Disease-causing viruses engage their hosts in ongoing arms races: positive selection for antiviral genes increases host fitness and survival, and viruses in turn select for mutations that counteract the antiviral host factors. Studying such adaptive mutations can provide insights into the distant history of host-virus interactions. A study published on August 20th in PLOS Pathogens of antiviral gene sequences in African monkeys suggests that lentiviruses closely related to HIV have infected primates in Africa as far back as 16 million years.
This is a model of a retrovirus capsid hexamer, showing the conserved beta-hairpin domains common to most kinds of retroviruses (circled) and a pocket containing additional sites thought to affect recognition of lentiviruses by the TRIM5 anti-viral defense proteins of old world monkeys (arrow).
Credit: Johnson et al, CC-BY
Interested in the history of lentiviruses–the group of retroviruses to which HIV and its simian (monkey) relatives, the SIVs belong–Welkin…
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