In a paper published online in advance in PLoS Genetics this week, investigators at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders and elsewhere show that "a non-coding point mutation of Zeb1 causes multiple developmental malformations and obesity in twirler mice." The team says this mutation "acts via a gain-of-function to disrupt regulation of Zeb1Tw expression, epithelial-mesenchymal cell fate or interactions, and structural development of the inner ear in Twirler mice." The authors add that "this is a novel mechanism underlying disorders of hearing or balance."
Elsewhere in the journal, Yale University's Frank Slack and his colleagues report what they call "biomarkers of aging" — microRNAs that correlate with longevity in C. elegans. Slack et al. report that "mir-71 and mir-246 correlate with lifespan, while mir-239 anti-correlates," adding that two of the three "act upstream in insulin/IGF-1-like and other known longevity pathways."
Over in PLoS Pathogens, a public-private team in Canada reports their use of ChIP-seq to characterize the transcriptional regulator Tri6 in the phytopathogen Fusarium graminearum. The researchers say their study "casts new light into the role of this transcriptional regulator in the overall growth and development of F. graminearum."
And in PLoS Computational Biology, the University of California, San Diego's Janusz Dutkowski and Trey Ideker report their application an approach called Network-Guided Forests "to identify predictive modules together with logic functions which tie the activity of each module to the activity of its component genes." Using this protein network-centric approach, Dutkowski and Ideker found that, in cancer, "certain combinations of oncogenes and tumor suppressors exert competing forces on the system, suggesting that medical genetics should move beyond cataloguing individual cancer genes to cataloguing their combinatorial logic," they write.