Bat genomes reveal how they carry deadly viruses

One aspect of the researchers' work demonstrates evolution through expansion and loss

genes in the APOBEC3 gene family. It is known to play an important role in immunity to viruses in other mammals. Scientists set out to find out how these genetic changes, found in bats but not in other mammals, can help prevent the worst outcomes of viral diseases in other mammals, including humans.

To create bat genomes, a team of scientistsused the latest DRESDEN-concept Genome Center, a shared technology resource in Dresden, Germany, to sequence bat DNA. Researchers have also developed new methods for assembling these parts in the correct order and identifying the genes present. While previous work by scientists has identified genes that can influence the unique biology of bats, uncovering how gene duplications contributed to this unique biology has been complicated by incomplete genomes.

The team compared the bat genomes with 42 othersmammals to solve the question of where bats are in the mammalian tree of life. Using new phylogenetic techniques and exhaustive molecular datasets, the scientists drew conclusions. They found that bats are most closely related to a group called Fereuungulata, which consists of carnivorous animals (which include dogs, cats, and seals, among other species), dinosaurs, whales, and ungulate mammals.

To identify genomic changes thatcontributing to the unique adaptations found in bats, scientists have systematically looked for gene differences between bats and other mammals, identifying regions of the genome that have evolved differently in bats and the loss and gain of genes that may control the unique traits of bats.

It is thanks to a series of complex statisticalIn the analysis, scientists have begun to uncover the genetics of bats' superpowers, including their apparent ability to carry and overcome RNA viruses, one of the researchers said.

Scientists have found evidence of past survival of viral infections and have shown that bat genomes contain a greater variety of viral residues than other species.

As a result, bat genomes of reference qualityprovide the resources needed to identify and validate the genomic basis of bats adaptation, and stimulate new avenues of research that are directly related to human health and disease.

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