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Viruses  2011 

Viral Ancestors of Antiviral Systems

DOI: 10.3390/v3101933

Keywords: virus evolution, prophage, evolution of immunity, restriction modification, addiction modules, toxin antitoxin, apoptosis, CRISPR, RNAi, interferon, adaptive immunity, T-cell receptor, MHC, ERV, HERV, LTR

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All life must survive their corresponding viruses. Thus antiviral systems are essential in all living organisms. Remnants of virus derived information are also found in all life forms but have historically been considered mostly as junk DNA. However, such virus derived information can strongly affect host susceptibility to viruses. In this review, I evaluate the role viruses have had in the origin and evolution of host antiviral systems. From Archaea through bacteria and from simple to complex eukaryotes I trace the viral components that became essential elements of antiviral immunity. I conclude with a reexamination of the ‘Big Bang’ theory for the emergence of the adaptive immune system in vertebrates by horizontal transfer and note how viruses could have and did provide crucial and coordinated features.


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