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How bats have outperformed viruses, including coronaviruses, for 65 million years | Science

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Large-eared bat sequenced genome (MyotitisAnd five distant cousins ​​reveal the secrets of bat evolution.

Olivier Fercy

Along Elizabeth Penis

The SARS-CoV-2 virus has infected more than 14 million people, but bats are always asymptomatically infected with the same virus. Currently, six newly sequenced genomes across the bat family tree reveal how they outperform the virus for 65 million years.

The findings are “an excellent starting point for understanding the bat’s superstar immune system,” says Laurel Yohe, a postdoc at Yale University who studied bat evolution and was not involved in the study.

Over 1400 bats are the second most diverse group of mammals on earth. They live on all continents except Antarctica and range in size from 2 grams to over 1000 grams. They fly, echolocate, and even live for up to 30 years. It’s a long time for an animal of that size. They are also known to carry many different types of viruses, Including coronavirus, There is no adverse effect.

To discover their secrets, the International Consortium launched a Bat1k project in 2017 to represent the Bat1000 to sequence the genomes of all bat species. 6 of these genomes have been completed, The consortium today Nature..

The genome is more detailed and accurate than the previously sequenced bat genome, says Jon Epstein, a disease ecologist at the EcoHealth Alliance who was not involved in this task. “Thereby [researchers] To make a strong comparison with other animals, including humans. “

Researchers at the consortium have done just that, from manatees to humans, comparing the newly sequenced genomes with those of 42 other mammals. They found that the bat’s closest relatives were neither the tree shrew, the flying lemur, or the rat (as suggested). Instead, they formed their own groups early on, sharing a common ancestor with mammals and eventually evolved into horses, pangolins, whales, and dogs.

Further analysis revealed that bats disabled at least 10 genes that other mammals use to initiate the inflammatory response to infection. However, they may also have extra copies and modifications of antiviral genes, which may explain their high resistance to disease. Finally, their genome is interspersed with fragments of DNA from previous viral infections that were integrated when the viral genome was replicated.

“These non-bat genes leave a kind of medical record… a diary of previous infections,” says Yohe. The diary found that bats were probably more infected with the virus than all other mammals, and even with viruses that were thought to only attack birds. Charlene Santana, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, said:

Analysis may also resolve the evolutionary origin of bat echolocation, a sounding hunting technique that helps bats find insect prey. Some researchers argued that echolocation evolved later in the history of bat evolution, and could have evolved twice. However, the six sequenced echolocating bats have the same versions of several genes involved in hearing, suggesting that these versions likely evolved in their ancestors, the team said. Reporting.

The following year, Bat1K researchers plan to sequence another 27 genomes. They are now seeking funding to do the rest, says Emma Tearing, co-founder of the project and zoologist at the University of Dublin. But these first six genomes will continue to affect, says Amy Russell, an evolutionary biologist at Grand Valley State University. “I think this paper will be very influential over the next few years.”

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