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This Week in Nature: Dec 13, 2012

In Nature this week, Stanford University scientists led by 2012 Nobel Laureate Brian Kobilka publish the structure of a human G-protein-coupled receptor bound to a drug. Specifically, they showed the crystal structure of the coagulation-mediating human protease-activated receptor 1 associated with vorapaxar, a PAR1 antagonist under clinical development for the prevention of cardiovascular events in patients with a history of heart attacks. "The structure reveals an unusual mode of drug binding that explains how a small molecule binds virtually irreversibly to inhibit receptor activation by the tethered ligand of PAR1," and is expected to help in the development of next-generation PAR1 antagonists.

Meanwhile, in Nature Biotechnology, a multi-institute team led by researchers from the Broad Institute present a new algorithm aimed at addressing the variability and statistical challenges facing differential analysis of gene and transcript expression using high-throughput RNA sequencing. The algorithm, called Cuffdiff 2, estimates expression at transcript-level resolution and controls for variability evident across replicate libraries and "robustly identifies differentially expressed transcripts and genes and reveals differential splicing and promoter-preference changes." The researchers say that the algorithm will enable improved analysis of complex cellular circuitry and allow for the precise association of genomic sequence to gene regulation.

The Scan

Should've Been Spotted Sooner

Scientists tell the Guardian that SARS-CoV-2 testing issues at a UK lab should have been noticed earlier.

For Martian Fuel

Researchers have outlined a plan to produce rocket fuel on Mars that uses a combination of sunlight, carbon dioxide, frozen water, cyanobacteria, and engineered E. coli, according to Gizmodo.

To Boost Rapid Testing

The Washington Post writes that new US programs aim to boost the availability of rapid at-home SARS-CoV-2 tests.

PNAS Papers on Strawberry Evolution, Cell Cycle Regulators, False-Positive Triplex Gene Editing

In PNAS this week: strawberry pan-genome, cell cycle-related roles for MDM2 and MDMX, and more.