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This Week in Nature: May 30, 2013

In Nature this week, researchers from Baylor College of Medicine report on the discovery of potential targets for the neurodegenerative disease spinocerebellar ataxia type 1, or SCA1, through the use of a novel strategy of genetic network screening. Noting that the severity of SCA1 is associated with the accumulation of mutant ataxin 1 protein, the team used cross-species genetic screening to identify druggable targets that modulate levels of this protein. The scientists discovered that multiple components of the RAS-MAPK-MSK1 pathway influence ATXN1 levels in Drosophila and human cells, and validated the finding in an SCA1 mouse model.

Meanwhile, in Nature Biotechnology, an Aalborg University team publish details of a new sequence composition-independent approach to obtain high-quality microbial genomics form deeply sequenced metagenomes. Using multiple metagenomes of the same community that differ in relative population abundance, the researchers assembled 31 bacterial genomes from an activated sludge bioreactor. Twelve genomes were assembled into complete or near-complete chromosomes, four of which belonged to the candidate bacterial phylum TM7 and "represent the most complete genomes for this phylum to date," the investigators say. Reanalysis of published metagenomes shows that differential coverage binning helps recover more complete and higher fidelity genome bins than other currently used methods.