According to the author of a roundworm study published in Cell:
From New Scientist:
Now Felix Rey of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France, has found that the FF family of cell fusion proteins also comes from viruses.
Rey’s team figured out the 3D structure of the EFF-1 protein using crystallography and X-ray diffraction – the same kinds of techniques that were used to determine the structure of DNA in the 1950s. The structure of EFF-1 resembles that of a protein made by viruses, and the active part – which does the work of linking one cell to another – is virtually identical. Viruses use the protein to rip open the membrane of a cell, which they can then infect. In the worms, both cells must have the protein before they can fuse, but the protein still works in a similar way. He presented his results at the Lorne Conference on Protein Structure and Function in Australia last month, and they have been accepted by the journal Cell.
Since EFF-1 is so similar to the viral protein, the gene for it almost certainly came from a virus that infected one of the worm’s ancestors, says Rey. That is not unprecedented: the human genome is littered with DNA that slipped in when viruses infected a cell of an ancestor. But few of these bits of code are known to have important functions.
We go from worm to man to nature without a pit stop:
Rey goes even further. He speculates that viruses may be responsible for the very existence of multicellular organisms. Viruses come and go between different cells, exchanging genetic information between them. “This makes me think that viruses have contributed enormously to the communication between cells, and to the appearance of multicellular organisms on Earth,” Rey says.
See also: Multicellularity very complex but must have evolved a dozen times or more
Did yeast evolve multicellularity in experiment?
Conference on problems of the evolution of multicellular life forms
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