Day 34 has 32 protein-coding genes, including EIF2AK2 (eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2-alpha kinase 2), also known as PKR (protein kinase R). The protein PKR watches for signs of viral invasion – specifically, double-stranded RNA. Although our cells use RNA as a way to xerox copy transcripts of genes, these transcripts are single-stranded. Double-stranded RNA is a hallmark of virus genomes in the cell. When PKR detects virus genomes, it tries to turn off the cell’s translation machinery.
Because EIF2AK2 is so effective, viruses have evolved ways to try to evade it. For example, one of HIV’s genes makes an RNA (Tat) that fools PKR into thinking that it is one of the cell’s translation proteins to turn off. By making enough of this decoy, PKR loses its ability to stop HIV from making its own proteins.
Click here to see your EIF2AK2 gene on Day 34.