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Scripps Florida scientists show 'lifeless' prions capable of evolutionary change and adaptation
Date:12/31/2009

dy of a particular bacteriophage a virus that infects bacteria while he was director of the Institut fr Molekularbiologie in Zrich, Switzerland.

"The proof of the quasi-species concept is a discovery we made over 30 years ago," he said. "We found that an RNA virus population, which was thought to have only one sequence, was constantly creating mutations and eliminating the unfavorable ones. In these quasi-populations, much like we have now found in prions, you begin with a single particle, but it becomes very heterogeneous as it grows into a larger population."

There are some unknown dynamics at work in the prion population that leads to this increased heterogeneity, Weissmann added, that still need to be explored.

"It's amusing that something we did 30 years has come back to us," he said. "But we know that mutation and natural selection occur in living organisms and now we know that they also occur in a non-living organism. I suppose anything that can't do that wouldn't stand much of a chance of survival."


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Contact: Keith McKeown
kmckeown@scripps.edu
858-784-8134
Scripps Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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