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Koala DNA Affected by Retrovirus Shows Evolution in Action

Recent studies by koala researchers revealed that ancient infected DNA could have changed the course of evolution. The research was published in Cell, which targeted Koala retrovirus, also known as KoRV. This virus belongs to the HIV virus category and began to enter the Koala genome 40,000 years ago. This virus transmitted from one generation to another is thought to cause a change in species evolution.

Koalas suffered from chlamydia and cancers such as leukemia. By studying the solutions to these problems, these studies led scientists to ask how these viruses fit into animal DNA and can also cause a change of course in evolution. Scientists have found that there has been a constant insertion of viruses into animal genes. Approximately 8% of the human genetic structure consists of viruses. These viruses, however, belong to ancient viruses – some of them even before humans.

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Retrovirus capable of activating other older viruses

Scientists reported in Cell that they observed the Koala genome's immune system struggling to make the virus inactive after the virus settled in the Koala's DNA. Researchers also believe that the Koala retrovirus is capable of activating other ancient viruses in DNA. These changes in the Koala's genetic structure may lead to possibilities for mutations and variations that form the new basis for natural selection.

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Retrovirus becomes permanent part of DNA

These retroviruses are responsible for causing cancer and weakening the immune system. However, if these retroviruses are inserted into a sperm or egg, the insertion becomes permanent and the virus becomes part of the animal's DNA. Once they become endogenous and are a permanent part of inherited DNA, they no longer cause the original infection. Research has proven that the insertion of retroviruses was not only causing cancer in the body, but also shifting to its genome, leading to changes in the course of evolution.

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