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This Week in Genome Biology: Dec 8, 2011

In a paper published online in advance in Genome Biology this week, researchers in France report results of their RNA-seq-based study on the grain filling gene network in bread wheat, through which they "identified a unigene set of 37,695 non-redundant sequence clusters." Using the Brachypodium distachyon genome as a reference for Triticum aestivum L., the team "classified gene clusters into orthologous, paralogous, and homoeologous relationships," finding that older duplicated copies show "more than 80 percent gene loss and expression divergence, while recent duplicates … show only 54 percent gene loss and 36 to 49 percent expression divergence." Overall, the team suggests structural shuffling in Triticum "due to duplicated gene loss is a rapid process, whereas functional shuffling due to neo- and/or subfunctionalization of duplicates is a longer process."

Brandeis University's Gregory Petsko this week editorializes on the domino effect of federal funding for big science. "A group of well-known scientists from prestigious institutions has recommended a new Big Science Program," he says — one that'll "generate reams of data … lead to new insights … garner great press." Petsko says this hypothetical "Big Science Program even has a sexy name and a memorable acronym." When it is funded $100 million a year for 5 years, he says, it "has tipped over a little black rectangular tile, with a line dividing its face into two square ends, each end being marked with a number of spots." That's because, he says, though $100 million may not account for much of the funding agency's entire budget, "but it represents the funding of at least 100 individual investigator-driven grants."