Wasps do a gain-of-function experiment in caterpillars

parasitic waspParasitic wasps (in the order Hymenoptera) inject their eggs into lepidopteran hosts, where the eggs go through their developmental stages. Along with the eggs, the wasps also deliver viruses carrying genes encoding proteins that inhibit caterpillar immune defenses. Some of these genes are permanently transferred to the lepidopteran host where they have assumed new defensive functions against other viruses.

The viruses that parasitic wasps inject with their eggs, called Bracoviruses, are encoded in the wasp genome. About 100 million years ago a nudivirus genome integrated into the genome of a common wasp ancestor. With time the viral genes became dispersed in the wasp genome. The viruses produced by these wasps today no longer carry capsid coding genes – they are found only in the wasp genome – but only carry genes whose products can modulate lepidopteran defenses. Once in the lepidopteran host, these viruses deliver their genes but no longer form new particles.

An important question is whether wasp Bracoviruses can contribute genes to Lepidoptera – a process called horizontal gene transfer. This possibility would seem remote because the lepidopteran hosts for wasp larvae are dead ends – they die after serving as hosts for wasp development. However, it is possible that some hosts resist killing, or that wasps occasionally inject their eggs and viruses into the wrong host, one that can resist killing.

To answer this question, the genome sequence of Cotesia congregata bracovirus was compared with the genomes of a regular host as well as non-host Lepidoptera. Bracovirus DNA insertions were identified in genomes of the monarch, the silkworm, the beet armyworm and the fall armyworm, but not in the genome of the tobacco hornworm, the usual host of the wasp (C. congregata).

Not only were the Bracovirus sequences found in these varied Lepidoptera, but some appeared to be functional. Two such genes encode a protein that interferes with the replication of baculovirus, a known pathogen of Lepidoptera. This discovery was made in the process of producing the encoded proteins using baculovirus vectors! In other words, viral genes delivered by Hymenopteran wasps were appropriated by the Lepidoptera and used for their defense against a pathogen.

To put it another way, nature has carried out a gain-of-function experiment. Should we impose a moratorium?

The delivery of immunosuppressive viruses by wasps along with their eggs is by all accounts a remarkable story. The appropriation of some of these genes by the wrong hosts should not come as a surprise, yet the finding is nevertheless simply amazing. As long as we keep looking, we will find that the biological world is always full of new revelations.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Gertrud Rey

    Additionally, Rich Condit tells this story beautifully on TWiV 179!

  • Arvillajayne

    So, if I understand this discovery correctly…that there is now known potential, via horizontal gene transfer, for wasp Bracoviruses DNA to be found in non-typical Lepidoptera hosts…like the beet armyworm and fall armyworm (among others)…what might this mean for the first-ever insect-derived flu vaccine ‘Flublok’ (Sept 2015) that has been cultivated from DNA of a non-specified…as far as I’ve seen…”armyworm”?

    In other words, without knowing WHICH armyworm has been used (albeit, if it makes a difference)…how will the Public know whether this more novel (then chick embryo) vaccine material HAS been scrutinized appropriately (including not using insects from the wild) so that it is not inadvertently, via a prophylactic vaccine, contaminating the human population with wasp Bracoviruses that are not only foreign to the human body, but by species specific nature of evolutionary design, can incite the pathological challenge of immunosuppression?

    Sincere thanks if someone feels it necessary to redirect this line of thinking…or, can finitely confirm that such due diligent caution has been taken.

  • Richard Sacks

    Arvillajayne, your sincere concerns and questions are admirable and reasonable but naive, and I do not in any way mean this as a criticism. The companies making these new concoctions and hundreds of others to inject into you and your family are not trying to prevent disease (sorry, the truth is vaccines have never done that since their inception around 1790), and they are not testing to make sure this is a safe new recipe. Not in the least. They have not even done that with any of their existing vaccines. So you need to ask a much bigger question. Whether this particular vaccine is tested and proven for safety would be a humorous question if it were not so severe of a question – no vaccine is safe (see our show of 10/24 discussing vaccines with Dr. Rima E. Laibow, MD, http://www.lostartsradio.com, and there are many other sources and non-brainwashed, courageous MD’s).
    The secret you are never supposed to suspect is that the entire theory of vaccination is 100% fraud. Soon it will be illegal in most countries to even say that. This is not real science and with vaccines, never has been. They figure the public is too uninformed and impressed by credentials of “experts” and complex nonsense terminology to question the antibody theory on which the whole vaccine agenda is justified.
    Antibodies are indeed produced by the body in response to the poisonous assault of vaccines, including that from poisonous metals which are not diseases. This does not in any way mean that immunity is being created. Many people with plenty of antibody response to a shot actually get the disease anyway, often from the shot itself. Others with virtually no detectable antibodies show excellent immunity. Again, the whole thing is a malicious scam. Doctors and others have been murdered for exposing this.
    The multibillion dollar profit motive is only the cause at the level of the corrupt vaccine makers. Far above that in the power structure, where the programs originate, the motive has nothing to do with money, it is far worse. The rulers at that level control the money system and use it to control those who do their bidding like the drug and vaccine makers, but they don’t need “profits.” The situation we are in is very serious, far beyond what most of the public imagines. The medical industry does some excellent work in accident repair and a small percentage of actually necessary surgeries. But for health, they are an intentionally designed disaster.
    I have done this kind of research and direct experimentation and investigation for 50 years now, but it’s not about me or anyone else who tells you, you can verify it for yourself if you do the work. The purpose of vaccines is not to prevent disease. The purpose of fluoride is not to protect your teeth. The purpose of GMO foods is not to feed the world. The purpose of geoengineering is not to normalize the weather or protect against global warming. The purpose of smart meters is not more efficient power systems.
    If at least some of humanity does not wake up very soon, not to just the complaining stage but the stage of adequate consciousness to implement positive solutions, then the globalist plans (of which vaccination is just one component) will achieve their aims, and it will not be a pleasant scenario. There is yet a little time to make a difference toward healing of the world. But it is almost gone. Value what is left and thank you for caring.
    Richard Sacks, Host
    Lost Arts Radio
    http://www.lostartsradio.com
    richard@globalleadersconsulting.com