wants your comments, data and opinion on the articles posted.  As the internet is a "war zone" of trolls, hackers and spammers - Econintersect must balance its defences against ease of commenting.  We have joined with Livefyre to manage our comment streams.

To comment, using Livefyre just click the "Sign In" button at the top-left corner of the comment box below. You can create a commenting account using your favorite social network such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn or Open ID - or open a Livefyre account using your email address.

You can also comment using Facebook directly using he comment block below.

Econintersect Contributors


Print this page or create a PDF file of this page
Print Friendly and PDF

The growing use of ad blocking software is creating a shortfall in covering our fixed expenses. Please consider a donation to Econintersect to allow continuing output of quality and balanced financial and economic news and analysis.

Take a look at what is going on inside of
Main Home
Analysis Blog
Is Free Trade Harming the Economy?
Bank of England Endorses Post-Keynesian Endogenous Money Theory
News Blog
The Age Of The Employee-less Employer
Projected Costs Of U.S. Nuclear Forces, 2017 To 2026
63.4% Homeownership Rate In 2016 Was Lowest Since 1966
The Homeownership Gap Is Finally Closing - Part Four Of Five
Infographic Of The Day: The Best And Worst Financial Decisions People Make
Early Headlines: Asia Stocks Mixed, Oil Mixed, Dollar Up, Gold Down, Microsoft Growth, US Cities' Homicides Up, Battery Age, Higher-Priced Carbon, Sweden Crime Data, Russia Passes Saudi Arabia And More
February 20, 2017 Weather and Climate Report - Transition to Spring can be Cruel
More Buck For The Chuck
More About What's Going On In Retail
Your Dog Has A Better Memory Than A Chimpanzee
Where Shadow Economies Are Well Established
What We Read Today 20 February 2017
Successful SpaceX Launch &amp; Landing Of Falcon 9 + Dragon CRS-10 Mission To The ISS (2017-02-19)
Investing Blog
Market And Sector Analysis 19 February 2017
Dollar Looks To Head Higher
Opinion Blog
Fascism Defined And Described By Oswald Mosley
Charity Is Not How We Solve Poverty
Precious Metals Blog
Deflation And Gold: A Contrarian View
Live Markets
20Feb2017 Pre-Market Commentary: US Markets Closed Today In Observance Of The Presidents Day Holiday, US Dollar Slips, European Stocks Rise
Amazon Books & More

.... and keep up with economic news using our dynamic economic newspapers with the largest international coverage on the internet
Asia / Pacific
Middle East / Africa
USA Government



Analysis Blog
News Blog
Investing Blog
Opinion Blog
Precious Metals Blog
Markets Blog
Video of the Day


Asia / Pacific
Middle East / Africa
USA Government

RSS Feeds / Social Media

Combined Econintersect Feed

Free Newsletter

Marketplace - Books & More

Economic Forecast

Content Contribution



  Top Economics Site Contributor TalkMarkets Contributor Finance Blogs Free PageRank Checker Active Search Results Google+

This Web Page by Steven Hansen ---- Copyright 2010 - 2017 Econintersect LLC - all rights reserved