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This Week in PLoS: Jan 17, 2011

In PLoS One this week, an international research team led by investigators at China's Xiamen University present the multicolor combinatorial probe coding strategy, which it says "significantly increased the target volume of real-time PCR detection in one reaction" in its investigations. This MCPC method, the authors write, employs a limited number of fluorophores in different color combinations to label each probe. In its proof-of-principle study, the Xiamen University-led team found that MCPC improved its PCR-based identification of foodborne pathogens.

Researchers at the University of Toronto, along with their colleagues at the Université de Montréal, show that "active heat shock factor binding sites are mostly associated with non-heat shock genes in Drosophila." Using ChIP-chip and microarrays, the Canadian team found 434 regions across the fruit fly genome that are bound by heat shock factors, 57 percent of which were contained within genes, and about two-thirds of which were located within introns. In addition, the researchers show that the "insulator protein BEAF has enriched binding prior to HS to promoters of genes that are bound by HSF upon HS, but that are not transcriptionally induced during HS."

In Pink1-deficient mice, "increased mitochondrial calcium sensitivity and abnormal expression of innate immunity genes precede dopaminergic defects," according to investigators at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. In a PLoS One paper published this week, the University of Kentucky team reports its investigation of "Ca2+ vulnerability of purified brain mitochondria, [dopamine] levels, and metabolism and whether signaling pathways implicated in Parkinson's disease (PD) display altered activity in the nigrostriatal system of Pink1−/− mice." Indeed, the authors show, "differential gene expression in the nigrostriatal system of Pink1 −/− mice supports early dopaminergic dysfunction and shows that Pink1 deletion causes aberrant expression of genes that regulate innate immune responses."

And in PLoS Genetics this week, investigators at institutions across Boston use permuted genome-wide association study data and protein-protein interaction networks for genes within disease-associated loci to show that networks of "physical interactions between protein products of associated genes … are more densely connected than chance expectation." Overall, the team suggests that its study provides "evidence that, for many of the complex diseases studied here, common genetic associations implicate regions encoding proteins that physically interact in a preferential manner, in line with observations in Mendelian disease."