Study Suggests Modern Humans Inherited Neanderthals’ Viral Defenses

Alicia Farmer
October 6, 2018

It is so far known that Neanderthals and humans interbred at least twice in a period of 100,000 years, but some snippets of Neanderthal DNA remain in some members of the modern human population than in others. As the researchers report today (October 4) in Cell, genes for virus-recognizing proteins are relatively common among the tiny percentage of modern humans' DNA that originated in Neanderthals. Today, Europeans and Asians still carry 2 to 3 percent of Neanderthal DNA in their genomes. The obvious conclusion is that these genes protected us against the ancient variety of RNA viruses that humans must have encountered while they were still fresh out of Africa, the authors reported in the journal Cell. "Modern humans and Neanderthals are so closely related that it really wasn't much of a genetic barrier for these viruses to jump". The flu virus can, for example, be treated as "key" to "lock" the protein of the cell surface, causing the human cell to let him in. That meant they were already used to the terrain and climate of other continents, which allowed them to develop defenses against viruses present in Europe and Asia.

"Neanderthal genes likely gave us some protection against viruses that our ancestors encountered when they left Africa", said Dmitri Petrov, PhD, an evolutionary biologist at Stanford's School of Humanities and Sciences, in a recent Stanford news release.

Researchers at the Universities of Arizona and Stanford published a study in the journal Cell, according to which the breeding of early humans with Neanderthals resulted in creating offspring resistant to risky diseases that were similar to flu or hepatitis.

Since viruses can not replicate on their own, they depend on the proteins found in cells. Their earlier research focused on how viruses impacted the evolution of humans.

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They then looked at whether there was an enrichment of stretches of Neanderthal DNA in those 4,000 genes. Other scientists have found segments of Neanderthal DNA in people who probably had some evolutionary advantage, because Enard compared these data with your list 4534 protein that interacts with the virus.

"Many Neanderthal sequences have been lost in modern humans, but some stayed and appear to have quickly increased to high frequencies at the time of contact, suggestive of their selective benefits at that time", Petrov said.

Apart from shedding light on the gene swapping between humans and Neanderthals, the researchers' study also showed how ancient diseases and epidemics can be detected through studying a species' genome even if the virus or disease is already long gone. "The search for the remains of RNA viruses is very old - quite a hopeless case", explains Enard.

According to a new study, two groups Gann exchanged diseases and genes that protect against these diseases. Presently, another hereditary review has uncovered quality stream among people and Neanderthals was intervened by viral transmissions. Enard concluded that the technique works best on RNA viruses, as the RNA-based genomes are not as tough as the DNA genomes.

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