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This Week in Nature: Jul 23, 2009

There's a silver lining to this downturn, and John Browning touches on it in an essay in this week's issue of Nature. "Venture funding is declining quickly and is unlikely to bounce back," he writes. "But less money means lower expectations – good news for smaller science start-ups." While the 1990s boom meant expectations that many companies couldn't meet, today's market gives smaller, less ambitious projects a better chance. And if you're not into being an entrepreneur, check out the fields of nanomedicine and nanotechnology, which are growing in jobs.

Bradley Cairns from the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah led a study that looked at the contribution of chromatin in sperm to epigenetic inheritance. His team found that in sperm, nucleosomes that were kept – and not replaced by protamine as typically happens in mature sperm – were "significantly enriched at loci of developmental importance," including imprinted gene clusters, microRNA clusters, HOX gene clusters, and promoters of stand-alone developmental transcription and signaling factors, they write.

University of Tokyo scientists used systems biology approaches to find that p53 affects miRNA processing as part of its tumor suppressor activity. Measuring the expression levels of miRNAs using qRT-PCR, they found that when exposed to the DNA-damaging agent doxorubicin, a p53 inducer, in human colon cancer cells, the post-transcriptional expression levels of several miRNAs with growth-suppressive functions increased, including miR-16-1, miR-143, and miR-145. Using RNA-ChIP, they found that p53 associates with the Drosha processing complex. A News and Views story has more.

An article in Nature Reviews Genetics, co-authored by James Lupski, P. J. Hastings, and others, talks about copy number variation and how it's increasingly being associated with genome evolution and human disease. Among others, topics include how copy number change arises by non-homologous end-joining and non-homologous repair of broken replication forks.

The Scan

Study Finds Sorghum Genetic Loci Influencing Composition, Function of Human Gut Microbes

Focusing on microbes found in the human gut microbiome, researchers in Nature Communications identified 10 sorghum loci that appear to influence the microbial taxa or microbial metabolite features.

Treatment Costs May Not Coincide With R&D Investment, Study Suggests

Researchers in JAMA Network Open did not find an association between ultimate treatment costs and investments in a drug when they analyzed available data on 60 approved drugs.

Sleep-Related Variants Show Low Penetrance in Large Population Analysis

A limited number of variants had documented sleep effects in an investigation in PLOS Genetics of 10 genes with reported sleep ties in nearly 192,000 participants in four population studies.

Researchers Develop Polygenic Risk Scores for Dozens of Disease-Related Exposures

With genetic data from two large population cohorts and summary statistics from prior genome-wide association studies, researchers came up with 27 exposure polygenic risk scores in the American Journal of Human Genetics.