One of the fastest ways to get me to roll my eyes is to say something along the lines of 'But viruses arent ALIVE!!!' 'Alive' is an archaic, unhelpful word when looking at evolution and the Tree of Life.
Viruses/RNA/Prions ≠ rocks. Dont be dumb. *rolleyes*
So I flipped out last week in class when we learned about a cool trick plasmids can play-- Plasmid addiction. Why is there not a Wikipedia page on this topic for me to link to?? Theres not even another blog around thats posted on it! BUT ITS SO COOL!!
That horizontal gene transfer that some people get so pumped about? It can be mediated by plasmids-- an easy example is how antibiotic resistance spreads between totally different kinds of bacteria. Some plasmids (even though they arent ALIVE!!) have evolved a a sweet system for ensuring their propagation a la 'The Selfish Gene'/'Dune'-- Plasmid addiction.
Some plasmids encode for:
- a poison
- the antidote
But if the bacteria says 'Ugh. Im not wasting any more resources making this damn plasmid. Lazy bum. Im kicking him out' the plasmid pulls, like, a 'Kill Bill'-esque revenge plot. The poison has a longer half-life than the antidote. If the plasmid is no longer there to encode the antidote, all the left-over antidote degrades, and the poison is left to kill the bacteria.
That. Is. AWESOME.