Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?

8% of Your DNA Comes From a Virus 478

An anonymous reader writes "About 8 percent of human genetic material comes from a virus and not from our ancestors, according to an article by University of Texas at Arlington biology professor Cédric Feschotte, published in the Jan. 7, 2010 issue of Nature magazine."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

8% of Your DNA Comes From a Virus

Comments Filter:
  • Bible Code? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gotung ( 571984 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @11:21AM (#30682666)
    Isn't this "discovery" sort of like the Bible Code? So they searched the human genome and found a bunch of "virus like" patterns. Any sufficiently large set of information is going to give you some matches on just about anything you search for.
  • Re:Bible Code? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by FlyingBishop ( 1293238 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @11:28AM (#30682772)

    If you found a scroll in a cave that contained the book of John, would you say that it came from a different source than the book of John in the Bible? That's entirely different from rearranging letters until it says what you want it to say.

  • by Krneki ( 1192201 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @11:29AM (#30682796)
    It does, but as a side effect you are unresponsive 80% of your time.
  • Which one? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @11:30AM (#30682816) Homepage Journal

    Oh wait, the article says "the genomes of humans and other mammals contain DNA derived from the insertion of bornaviruses" plural. My bad.

  • Re:Bible Code? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 2short ( 466733 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @11:32AM (#30682844)
    "Any sufficiently large set of information is going to give you some matches on just about anything you search for."

    Yes, but not a sufficiently large rate of matches. If the researchers are competent, they can calculate what percent of the data would be expected to match their search even if the data is just random, and decide if the match rate exceeds that by a significant margin. The 'researchers' of the Bible Code were clearly not competent in exactly this way.

    As opposed to the paperback book market, Nature does not tend to print whatever comes across it's desk.
  • by codewarren ( 927270 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @11:37AM (#30682942)

    Considering the necessity of viruses to have some "host-like" code within them, is it not just as possible that viruses got most of their code from hosts rather than vice versa?

  • by IronDragon ( 74186 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @11:37AM (#30682944) Homepage

    Much like someone who copies the content of their old computer straight over to a new computer every few years. Repeat this process a few billion times, and you'll be quite surprised at the amount of sheer useless crap that just keeps getting copied. Voila! DNA.

  • by Gotung ( 571984 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @11:37AM (#30682948)
    Actually I'm pretty sure 100% of our DNA is basically crap that only exists because at some point in the past it was better at copying itself ;)
  • Re:Not Bad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by je ne sais quoi ( 987177 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @11:39AM (#30682980)
    Unless of course it's the 8% that makes you bald as you get older, or makes you susceptible to heart disease or diabetes, or any number of inherited undesirables. Remember, things like sickle cell anemia originated as a defense against malaria. In fact, in TFA it actually suggests an hypothesis:

    "These data yield a testable hypothesis for the alleged, but still controversial, causative association of BDV infection with schizophrenia and mood disorders," Feschotte said.

    where BDV here is the virus whose DNA they were searching for in the human genome. There you go, if you're depressed, manic or schizophrenic, it could be one of your ancestors got a brain virus.

  • Re:Bible Code? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jhon ( 241832 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @11:45AM (#30683060) Homepage Journal

    If I found a really big scroll in a cave that contained billions and billions of apparently random letters -- but somewhere in the middle of all that was the text of the book of John (or "The Three Little Pigs" or whatever), I MIGHT suspect it came from a different source, yes.

    Infinite monkeys pounding on keyboards [] over an infinite span of time would create the combined works of William Shakespeare, and all that...

    Certainly not saying that's what happened here -- but the GPs question/point isn't entirely without merit.

  • Re:Useful? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara.hudson@b ... u d s o n . c om> on Thursday January 07, 2010 @11:48AM (#30683108) Journal

    The weird thing is that research is now showing that a lot of the so-called "junk dna" is actually used indirectly. Maybe we like junk food so much because we eat what we are? :-)

    But this whole thing isn't all that surprising when you consider where our mitochondria [] came from.

  • Re:Useful? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 07, 2010 @12:01PM (#30683322)

    "The viral DNA that isn't conducive to death probably stayed in." -- There, fixed that for you.

  • Re:Useful? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vadim_t ( 324782 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @12:05PM (#30683382) Homepage

    How would they know?

    Hero of Alexandria didn't have trains in mind when he made his Aeolipile []. It was used as a fancy way to open temple doors. Only much later people figured out a practical use for it.

    Boolean algebra was a very obscure branch nobody cared about until it suddenly became very useful.

    Lasers, IIRC didn't have an immediate application when they were invented. They definitely didn't have DVD drives in mind.

