Viruses are very dangerous entities that can be deadly in some cases, as we’ve seen over the past year.
Bacteriophages, which are viruses that infect bacteria, and their prey, have been fighting against each other for centuries. Both of the sides evolved increasingly more advanced tactics to kill.
Some bacteriophages stepped up their game by taking the arms race to a new level by modifying how they code their DNA, or at least that is what scientists believe had happened, Sciencealert reports.
New research on that subject was posted in three individual papers, proving that there is an entire army of bacteriophages with DNA different from what would be “normal.”
Scientists labelled the anomalies as the Z-genome.
Michael Grome and Farren Isaacs, two biologists, explained that genomic DNA comprises four standard nucleotides, the nucleobases that form the genetic alphabet, which is found across all forms of life.
“However, in 1977, the DNA virus cyanophage S-2L was discovered with all instances of ‘A’ substituted with 2-aminoadenine (Z) throughout its genome forming the genetic alphabet ZTCG,” they added.
The reason behind the changes appears to be self-protection.
Inside of the connecting “rungs” that are specific to the DNA double helix, the “Z” base forms a triple bond with the complementary “T” base, one more than the usual two bonds of the typical A:T connection, which makes the viral genome significantly deadlier. Consequently, it is more difficult for bacteria to prise part with nucleases, which are naturally developed chemicals.
Though scientists were mesmerized, they couldn’t manage to find any other bacteriophages with the Z-genome. It was set aside as a scientific curiosity, mainly because culturing S-2L in a lab is very difficult at the moment.