Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Retro Virus Turned Evolutionary Hero

In its never ending tales of serendipity, evolutionary theory now exalts the once lowly virus as crucial to the evolutionary process itself. It seems that those pockmarked sequences of ancient retroviruses tend to show up in important DNA binding sites where regulatory proteins perch and control which genes are expressed. As one science writer explained:

Surprisingly, the infected hosts and their primate descendants also appear to have benefited from this genetic invasion, new evidence suggests. The ancient retroviruses … helped a gene called p53 become an important “master gene regulator” in primates, …

The advent of gene regulatory networks allowed for greater control over gene expression in higher vertebrates. With tightly controlled variations in gene expression, species that had very similar genetic codes—for instance, humans and chimpanzees—could nevertheless exhibit striking differences.

Amazing how viruses can help create humans. We must be living in the right universe. The tale continues:

Scientists have long wondered how a master regulator such as p53 gained the ability to turn on and off a broad range of other genes related to cell division, DNA repair, and programmed cell death. How did p53 build its complex and powerful empire, so to speak?

Using the tools of computational genomics, the UCSC team gathered compelling evidence that retroviruses helped out. ERVs jumped into new positions throughout the human genome and spread numerous copies of repetitive DNA sequences that allowed p53 to regulate many other genes, the team contends.

Compelling evidence that viruses allowed p53 to regulate many other genes? Of course there is no such compelling evidence. The findings revealed that p53 binding sites sometimes fall within the ancient virus sequences. But for the evolutionary faithful this has profound, if idiotic, implications.

"This would have provided a mechanism to quickly establish a gene regulatory network in a very short evolutionary time frame," said Ting Wang, a post-doctoral researcher at UCSC and lead author of the paper.

Thus, p53 was crowned "guardian of the genome," as biologists now call it. …

Moreover, the team has proposed a new mechanism for evolutionary change. Conventional wisdom says that evolution is driven by small changes--point mutations--to the genetic code. If a change is beneficial, the mutation is passed onto future generations.

Now it appears that another level of evolution occurs that is not driven by point mutations. Instead, retroviruses insert DNA sequences and rearrange the genome, which leads to changes in gene regulation and expression. If such a change in gene regulation is beneficial, it is passed onto future generations.

You cannot make this stuff up. Retroviruses insert DNA sequences and bingo, new amazing designs rapidly appear. It all happens automagically. Junk religion breeds junk science.


  1. Thomas Edison said that success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration. In the case of evolution we see 10 percent information and 90 percent speculation.

    It's great that the mechanism for evolution has now been discovered. I wonder why the evolutionists did not admit that the theory did not work before this paper? With this breakthrough I am sure we will soon see an actual experiment which demonstrates how a new creature can evolve.

  2. You cannot make this stuff up.

    Apparently, it wasn't made up, but observed.

    Here we have another example of an ordinary biological discovery triggering an emotional rant by Dr Hunter.

    For an example of similar work, see:


    Retroviral promoters in the human genome

    From the abstract:

    These data illustrate the potential of retroviral sequences to regulate human transcription on a large scale consistent with a substantial effect of ERVs on the function and evolution of the human genome.

    Filed under: Incredulity

  3. Now it appears that another level of evolution occurs that is not driven by point mutations.

    This is news? You've never heard of genetic recombination, gene duplication, deletions, insertions, inversions, etc, etc,?



    Allen MacNeill's list of "engines of variation" for a longer list.

    Filed under: Cluelessness

  4. If anyone cares, the full free text of the Wang paper is here:


    It's been cited by 11 other papers in the PubMed database.

  5. So this would mean there is another explanation for the existance of similar ERV's in different species besides evolution. They were put there by the designer because they serve a purpose. And the evolutionary explanaion requires that somehow the ERV's were co-opted for a purpose that serves the host organism. How lucky is that?

  6. Cornelius again tries to overturn science with snark.

    That mobile genetic elements can regulate gene expression goes back to McClintock, and Britten–Davidson theory predicted this in the 1960's!

    The actual 2007 paper is open access here:

    p53 sites are observed within retroviral insertions. These functionally regulate nearby genes. The species-specific differences correlate with phylogeny, ages of divergence, linage specificity of retroviruses, etc.

    That is some of the data. I guess the options are the retrovirus bearing the site inserted, the p53 site was later acquired in some insertions through an unknown process (unlikely), or ??Cornelius' idiotic implication free-hypothesis??

  7. Dr. Hunter,

    It's interesting that you ignored the vast history of the study of retroviral promoter insertions as a cause of cancer.

    Can't confuse the rubes with reality, now, can we?

  8. You mean that cancer and evolution are linked in some way - that there is some global unity to biology?


  9. Guys, you don't seem to understand Cornelius's tactics. It's called the Gish Gallop. By the time you raise your objections, he has already moved on to the next post.

    So relax and enjoy the ride.

  10. David:
    Allen MacNeill's list of "engines of variation" for a longer list.

    Too bad Allen doesn't seem to understand the debate- hint "evolution" isn't being debated and Allen cannot produce any evidence that his "engines of variation" are due to blind, undirected chemical processes.

    As I have told Allen several times he needs to read "Not By Chance" or else he will continue to misrepresent his opponents position and continue to make flase claims about his.

  11. smokey:
    It's interesting that you ignored the vast history of the study of retroviral promoter insertions as a cause of cancer.

    How is that even relevant?

    Are you saying cancer is evidence for universal common descent?

  12. oleg:
    Guys, you don't seem to understand Cornelius's tactics.

    We sure as hell understand your tactics- bluff, pontificate, insult, degrade but never, under any circumstances produce any positive evidence for your position.

    1. Yes, I Agree and even THAT, they will pile on the Mountain or landfill of group think Darwits, its gotten so even their ridicule is just more evidence evolution is a fact. How do I know? Because my questioning it at all, makes me wicked and evil. Just as Dick Dawkins. What we have ended up with is lower rankings in science, and a bunch of over fluoridated zombies like David, thinking that pathetic pile of piltdown paleontology and faux fossil frauds, is the overwhelming mountain of evidence while not showing so much as a pebble off that hill.