  • by jhoegl ( 638955 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @12:18PM (#30683580)
    Ahhh religion, where changing flesh into bread and blood into wine isnt considered "witchcraft". Yet all other "magics" was at one time punishable.
    Hypocrisy, it loves religion.
  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Thursday January 07, 2010 @12:29PM (#30683750) Homepage Journal

    No, 8% of your DNA comes from viruses that infected your anscestors' reproductive organs and were passed on to you. TFA is actually an interesting read.

  • Re:Useful? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by corbettw ( 214229 ) <corbettw&yahoo,com> on Thursday January 07, 2010 @01:09PM (#30684416) Journal

    I am a pretty smart guy who doesn't understand the utility of pure research.

    One of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn't belong!

  • by InsaneProcessor ( 869563 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @01:26PM (#30684644)
    Thank you. Words of a wise one are always appreciated!
  • Re:Useful? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @01:33PM (#30684754)

    The viral DNA that isn't conducive to life would have evolved out

    Evolution is a very noisy process. It does not assure that we are all maximally fit, only fit enough that all our ancestors managed to reproduce. The boundary of viability is people who are viable, but whose children are not.

    Viral DNA might be introduced to our genome as a side-effect of viral infection at a faster rate than natural selection can remove it out of our genome, even if it is harmful to us.

    And any benefit from schitzophrenia would have to be so significant as to outweigh the cost of losing touch with reality, which is enormous. Perhaps our DNA code for a randomized process that usually results in a healthy amount of creativity, but sometimes too much. That gene could be preserved even if it is deleterious in outliers. In fact the variability of gene expression ensures that genes advantageous in their mean effect are sometimes less advantageous, i.e. relatively harmful.

  • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @01:58PM (#30685116)

    You sound like a Protestant, and the view you describe is the Protestant view. Catholics are about a billion strong, and believe that the bread and wine really are flesh and blood; it is not "uncommon" in the least. Your statement is like saying the view that God lives on a planet called Kolob is "uncommon", when in fact (as ridiculous as it sounds) it's believed by millions of Mormons. Or that the idea that we're all infected by "body thetans" who give us mental diseases is "uncommon", when all the Scientologists (I don't know how many there are) believe this.

    Don't underestimate the ability of religion to make people believe utterly ridiculous things.

  • by AmberBlackCat ( 829689 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @01:58PM (#30685120)

    Ahhh religion, where changing flesh into bread and blood into wine isnt considered "witchcraft". Yet all other "magics" was at one time punishable. Hypocrisy, it loves religion.

    And Slashdot, where every story about biology turns into an attack on Christianity or some other faith. Things were different in the Pit & the Pendulum days, but lately it seems like you attack them way more than they attack you.

  • by IndustrialComplex ( 975015 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @02:08PM (#30685264)

    Because he wouldn't answer you.

    So like god then?

  • Re:Mammals (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 07, 2010 @02:29PM (#30685550)

    It's difficult to support that observation via Creationism

    I'm not actually a creationist, but I'll take a stab at it just for fun.
    P1: "chimps and humans share more ERVs than, say, humans and baboons" -> chimps an humans evolved from a common ancestor that lived more recently than the ancestor of humans and baboons.

    P2: Ford and Chevy cars use lug nuts measured in fractions of an inch. Toyota and Nissan use metric -> Ford and Chevy evolved from a common ancestor

    Except that P2 isn't true, not for the biological sense of the word evolution. Therefore P1 is not necessarily true (I'm aware that it happens to be true. I'm just taking the contrary position). Since the real explanation for P2 is that either different designers designed them, or designers just did things for convenience, that explanation could be applied to P1 as well.

  • by BobMcD ( 601576 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @03:12PM (#30686114)

    The ability for a free human to decide what he does or does not believe is about as far from 'unimportant' as one can possibly get.

    You can be insensitive to it if you wish, but this is a thin excuse at best.

  • by pluther ( 647209 ) <pluther@usa.EEEnet minus threevowels> on Thursday January 07, 2010 @03:13PM (#30686120) Homepage

    Yes, because there's no real difference between pulling people out of their homes and torturing them to death and making fun of people's ignorance in an online forum.

  • Re:Useful? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @03:22PM (#30686218) Homepage

    In fact, back when lasers were first invented, people referred to them as "a solution looking for a problem". They were so cool, but for a while nobody could think of anything useful to do with them.

    Silly folks.

    "Insufficient awesome" is the problem, and lasers are the answer.

  • by BobMcD ( 601576 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @04:03PM (#30686730)

    And I cannot state this strongly enough. I do not mean to disrespect you're personal views in any way, but I don't see how I should understand your religion any more than the fundamentals of Islamic terrorism or Scientology. As far as I'm concerned you are all equally deranged, sorry, but that's the truth.

