Viruses and Host Evolution: Virus-Mediated Self Identity

  • Luis Villarreal
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 738)


Virus evolution has become a topic that involves population based selection. Both quasispecies based populations and reticulated mosaic exchange of populations of genetic elements are now well established. This has led us to the understanding that a cooperative consortia can be a crucial aspect of virus driven evolution. Thus viruses exist in groups that can cooperate. However, consortial based evolution (group selection) has long been dismissed by evolutionary biologist. Recently, biocommunication theory has concluded that the evolution and editing of any code or language requires a consortial based process in order to adhere to pragmatic (context) requirements for meaning (in conflict with survival of the fittest concepts). This has led to the idea that viruses are the natural editors of biological codes or language. In this chapter, I present the view that the persistence of virus information in their host provides a natural process of host code editing that is inherently consortial. Since persistence requires mechanisms to attain stability and preclude competition, it also provided mechanisms that promote group identity. Accordingly, I review the viral origins of addiction modules and how these affect both persistence and group identity. The concepts emerging from addiction module based group identity are then generalized and applied to social identity systems as well. I then examine the prokaryotes and the involvement of viral elements in the emergence of their group identity systems (biofilms). Here, integrating dsDNA agents prevailed. In the eukaryotes, however, a large shift in virus-host evolution occurred in which the role of dsDNA agents was diminished but the role of retroviruses and retroposons was greatly enhanced. These agents provided greatly expanded and network based regulatory complexity that was controlled by sensory inputs. From this perspective, the role of virus in the origin of the adaptive immune system is then outlined. I then consider human evolution from the perspective of the great HERV colonization. The origin of a large social brain able to support the learning of language is presented from this viral perspective. The role of addiction modules in the origin of extended social bonding of humans is outlined and applied to the emergence of language as a system of group identity.


Group Identity Adaptive Immune System Social Bonding Vomeronasal Organ Maternal Bond 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Landes Bioscience and Springer Science+Business Media 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luis Villarreal
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Virus ResearchUniversity of CaliforniaIrvineUSA

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