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Ancient Viruses Are Buried in Your DNA
In July, scientists reported that a strange protein courses through the veins of pregnant women. No one is sure what its there for. What makes this protein, called Hemo, so unusual is that its not made by the mother. Instead, it is made in her fetus and in the placenta, by a gene that originally came from a virus that infected our mammalian ancestors more than 100 million years ago.
Hemo is not the only protein with such an alien origin: Our DNA contains roughly 100,000 pieces of viral DNA. Altogether, they make up about 8 percent of the human genome. And scientists are only starting to figure out what this viral DNA is doing to us.
Some of our ancient viruses may be protecting us from disease; others may be raising our risks for cancer, among other conditions
Electron -Microscope images reveal how a CRISPR system marks specific DNA sequences for destruction.
Cryo-EM Structures Reveal Mechanism and Inhibition of DNA Targeting by a CRISPR-Cas Surveillance Complex. Prokaryotic cells possess CRISPR-mediated adaptive immune systems that protect them from foreign genetic elements, such as invading viruses. A central element of this immune system is an RNA-guided surveillance complex capable of targeting non-self DNA or RNA for degradation in a sequence-and site-specific manner analogous to RNA interference.
This study reveals mechanistic details underlying target recognition and inhibition.
Cell. Volume 171, Issue 2, p414426.e12, 5 October 2017