Toothed whales have survived millions of years without key antiviral proteins
Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have determined that toothed whales lack functional Mx genes — a surprising discovery, since all 56 other sequenced mammals in the study possess these genes to fight off viruses like HIV, measles and flu.
Modern toothed whales, including dolphins, orcas and sperm whales, have inherited defunct copies of the Mx1 and Mx2 genes, profoundly altering their immune systems. The basic role of theseMx genes is to make proteins that fight viral infections. The researchers hope that understanding this newly discovered mysterious genetic anomaly will help preserve these cetaceans as they face extensive die-offs.