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This Week in Nature: Oct 14, 2010

In Nature this week, investigators at Wayne State University and Yale University report their analysis of Mss116-mediated group II intron folding via single-molecule fluorescence. They determined that the molecule "stimulates dynamic sampling between states along the folding pathway" and "promotes folding through discrete ATP-independent and ATP-dependent steps." From their data, the team suggests that Mss116 initiates a multi-step process, involving "electrostatic stabilization of early intermediates and ATP hydrolysis during the final stages of native state assembly," for group II intron folding.

The Carnegie Institution of Washington's Cynthia Wagner and her colleagues show in Nature this week that "xnd-1 regulates the global recombination landscape in Caenorhabditis elegans." Specifically, Wagner et al. describe xnd-1 as a novel chromatin factor responsible for crossover distribution and double-strand breaks on the X. To their surprise, the team found that ZND-1 protein is autosomally enriched. They report that "xnd-1 functions independently of genes required for X chromosome-specific gene silencing."

In Nature Methods this week, Daniel Gibson and his colleagues at the J. Craig Venter Institute present a "one-step, isothermal assembly method for synthesizing DNA molecules from overlapping oligonucleotides," which they've used the produce a synthetic "16.3-kilobase mouse mitochondrial genome from 600 overlapping 60-mers." Our sister publication, GenomeWeb Daily News, has more on this study, here.

Two papers appearing online in Nature Genetics this week examine the genetics of body mass index and fat distribution. A team led by investigators at the Broad Institute reports 18 novel loci associated with BMI, which they identified in their interrogation of genome-wide data from nearly 250,000 individuals. In a meta-analysis, an international research team found 13 novel loci associated with waist-hip ratio and evidence for "sexual dimorphism in the genetic basis of fat distribution," they write. GWDN has more on both papers, here.