How can bats harbor so many viruses without developing symptoms?

How can bats harbor so many viruses without developing symptoms?
Credit: Elise Lauterbur and Gena Sandoval

Bats are asymptomatic carriers of a multitude of viruses that are pathogenic to most other mammals. How has their immune system evolved to shield them from these pathogens?

A team of scientists—the majority affiliated with the CNRS, Claude Bernard Lyon 1 University, and ENS de Lyon—has just published an article in Science Advances addressing that question.

Part of the explanation may lie in the number of copies and diversification of the gene encoding the PKR enzyme, which is involved in the immune response to viruses. While most mammals possess a single copy of this gene, some bats have several copies, allowing them to diversify their antiviral repertoire and thus defend themselves from a wide range of viruses. This has been made possible in by the accumulation of multiple copies of the PKR gene, each subjected to positive selection during the evolution of these animals.

To reach this conclusion, the team of researchers adopted an interdisciplinary approach integrating genetics, evolution, molecular and cellular biology, virology, and field data. They delved into the evolutionary history of the PKR gene in various bat species and analyzed, at the , the adaptations these animals acquired after facing epidemics in the ancient past. Their work contributes to our understanding of viral transmission between .

More information: Stéphanie Jacquet et al, Adaptive duplication and genetic diversification of protein kinase R contribute to the specificity of bat-virus interactions, Science Advances (2022). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.add7540

Journal information: Science Advances
Provided by CNRS
Citation: How can bats harbor so many viruses without developing symptoms? (2022, November 28) retrieved 12 June 2024 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Explore further

Researchers find repeated gene duplications and genetic diversification in protein kinase R in mouse-eared bats


Feedback to editors