The Gene Cryptor



As its name suggests, the Gene Cryptor is a virus, able to encrypt specific genetic information inside genes. The original strain was invented to design an extremely accurate tool for genetic engineering. More or less predictably, the virus mutated and escaped the laboratory, proving itself capable of infecting humans and causing epidemics with a wide variety of symptoms, depending on the affected genes and the viral titer. Currently, there is no conclusive concept on how to create an efficient cure, but strong evidence suggests that the virus may slowly vanish and disappear on its own.

Origin and properties

The original idea behind the creation of the Gene Cryptor was to simulate the action of crypto viruses, used in ransomware, which encrypts files by changing their code. Similarly, the Gene Cryptor recognizes single-strand DNA during replication in dividing cells and changes certain nucleotide sequencing with others. The newly synthesized DNA strand incorporates the encryption, made by the virus, thus rendering some genes and/or regulatory elements dysfunctional or with alternate functions. To do that, the virus expresses a protein, an enzyme called cryptase, which recognizes and excises (endonuclease activity) a particular sequence and replaces it with a newly synthesized, by using an RNA matrix of its own (RNA-dependent-DNA-polymerase). The virus is only the carrier of the cryptase, which is the functional unit.

Mechanism of action of a fictional virus, inducing changes in DNA sequences during replication.

Figure 1. The mechanism of the cryptase (later randomase) enzyme. During the synthesis of the lagging strand (the Okazaki fragments), the cryptase deletes a specific native DNA sequence and substitutes it with an encrypted DNA sequence, a complement to its RNA matrix. Then the newly replicated lagging strand contains the encrypted DNA sequence and a complement newly synthesized “wrong” DNA strand. The reparative systems are not able to recognize the encrypted DNA and half of the new cells contain the encrypted DNA.

In such a way, it was possible to introduce specific mutations into a variety of experimental objects by simply changing the RNA matrix of the cryptase. The cryptase itself is an engineered chimeric enzyme, based on the common enzymes DNA polymerase and telomerase and directly copies the ability of the second one to carry its RNA matrix and perform RNA-dependent-DNA-polymerase activity (Fig. 1). In the very first, original experiment, the cryptase was designed to introduce a mutation into the gene promoter for the heat shock sigma factor in bacteria. A Series of cryptases were tested to find a mutation, which could make the promoter stronger and enhance the heat resistance of the bacteria. Each cryptase variant was designed with a respective decryptase, used to reverse the mutation and render the original promoter back. In these original experiments, the virus was based on the bacteriophage T4, but later on, the funding committee approved experiments with plant and mammalian cells. Accordingly, the second Gene Cryptor generation was based on the Tobacco mosaic virus and the third, on adenovirus.

Second generation disaster

The first sign that something wrong might happen occurred during the so-called Second generation disaster. The case was extensively broadcasted by media and became known as the Freak Forest Conspiracy. A strain of the Second generation plant Gene Cryptors escaped the laboratory, most possibly through an insect vector, and was transmitted to several plants. Subsequently, the virus spread and affected an area of approximately 10 000 hectares, causing almost all plants including trees, crop plants, and common weeds to express a variety of symptoms like abnormally shaped leaves, green parts and flowers coloration alterations, disfigured fruits, and many more. At enormous costs, the entire area was virtually burnt to ash and put under quarantine for three years.

The index case and epidemic

Considering the above case, the possibility that a third-generation virus may also escape was assumed to be very high and the program was shut down by the authorities. This measure, however, came too late as patient zero was already infected. Prof. Dr. Aditya Singh caught the infection due to safety equipment failure and became the first case of human, infected by Gene Cryptor. The mutation, introduced by this particular strain, however, did not cause any phenotypic manifestation or any health complications. During several years, with the entire program shut down, the virus slowly spread undetected because the particular strain was not exhibiting any obvious symptoms in infected persons. Prof. Singh was identified as the patient zero much later, based on security camera records, and was treated successfully with a decryptase strain.

The virus, however, succeeded to mutate at a certain moment and the cryptase enzyme acquired the capability to incorporate different RNA matrices and to recognize different DNA sequences. Thus, the fourth generation of the Gene Cryptors bears the genetic information for a new enzyme, called randomase, which is capable of changing any DNA region into a random nucleotide sequence. What makes it extremely difficult to detect and treat is the fact, that these Gene Cryptors could cause completely unpredictable damages to the genetic information of dividing cells. Most commonly, hair loss and skin overgrowth, along with immune system disorders, anemia, and severe malformation of newborns are associated with Gene Cryptor infection.

The main transmission route was the fecal-oral pathway and most probably, airborne transmission. As no particular treatment of adenoviral infections was developed and the Gene Cryptor was derived from adenovirus, the first outbreak lead to serious complications in infected persons, and approximately 10 000 people were diagnosed with almost 100 lethal cases. The prognosis was overly pessimistic with expectations for a severe pandemic, but the infection somehow vanished within several months.

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