    If you admittedly do not wish to understand, then kindly STFU? It would be the polite thing to do, rather than blathering on without being educated in the matter, would it not?

    You can call it derangement, but in your admittedly uninformed state, that's not 'truth' as much as it is 'ignorance', because as you stated, you are willingly failing to understand the content of the positions.

    You seem to have taken atheism to the extreme of anti-theism, which is an equally untenable position and is a form of religion all in itself.

  • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @04:41PM (#30687216)

    Ahhh religion, where changing flesh into bread and blood into wine isnt considered "witchcraft". Yet all other "magics" was at one time punishable.
    Hypocrisy, it loves religion

    Ahhh science, where one logical theory is considered wrong but another one can be considered right.
    Hypocrisy loves science too when you oversimplify like you did with religion.

  • Re:Useful? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Thursday January 07, 2010 @04:56PM (#30687406) Homepage

    "The viral DNA that isn't conducive to death before reproductive age probably stayed in." -- fixed further?

  • by BobMcD ( 601576 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @05:05PM (#30687510)

    Oh, I disagree completely.

    Atheism - "I do not believe there is a god"

    Anti-theism - "There is not a god"

    The former is within the realm of personal conviction. The latter requires a leap of faith, ergo religion.

    The strongest position that a non-religous atheist can produce is something along the lines of "I am not convinced". When you leap to "you are all idiots", you have entered a position that you cannot support with facts.

  • by cyphercell ( 843398 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @05:06PM (#30687532) Homepage Journal

    No. Absolutely not. Atheists simply demand the same respect as the rest of you fucking nut jobs. It's your right to call Catholics and Atheists nuts. Just like it's my right to say all Christians are nuts. You fucking shitnut freaks are perfectly will to side with an atheist that rants against Islam and then get all fucked up when the atheist turns in your direction.

  • by HaZardman27 ( 1521119 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @05:31PM (#30687826)

    we're not talking about some strange, obscure cult here...

    I'm not even an atheist and I think Catholicism is indeed a strange, obscure cult.

  • Re:Mammals (Score:1, Insightful)

    by scire9 ( 1029348 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @05:42PM (#30687944)
    Are you implying that God is Just Another Perl Hacker?
  • by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @06:20PM (#30688452)

    I don't think it's a leap to say "I'm not convinced. And your arguments have no foundation." In fact I would assume those who aren't convinced aren't convinced BECAUSE the opposition's arguments have no foundation.

    I don't believe there are Unicorns. Ergo I think people who believe in Unicorns are idiots. I'm not anti-unicorns, I've just evaluated the argument made for unicorns (of the mythical magical variety) and found no evidence for it. Since I've found no evidence for it, and exhaustively searched I can conclude that those who do believe in Unicorns and have the same information as myself have an irrational and inaccurate position--in other words idiots.

    I also think people who believe in Crop Circles are idiots. Does that make it a religion?

    It's true that technically every atheist should be a "Agnostic" in that "there might be a god but I see no evidence for it" but we don't make that distinction in any other area of life. I don't say "I don't think there's a monster standing behind me but there might be therefore I'm undecided as to whether a monster is standing behind me." we just jump to the conclusion with the understanding that nothing in the world is certain.

  • by Flere Imsaho ( 786612 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @06:33PM (#30688606)

    "we're not talking about some strange, obscure cult here..."

    No, we're talking about a fucking huge stange cult.

  • by Bigjeff5 ( 1143585 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @06:45PM (#30688778)

    Christianity as I understand it, is descended from Catholicism, as Catholicism is descended from Judaism.

    Your understanding is incorrect.

    The Catholic Church claims the Apostle Peter as its founder. There were, however, ten other Apostles who began the spread of Christianity (Judas, of course, commited suicide instead of seeking redemption, cutting the total to 11 from 12). Within a few hundred years, the Catholic church became the dominant church in Europe, but it was by no means the only Christian church, simply the largest.

    It also has the distinction of being one of the oldest Christian denominations. You could technically say that the Protestant denominations stemmed from Catholicism, but it would be about like saying Athiesm stemmed from Theism - Protestantism was a rejection of Catholicism and a return to the roots of Christianity. This is why the Bibles of the Protestant denominations of Christianity contain only the books written by the Apostles and the first few great missionaries who came behind them. The Catholic Bible is supplimented by a number of various books of tradition that have been passed down through the centuries, which other denominations don't ascribe to. The customs of the priesthood in Catholicism are also very, very different from other Christian denominations. The idea that the Pope speaks the word of God directly, for example, is not found in most other Christian denominations.

