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Nat Rev Immunol. 2012 Oct;12(10):687-95. doi: 10.1038/nri3295. Epub 2012 Sep 14.

Evolutionary conflicts between viruses and restriction factors shape immunity.

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Molecular and Cellular Biology Graduate Program, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98109, USA.


Host restriction factors are potent, widely expressed intracellular blocks to viral replication that are an important component of the innate immune response to viral infection. However, viruses have evolved mechanisms that antagonize restriction factors. Through evolutionary pressure for both host survival and virus replication, an evolutionary 'arms race' has developed that drives continuous rounds of selection for beneficial mutations in the genes encoding restriction factors and their viral antagonists. Because viruses can evolve faster than their hosts, the innate immune system of modern-day vertebrates is for the most part optimized to defend against ancient viruses, rather than newer viral threats. Thus, the evolutionary history of restriction factors might, in part, explain why humans are susceptible or resistant to the viruses present in the modern world.

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