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The 'Ortholog Conjecture'

A new paper in PLoS Computational Biology challenges conventional thought on orthologs and paralogs, and may — if its conclusions are true — bring the foundation of genome biology into question, says Richard Grant at The Scientist's Naturally Selected blog. In what is known as the "ortholog conjecture," it is assumed that orthologous genes have the same, or closely related, functions. The new paper challenges this conjecture — "paralogs are often a much better predictor of function than are orthologs," the authors write. But in a published dissent to the paper in F1000, NIH's Michael Galperin disputes this conclusion, and argues that the authors failed to compare functions of orthologs in two "reasonably well characterized genomes," and instead compared Gene Ontology annotations for orthologs and paralogs. In other words, Grant says, they did a meta-analysis of what others have said about the problem, rather than studying the problem itself. Galperin says that the paper's conclusions are wrong, and "the key principle of comparative genomics is safe for now."

The Scan

Billions for Antivirals

The US is putting $3.2 billion toward a program to develop antivirals to treat COVID-19 in its early stages, the Wall Street Journal reports.

NFT of the Web

Tim Berners-Lee, who developed the World Wide Web, is auctioning its original source code as a non-fungible token, Reuters reports.

23andMe on the Nasdaq

23andMe's shares rose more than 20 percent following its merger with a special purpose acquisition company, as GenomeWeb has reported.

Science Papers Present GWAS of Brain Structure, System for Controlled Gene Transfer

In Science this week: genome-wide association study ties variants to white matter stricture in the brain, and more.