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Horizontal gene transfer: Virus carries DNA of black widow spider toxin

two Wolbachia cells that have infected a Nasonia wasp/Bordenstein Lab, Vanderbilt U

Everyone goes a bit nuts at Hallowe’en and I (O’Leary for News) just couldn’t resist this one, before I go back to serious work. From ScienceDaily:

Biologists sequencing the genome of the WO virus, which infects the bacterial parasite Wolbachia, have discovered that the phage carries DNA that produces black widow spider toxin: the first time an animal-like DNA has been found in such a virus.

Wow, black widow toxin on the move in a virus. Call central casting, we got ourselves a horror flick half written already.

“Discovering DNA related to the black widow spider toxin gene came as a total surprise because it is the first time that a phage — a virus that infects bacteria — has been found carrying animal-like DNA,” said Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Seth Bordenstein. He and Senior Research Specialist Sarah Bordenstein reported the results of their study in a paper titled “Eukaryotic association module in phage WO genomes from Wolbachia” published Oct. 11 in the journal Nature Communications.

Normally phages, like the WO phage that they studied, carry specialized genes that break open and defeat the defenses of the prokaryotic bacterial cells they target. But in this case, “the portion of DNA related to the black widow spider toxin gene is intact and widespread in the phage,” said Bordenstein. “There is also evidence that the phage makes insecticidal toxins, but we are not certain yet how these are utilized and administered.”

<em>Coffee</em> Tins We can use the professional grade Stereotype Generator program for the Good Hats (dedicated scientists) and the Bad Hats (Mr. Big and his flunkies). Saves tons of time and the money is way better spent on SFX. Hot <em>Cookie</em> USB Coffee Cup Warmer

Several years ago, Bordenstein and his colleagues felt that they had answered the major scientific questions involving the phage, but they decided to sequence its genome for completeness sake. They had no idea that their analysis would produce information that provides fresh insights in virology and could possibly aid efforts to reduce or eradicate a number of diseases which have afflicted humans for millennia. Paper. (public access) – Sarah R. Bordenstein, Seth R. Bordenstein. Eukaryotic association module in phage WO genomes from Wolbachia. Nature Communications, 2016; 7: 13155 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms13155 More.

It sure pays not to assume we know everything.

See also: Why “evolution” is changing? Consider viruses

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