Guest Post Today from Claudiu Bandea .
Claudiu wrote to me after my paper on “Stalking the Fourth Domain” came out.
I posted a comment on your ‘PLoSOne paper’ blog, but I thought of sending you this mail.
You might be interested in taking a look at the attached paper presenting a fusion model for the origin of ‘ancestral viruses’ from parasitic or symbiotic cellular species, and its implication for the evolution of viruses and cellular domains, which I’m attaching here (you can see the entire series, including comments, at: http://precedings.nature.com/documents/3886/version/1). Possibly, the novel sequences you discovered belong to such ‘transitional forms’ between the cellular domains and the viral domains.
I know it’s a lot of material, but you might want to focus on Fig. 4 and the related discussion about TOLs from the perspective of the current hypotheses on origin and evolution of viruses. Because of your interest in TOL, I want to ask your thoughts on the difference between the concept of TOL based on the line-of-descent, the ways it was historically intended, and the current approaches of using (mostly) sequences which, as you know, due to LGT might not necessarily reflect the line-of-descent relationships.
After a bit of a back and forth I offered to let him write a guest post on my blog about this. He accepted my offer. I note – I am not endorsing any of his ideas here and to be honest I have not read his papers he refers to – I have skimmed them and the seem interesting but have not had a chance to read them. I also note – I am a bit uncomfortable with the fact that I cannot seem to find any Web Profile / Web Site / Blog / etc. with more detail about him and his work. On one hand – ideas are ideas and they can and should stand on their own. On the other hand context is useful in many cases and I feel like I am missing some context here. He works at the CDC but I am not sure what he actually does there. But in the interest of open discussion of ideas and since, well, not having a web site is certainly not a crime, his post is below.
The most efficient way of silencing ideas is not by criticizing them but by pretending they don’t exist. The antidote might be the blogging world.
A couple of decades ago, I published a novel model on the evolutionary origin of ancestral viral lineages. Recently, I updated this model and integrated it into an ambitious unifying scenario on the origin and evolution of cellular and viral domains, including the origin of life; well, that might have just buried it so deep that it’s gone for good even for those with an open mind and noble intentions.
So, I would like to ask you the favor of reviewing and criticizing this model. As a primer, you might want to read a comment I posted last summer on a book review by Robin Weiss. The book was Carl Zimmer’s A Planet of Viruses and the review by Dr. Weiss, one of the most distinguished contemporary virologists, was entitled Potent Tiny Packages, which symbolizes our century-long perspective on the nature of viruses as virus particles. If we have reasons to call Earth a planet of viruses, as I think Carl successfully made the point, then viruses require our full attention, including the right to be correctly identified and to be included in the Tree of Life.
I know, this is a lot of material, but I hope you’ll find it interesting, and I would be thrilled to address your questions and listen to your ideas.