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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

Genes Linked to White-Tailed Jackrabbits' Winter Coat Color Change

Climate change, the researchers noted in Science, may lead to camouflage mismatch and increase predation of white-tailed jackrabbits.

Adenine Base Editor Targets SCID Mutation in New Study

Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, report in Cell that adenine base editing was able to produce functional T lymphocytes in a model of severe combined immune deficiency.

Researchers Find Gene Affecting Alkaline Sensitivity in Plants

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Science have found a locus affecting alkaline-salinity sensitivity, which could aid in efforts to improve crop productivity, as they report in Science.

International Team Proposes Checklist for Returning Genomic Research Results

Researchers in the European Journal of Human Genetics present a checklist to guide the return of genomic research results to study participants.