science and technology

Discovery: viruses played a key role in the origin of life

Cairo: Mai Kamal El-Din


We discover that 1.5 million years ago, viruses helped life develop on Earth. Mathilde Fontez, editor-in-chief of the scientific magazine Epsiloon tells us for once about the positive effects of viruses, because there are…

franceinfo: An American study shows that viruses played a key role in the origin of life?

Mathilde Fontez: Yes, this team led a field study in the hot springs of Yellowstone, United States. It is a hotbed of research into the origin of life: these very hot bubbling streams and lakes are thought to be quite close to the conditions in which life developed. This is where it all started: the first cells, the first organisms billions of years ago…

The researchers studied the algae found there today, red algae, from which they took samples and sequenced the DNA. And in their genes, they found viruses. Lots of viruses: they reconstructed 25 types precisely. These viruses reproduce by infecting red algae, and they insert themselves into their genes.

And these are old viruses?

Yes. This is the discovery of these researchers: from genetic sequencing, they reconstructed the family tree of these viruses, and found a very ancient link with the algae which shelter them today. These viruses were there from the beginning of the history of life, when these algae formed. Researchers see this in particular in the adaptation of viruses to environmental conditions.

Yellowstone’s streams are extreme: they are over 40 degrees, very acidic, very concentrated in toxins like arsenic. Viruses have been adapted to these Dantean conditions for a very long time: researchers conclude that their association with algae dates back 1.5 billion years.

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  • Source of information and images “svoboda

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