    That said, you can usually simply cut away parts of Catholicism and get one of the various Protestant denominations, because they are built on the same foundation.

    If your interpretation of Christianity was looser, rather than tighter, you would have ignored the differences and stuck to the similarities. But you did not do that, hence the argument. The idea of transsubstantiation is almost exclusively a Catholic or Catholic based idea. MOST people who read the passage where Christ broke bread with his deciples and said "This is my body, do this in rememberance of me" recognize that he was making a metaphore, and the point is to remember his sacrifice not get caught up in eating the body of Christ. Obviously that's not what happened the first time, why would it be happening now? It was essentially a Papal decree that made transubstantiation doctrine, for no real reason, and it's that sort of thing that led to Martin Luther founding the Protestant church. Essentially the only denominations that believe in transubstantiation are denominations that originated by churches that were catholic in doctrine, but for one reason or another were cut off from the main church. Russian Orthodox is like this, and is very very similar to Catholicism because of it.

    If you want proof of how different the denominations are, and why you can't simply lump them all together as you did, go have Mass at a Catholic church and then run down to Baptist or Pentacostal church (Baptist and Pentacostal are themselves almost opposites) for a service. You will see what almost two different religions. Then run over to a Mormon church, which is as different from Protestant as Protestant is from Catholic.

    The differences are so great that many in each group do not consider the others to be truly Christian, and that instead they still need salvation.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @06:47PM (#30688798)

    Speak for yourself, I can hear God talking all the time in my head.

    If only he finally realized I don't understand ancient hebrew...

  • by BitZtream ( 692029 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @07:23PM (#30689110)

    No, atheists don't 'demand' anything really. Atheists are generally pretty normal people, just like most people who are religious are normal.

    Nutjobs, who also happen to be atheists demand retarded shit just like religous nutjobs, they tend to be more 'scientific nutjobs'. And by that I mean that they seem to worship something they call science instead of religion, yet blindly ignore scientific method in favor of blindly believing what some guy wrote in a book/journal/website.

    Same nut jobs, different books, same ignorance, and as you are so quick to show us ... the same name calling and he said she said.

    Perhaps before calling someone a 'shitnut freak' for 'ranting against ' a religious group, you should consider not 'ranting against a(ll) religious group(s). Its cool though, you've obviously got plenty of angst to work out, you go on being mad at everyone in the world ... nutjob.

  • by cyphercell ( 843398 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @08:25PM (#30689556) Homepage Journal

    Here is my point. Every fucking time I miss one single infinitesimally insignificant bit of minutia regarding religion somebody's got a tirade of religious bullshit I should understand before I say something. Fuck you(laugh, my use of profanity is generally stylistic). Please understand, that I don't need a bachelors of religious studies to laugh at a joke about the absurdity of some religious practice, I don't care if it's Jews vs Catholics vs Islam. I don't need a fine grained and detailed history of religion. It's just not that important. That's what I want. My right to be an atheist and just not have to know the difference between one christian and the other, because I can safely assure you the last thing I want is to sit in one church or the other just so I can tell the difference between a joke about Catholics and a joke about Muslims. For crying out loud, I KNOW that Catholics were the ones the original post was describing, my point is that I don't need every other christian online jumping up and telling me that the joke was not about their particular Christianity. Or the absurdity of several of them claiming that their Christianity is more common than Catholicism. In my world (which obviously varies greatly from the real one), the only proper stance for a religious person to take in that state is that of protecting their fellow Christian's right to believe whatever kind of crazy shit they want. Not to jump and start screaming "NOT ME".

    Anyways, thanks for taking me seriously, even if you did completely ignore the fact that I am not looking for an exhaustive religious history that *everyone* will eventually wind up arguing over.

  • Re:Useful? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday January 07, 2010 @08:30PM (#30689594)

    Can someone hand this guy an insightful mod? Because it's one of the things we tend to overlook far too easily.

    Evolution is not about "survival". It's about passing your genes on. You win the evolution game by having offspring. Whether you survive for long afterwards is only interesting as long as it enhances your offspring's ability to survive and again pass the genes on.

    For reference, see a few species that die during intercourse (male only, of course) or shortly after giving birth/laying eggs/whatever else way the genes get passed.

    Evolution is not about making sure you get old. Quite the opposite, actually. We humans are very social beings and our social bond to our parents would make sure that we carry that (from an evolutionary point of view) "dead weight" around. Basically, in a purely evolutionary sense, it would make the most sense if we died as soon as our offspring is old enough to care about themselves.

A committee takes root and grows, it flowers, wilts and dies, scattering the seed from which other committees will bloom. -- Parkinson