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This Week in PLOS: Apr 29, 2013

In PLOS Genetics, the University of Edinburgh's Pamela Wiener and colleagues from the UK and the Netherlands look at genetic signatures coinciding with diversifying selection in European pigs. The team used a pig-specific Porcine60K chip to assess SNP patterns in the genomes of pigs from 13 European breeds and their wild boar cousins. Using data from between two dozen and nearly three dozen pigs per breed, investigators tracked down genetic signatures and/or expression quantitative trait loci corresponding to several breed-specific traits — from color and ear shape to growth patterns and pork production-related features such as fat deposition. The data also revealed signs of past genetic mixing with pigs from Asian breeds, researchers note, study authors note, and point to places in the genome where the European breeds differ from wild boars.

A team from the Universities of Toronto and Minneapolis took a comparative proteomics approach to profiling intrinsically disordered regions in human proteins and their relationships to splicing and protein function. As they report in PLOS Computational Biology, the researchers focused on protein regions known for flexible or constrained disorder. While both types of conserved disorder tend to appear in parts of proteins that are prone to tissue-specific splicing, for instance, they found differences in disorder enrichment depending on the nature, location, and function of the protein-coding exons involved.

Exposure to aerosol forms of the hemorrhagic fever-causing Lassa virus prompts changes in immune gene expression that ultimately compromise effective adaptive immune response to the virus, according to a study in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. Researchers from Boston University and elsewhere did array-based gene expression profiling on white blood cells from four non-human primates exposed to Lassa virus aerosols over the two weeks or so before each died from the disease. Based on the sorts of genes showing higher or lower expression at each stage of infection, the study's authors determined that Lassa virus spurs a strong innate immune reaction. But adaptive immune gene response apparently lagged, they note, perhaps due to negative regulation by the virus itself.