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Lateral Acquisition
Gophna U, Ofran Y. (2010). Lateral acquisition of genes is affected by the friendliness of their products. PNAS. Epub: doi 10.1073/pnas.1009775108.

The authors used computational methods to identify putative protein-protein interaction sites. They report that laterally acquired proteins contain substantially more "putative interaction sites than native proteins. Thus, genes encoding proteins with multiple protein-protein interactions may in fact be more prone to transfer than genes with fewer interactions." Their work indicates that these proteins have an increased likelihood of forming new interactions in new species, thus integrating into existing modules. The pair says that these results reveal basic principles for the incorporation of novel genes into existing systems.

Evolutionary Hourglass
Kalinka AT, Varga KM, Gerrard DT, et al. (2010). Gene expression divergence recapitulates the developmental hourglass model. Nature. 468: 811–814.

In this paper, researchers examine the extent to which gene expression evolution underpins the morphological "hourglass pattern" — a concept that proposes that embryogenesis diverges more extensively earlier and later than in the middle of the process. They used various Drosophila species and describe "fitting different evolutionary models to each gene" and "show that at each time point more than 80 percent of genes fit best to models incorporating stabilizing selection." Their study also suggests that natural selection conserves patterns of gene expression during mid-embryogenesis.

Fetal Profiling

Lo YMD, Chan KCA, Sun H, et al. (2010). Maternal plasma DNA sequencing reveals the genome-wide genetic and mutational profile of the fetus. Science Translational Medicine. Epub: doi 10.1126/scitranslmed.3001720.

The authors describe the genome-wide genetic map they used to identify the mutational status of a fetal human genome. It includes maternal plasma DNA sequences at up to 65-fold genomic coverage, and information about the paternal genotype and maternal haplotype. The authors show that "the entire fetal and maternal genomes were represented in maternal plasma at a constant relative proportion." Their findings suggest a possible method of diagnosing fetal genetic disorders through genome-wide scanning, and in a non-invasive manner.

Plasticity and Phenotype
Leder K, Holland EC, Michor F. (2010). The therapeutic implications of plasticity of the cancer stem cell phenotype. PLoS One. 5(12): e14366.

A team of researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center report on a novel mathematical model they designed to investigate the plasticity of the cancer stem cell phenotype, a key to determining tumor prognosis. The team found "that higher levels of de-differentiation substantially reduce the effectiveness of therapy directed at cancer stem cells by leading to higher rates of resistance" and say that "plasticity of the cancer stem cell phenotype is an important determinant of the prognosis of tumors."

The Scan

Pfizer-BioNTech Seek Full Vaccine Approval

According to the New York Times, Pfizer and BioNTech are seeking full US Food and Drug Administration approval for their SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.

Viral Integration Study Critiqued

Science writes that a paper reporting that SARS-CoV-2 can occasionally integrate into the host genome is drawing criticism.

Giraffe Species Debate

The Scientist reports that a new analysis aiming to end the discussion of how many giraffe species there are has only continued it.

Science Papers Examine Factors Shaping SARS-CoV-2 Spread, Give Insight Into Bacterial Evolution

In Science this week: genomic analysis points to role of human behavior in SARS-CoV-2 spread, and more.