Interference between viruses and transposons in Drosophila

Recent work involving the Laboratory of Biometry and Evolutionary Biology and the Laboratory of Viral Infections and Comparative Pathology (Claude Bernard University Lyon 1) in Lyon (Auvergne-Rhône-AlpesFranceshows that viral infections interfere with transposable elements activity in Drosophila.

Transposable elements (or transposons) are DNA sequences, which present themselves as parasites of the genomes. They are able to move and multiply along chromosomes. They are present in all organisms and make up half of the human genome. When they transpose, they cause mutations, which can be deleterious, but also a source of genetic innovation. The activity of transposable elements is not constant over time. And while it is known that certain factors such as stress can trigger transposition, the understanding of the dynamics of these sequences within genomes is still only partial.

The study developed by a research team within the Biometrics and Evolutionary Biology Laboratory and the Viral Infections and Comparative Pathology Laboratory, financially supported by the LabEx Ecofect within the framework of the ERMIT project, has shown that viral infections are a new factor at the origin of the modulation of the activity of transposable elements. Indeed, by using different lines of fruit flies infected by the Sindbis arbovirus, it appears that the quantity of transcripts of transposable elements, which are essential for transposition, varies upon viral infection. These modulations involve RNA interference pathways, which are involved in the antiviral response of drosophilia.

Considering that viral infections impact transposable element activity, these results suggest that they may play a role in modulating the speed of genome evolution.

Claude Bernard University Lyon 1 (French: Université Claude-Bernard Lyon 1, UCBL) is one of the three public universities of Lyon, France. It is named after the French physiologist Claude Bernard and specialises in science and technology, medicine, and sports science. It was established in 1971 by the merger of the ‘faculté des sciences de Lyon’ with the ‘faculté de médecine’.

The main administrative, teaching and research facilities are located in Villeurbanne, with other campuses located in Gerland, Rockefeller, and Laennec in the 8th arrondissement of Lyon. Attached to the university are the Hospices Civils de Lyon, including the ‘Centre Hospitalier Lyon-Sud’, which is the largest teaching hospital in the Rhône-Alpes region and the second-largest in France.

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