8 Percent of the Human Genome is Old Virus Genes

Posted on September 2, 2008  Comments (2)

In Our Genes, Old Fossils Take On New Roles

It turns out that about 8 percent of the human genome is made up of viruses that once attacked our ancestors. The viruses lost. What remains are the molecular equivalents of mounted trophies, insects preserved in genomic amber, DNA fossils.

The thousands of human endogenous retroviruses, or HERVs, sketch a history of rough times during the 550 million years of vertebrate evolution. The best-preserved one, HERV-K113, probably arrived less than 200,000 years ago, long after human beings and chimpanzees diverged from a common ancestor.

But these retroviruses are more than just curiosities. They are some of the most important enemies we ever had. They helped mold the immune system that is one of the evolutionary marvels of life on Earth.

I must say there is tons of amazing stuff I learn about but I still find retroviruses amazing.

Related: Amazing Science: RetrovirusesOld Viruses Resurrected Through DNAOne Species’ Genome Discovered Inside Another’sOur Genome Changes as We Ageposts on genes and genome

2 Responses to “8 Percent of the Human Genome is Old Virus Genes”

  1. Vicky
    October 4th, 2008 @ 2:56 pm

    If we are 90% bacterial cells and 8 % of our genome is viral then we are 2% human(!)

  2. Curious Cat Science Blog » Gene Duplication and Evolution
    February 17th, 2009 @ 8:18 am

    “Roughly 10 million years ago, a major genetic change occurred in a common ancestor of gorillas, chimpanzees, and humans. Segments of DNA in its genome began to form duplicate copies at a greater rate than in the past…”

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