You know youre a nerd when:

1. You squeeeeee with excitement when the secretary tells you there is extra grant money you can use to order textbooks
2. You hand over a list of books you want to the secretary in ~30 seconds, because you keep a running list of stats/virus/evolution books you want
3. You squeeeeee even louder when said textbooks come in

One of the textbooks I ordered is ‘Origin and Evolution of Viruses‘. Bossman has the first edition, but it came out ~10 years ago. This new one is chock full of cool info… including a handy-dandy phylogenetic tree of important ‘evolutions’ in retroviral history!

As you all probably remember, a basic retrovirus just needs 3 protein coding genes (gag, pol, env) and LTR promoters. Thats all they need. But thats not all all retroviruses have. Over the years, retroviruses have evolved all sorts of new genes, and new functions for old genes:
(had to chop into two pieces)– these overlap a little

If you root to Gypsy (a non-retrovirus retrovirus), you can trace the evolution of new genes/features in a retroviral family tree– the ability of retroviruses to differentially splice RNA or not (several times, independently– ie tax and tat), to increase their transcription (several times, independently, ie rex and rev), new open reading frames overlapping other genes, translational readthroughs and frame-shifts (good things, in retroviral world!), new genes that alter their hosts immune response… Sometimes they figured out a new trick (dUTPase), only to lose it later (primate lentiviruses lost it!)

Silly viruses! Evolving new stuff…

Comments

  1. #1 Simon
    August 11, 2009

    Really interesting stuff! Thanks for the info.

    Although, I can out-nerd you, as I actually use my own personal money to buy my textbooks (and actively try to keep my food cost down to afford the addiction).

  2. #2 Mike Olson
    August 11, 2009

    To be frank, I don’t have the education to follow your article, but I’ve read enough, that I can almost, but not quite follow what you were writing re:retrovirus evolution. Suffice to say that reading it was somewhat like reading a “Playboy” when you’re 12. There’s a lot of really cool stuff there that you’d like to mess with, but it’s a lot more advanced than anything you can handle.

  3. #3 D. C. Sessions
    August 11, 2009

    Sorta OT, but I’m curious:

    Do we know how often host DNA (including inactive sections) makes it into mutant retroviral DNA? Not remotely my field, but I agree that it’s fascinating stuff.

  4. #4 eddie
    August 11, 2009

    One day ERV will write the definitive text on retroviruses. It will focus on gag, pol, env and lol. Cant wait.

  5. #5 mo
    August 11, 2009

    Wow, I must be a nerd, because I’m envious of this even if I don’t have a graduate position yet:

    quote
    1. You squeeeeee with excitement when the secretary tells you there is extra grant money you can use to order textbooks
    2. You hand over a list of books you want to the secretary in ~30 seconds, because you keep a running list of stats/virus/evolution books you want
    3. You squeeeeee even louder when said textbooks come in

    I recommend adding this to the wishlist:
    http://www.amazon.com/Epigenetics-C-David-Allis/dp/0879698756/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1250024300&sr=8-1
    because it is awesome.

  6. #6 mo
    August 11, 2009

    Yeah Simon, do that too, because I don’t get textbook money from secretaries :-)

  7. #7 Optimus Primate
    August 11, 2009

    If ever I start to feel overconfident in my own intelligence, there’s no better cure than a quick dose of this blag. Seven hours and several read-throughs later, I think I got it.

    There’s not gonna be a quiz, though, is there? Please say there’s not going to be a quiz.

  8. #8 Jeeves
    August 11, 2009

    ERV,

    I’m probably charting over well trodden ground with this question but what are some good layman books (and perhaps a few tougher ones for the flavor) for those interested in viruses? Thanks for all the good explanations and research you impart to English lit people like myself.

  9. #9 ERV
    August 11, 2009

    Hey all! This post is more of a ‘link to me’, rather than a teaching post. The message, what really matters, is that retroviruses have evolved lots of neat tricks over the years. Some have evolved the same tricks, but from totally different angles (same need/stress, different solutions).

    The only quiz will be the next time a Creationist says ‘Huuuuur! Aint no new geneses! All mutashuns be baaaaad!’, and all you have to do is link here and say ‘Orly?’! :D

    DC– It can happen!

    Jeeves– Nope :( The stuff I know is good is written for other virologists. The stuff I know is written for laypeople is bad.
    :(

    Lemme ask around a bit more, though.

  10. #10 Hu
    August 12, 2009

    Sorry for being somewhat OT, but at least this is about viruses:

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20327200.100-how-to-cure-diseases-before-they-have-even-evolved.html

    It’s about some new antiviral drugs that appear to work in cell culture against a wide range of viruses by targeting the infected host cells in various ways. It sounds fascinating to someone like me who knows very little about viruses (and I’d know even less if it weren’t for your blog), but what’s your opinion?

  11. #11 Blake Stacey
    August 12, 2009

    Larry Gonick and Mark Wheelis’ Cartoon Guide to Genetics is a pretty good biochemistry primer which might help you get up to speed. As for something specific to virology, I don’t know.

  12. #12 ELR
    August 13, 2009

    What the feck is “extra” grant money? That’s like a Scotsman thinking he has “extra” pocket change. ;)

  13. #13 drcharles
    August 13, 2009

    cool!
    that’s really all I have to say, but I mean it.

  14. #14 ozpaul
    August 16, 2009

    Just discovered your blog ERV. Well done, bringing all this fascinating stuff to peoples attention. There ain’t much cooler than ERVs!!
    I work on an ERV of koalas. It has entered the koala genome only recently and is allowing us to study what happens when an ERV first engages with its host. In this case it causes, unfortunately, very high rates of leukemia and lymphoma. So much to do!!!
    Have you talked about the amazing syncytin story? Now that one knocks your socks off!!
    OzPaul