Recently, we talked about how different segments of a virus genome can inhabit different cells but work together. Is this unimaginable? Sci-fi? No, just one reason why more attention should be paid to viruses if we want to understand life.
Here’s another take on it, explaining how the researchers got the idea of testing for distribution between cells:
These viruses have always been baffling, even to virologists who knew about them. Everyone assumed that they could only reproduce if all the segments infected the same host cell. But the risk of losing a piece, and so dooming the others, skyrockets as the number of pieces goes up. In 2012, two researchers calculated that the odds of successfully getting every segment in the same cell become too low with anything more than three or four segments. FBNSV, with its eight segments, “should never have evolved,” Blanc says. Its mere existence suggests “that something must be wrong in the conceptual framework of virology.”
Perhaps, he realized, these viruses don’t actually need to unite their segments in the same host cell. “If
theorywas saying that this is impossible, maybe the viruses just don’t do it,” he says. “And once we had this stupid idea, testing it was very easy.”Ed Yong, “A New Discovery Upends What We Know About Viruses” at The Atlantic
Maybe in some fields we need more “stupid” ideas that don’t depend on what “should have” evolved.
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See also: Reset! Different segs of virus genome can exist in different cells but work together. Researchers: “It has long been believed that all of the genome segments must move together from cell to cell to cause an infection. But the new study shows this is not the case.” We underestimate our viral overlords. They are making “it has long been believed” our enemy.
Virus expert highlights the conflict over whether viruses are alive In short, it is an open question. The question relates to the role viruses can play in evolution, among other things. Are they precursors of life, detritus of life, or something in between? Or all three? Keep the file open.
Viruses invent their own genes? Then what is left of Darwinism?
Why viruses are not considered to be alive
Another stab at whether viruses are alive
Phil Sci journal: Special section on understanding viruses
Should NASA look for viruses in space? Actually, it’s not clear that RNA came first. Nor is it clear that viruses precede life. A good case can doubtless be made for viruses being part of the scrap heap of existing life. But no matter. If you think you can find viruses in space, boldly go.
Why “evolution” is changing? Consider viruses
The Scientist asks, Should giant viruses be the fourth domain of life? Eukaryotes, prokaryotes, archaea… and viruses?
Are viruses nature’s perfect machine? Or alive?