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This Week in PLoS: Feb 24, 2009

Scientists have published work this week in PLoS Biology looking at genetic switches and gene expression related to cell fate. They used a "classic bistable memory module" to find transcription errors, using the lac operon in E. coli as a positive feedback loop. Using single cell analysis, they showed that when transcriptional fidelity decreases, the frequency of epigenetic switching from one state of expression to the other is increased.

Scientists have developed a Web-based tool, PPI Finder, to mine human protein-protein interactions from PubMed abstracts. Their work was published this week in PLoS One. They found that only 28 percent of the co-occurred pairs in PubMed abstracts appeared in human PPI databases (HPRD, BioGRID, and BIND). However, 69 percent of the known PPIs in HPRD showed co-occurrences in the literature, and 65 percent shared GO terms. It is freely accessble here.

Researchers have screened a 2,000-compound chemical library for inhibitors of infection of mammalian cells by Trypanosoma cruzi trypomastigotes. Using a recombinant T. cruzi expressing β-galactosidase, they chose three hits for their high activity against T. cruzi and low toxicity: PCH1, NT1, and CX1. "These results provide new candidate molecules for the development of treatments against Chagas disease and leishmaniasis," they write in the abstract in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

In work published in PLoS Pathogens, scientists have used quantitative metabolomics to compare siderophore production in E. coli between urinary and rectal cells within individual patients with recurrent UTI. While all strains produced enterobactin, preferential expression of the siderophores yersiniabactin and salmochelin occurred in urinary strains. "Because the virulence-associated biosynthetic pathways are distinct from those associated with rectal colonization, these results suggest strategies for virulence-targeted therapies," the authors say.

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.