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New insights into the evolution of viral receptors.

Researchers from Nanjing Normal University have made an important breakthrough on the evolution of viral receptors. The article, entitled “Host-virus arms races drive elevated adaptive evolution in viral receptors”, was published in Journal of Virology with graduate student Wenqiang Wang as the first author.

Viruses hijack host surface proteins, commonly known as viral receptors, to help their entry into host cells. Due to functional constraints, viral receptors experience negative selection to maintain their normal functions. On the other hand, they undergo positive selection because of the genetic conflict between viruses and hosts. It remains clear how viral receptors evolved under these two conflicting forces. Wang et al. analyzed the evolution of 96 viral receptors in primates. They found viral receptors exhibit significantly elevated rate of adaptation than control genes, and detected signals of selection for 58 viral receptors in human populations. These results suggest that host-virus conflicts drive accelerated adaptive evolution in viral receptors. 

Support for the project was provided by the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the Priority Academic Program Development of Jiangsu Province.