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This Week in PLOS: Aug 27, 2013

In PLOS Genetics, Duke University's David Goldstein and colleagues from the US and Australia present a scheme for interpreting information in personal genomes. With the help of 6,500 exomes sequenced through the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's Exome Sequencing Project, the group came up with a so-called intolerance scoring system that quantifies the functional variation found in genes relative to their typical level of tolerance to such variability. For instance, the intolerance ranking strategy found far less wiggle room for variants in Mendelian disease genes, study authors note, and revealed a range of patterns in other disease culprits depending on the type of condition involved.

Researchers from the Universities of Exeter and Newcastle describe findings from a genome sequencing study of the fish-infecting microsporidean parasite Spraguea lophii in another PLOS Genetics study. By sequencing and assembling nearly 5 million bases of the S. lophii genome, the team determined that the parasite has lost many protein families found in other eukaryotes, consistent with its obligate intracellular lifestyle. Even so, the study's authors also saw expansions to certain protein families. Together with findings from their comparative genomics, RNA sequencing, and proteomic experiments, such genome sequence patterns provided clues about how S. lophii manages to take hold in their hosts, eventually turning some tissues in the fish nervous system into puffy spore-producing clusters called xenomas.

Periodic rabies outbreaks in Trinidadian livestock can be traced back to a bat rabies virus resembling those causing disease in vampire bats, according a PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases study. Researchers from Trinidad and Tobago, the US, and the UK used molecular and phylogenetic analyses to identify two main lineages within this bat virus group. In addition to finding evidence for at least three different rabies virus introductions to the Caribbean island from the mainland, they delved into the evolution of the broader history of the vampire bat rabies-related viruses, which appear to have expanded in Mexico and Brazil in particular.

The Scan

Hormone-Based Gene Therapy to Sterilize Domestic Cat

A new paper in Nature Communication suggests that gene therapy could be a safer alternative to spaying domestic cats.

Active Lifestyle Linked to Type 2 Diabetes Prevention in People at High Genetic Risk

A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows that an active lifestyle goes a long way in type 2 diabetes prevention.

Beneficial, Harmful Effects of Introgression Between Wild and Domesticated European Grapes

A paper in PNAS shows that European wild grapevines were an important resource for improving the flavor of cultivated wine grapes.

Genetic Ancestry of South America's Indigenous Mapuche Traced

Researchers in Current Biology analyzed genome-wide data from more than five dozen Mapuche individuals to better understand their genetic history.