Lytic viruses were thought to kill the most numerous host (i.e., kill the winner). But persisting viruses/defectives can also protect against viruses, especially in a ubiquitous virosphere. In 1991, Yarmolinsky et al. discovered the addiction modules of P1 phage, in which opposing toxic and protective functions stabilize persistence. Subsequently, I proposed that lytic and persisting cryptic virus also provide addiction modules that promote group identity. In eukaryotes (and the RNA world), a distinct RNA virus-host relationship exists. Retrovirurses/retroposons are major contributors to eukaryotic genomes. Eukaryotic complexity appears to be mostly mediated by regulatory complexity involving noncoding retroposon-derived RNA. RNA viruses evolve via quasispecies, which contain cooperating, minority, and even opposing RNA types. Quasispecies can also demonstrate group preclusion (e.g., hepatitis C). Stem-loop RNA domains are found in long terminal repeats (and viral RNA) and mediate viral regulation/identity. Thus, stem-loop RNAs may be ancestral regulators. I consider the RNA (ribozyme) world scenario from the perspective of addiction modules and cooperating quasispecies (i.e., subfunctional agents that establish group identity). Such an RNA collective resembles a "gang" but requires the simultaneous emergence of endonuclease, ligase, cooperative catalysis, group identity, and history markers (RNA). I call such a collective a gangen (pathway to gang) needed for life to emerge.
Keywords: cooperatively; evolution; gangen; group selection; origin of life; virus.
© 2014 New York Academy of Sciences.