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This Week in PLOS: Sep 17, 2013

A University of Manchester team has cast doubt on the notion that insects trapped in amber could help to resurrect extinct creatures — or even discern parts of their DNA sequence. As they report in PLOS One, the researchers attempted to sequence DNA from a decades old stingless bee sample and from another stingless bee sample more than 10,600 years old. Both had been entombed in copal, a precursor of amber. While the group was able to get a limited number of reads from the insect that perished relatively recently, most of those sequences appeared to match microbes rather than the insect itself. The outcome was even more discouraging for the ancient sample, which yielded only apparent sequencing artifacts. Check out our sister publication GenomeWeb Daily News for additional details.

In PLOS Genetics, researchers from the UK and the Netherlands outline the genome-wide association study meta-analysis plus gene-set enrichment approach they used to search for genetic factors influencing individuals' relative dexterity with their right and left hands. Using a GWAS meta-analysis involving 728 individuals with dyslexia and more than 2,600 without, the team tracked down variant with significant ties to handedness in dyslexic individuals. The SNP fell in an enzyme-coding gene implicated in right-left asymmetry, prompting investigators to look for enrichment of less significantly associated handedness SNPs across genes contributing to left-right asymmetry in mice — a search that led to handedness-linked variants within genes from several such pathways. GWDN has more on the study, here.

Researchers from the University of Maryland and elsewhere used high-density microarrays to track gene expression patterns in human blood cells following 24 hours of exposure to Lassa virus or to an attenuated form of the Lassa virus, called ML29, developed through re-assortment with the non-pathogenic arenavirus Mopeia virus. Blood cells exposed to the Lassa and ML29 viruses displayed expression differences involving genes from coagulation, inflammation, signaling, apoptosis, and interferon-stimulated pathways, prompting the study's authors to argue that such genes may prove useful for understanding Lassa virus pathogenesis, gauging the effectiveness of potential treatments, or anticipating individuals' disease outcomes.

The Scan

ChatGPT Does As Well As Humans Answering Genetics Questions, Study Finds

Researchers in the European Journal of Human Genetics had ChatGPT answer genetics-related questions, finding it was about 68 percent accurate, but sometimes gave different answers to the same question.

Sequencing Analysis Examines Gene Regulatory Networks of Honeybee Soldier, Forager Brains

Researchers in Nature Ecology & Evolution find gene regulatory network differences between soldiers and foragers, suggesting bees can take on either role.

Analysis of Ashkenazi Jewish Cohort Uncovers New Genetic Loci Linked to Alzheimer's Disease

The study in Alzheimer's & Dementia highlighted known genes, but also novel ones with biological ties to Alzheimer's disease.

Tara Pacific Expedition Project Team Finds High Diversity Within Coral Reef Microbiome

In papers appearing in Nature Communications and elsewhere, the team reports on findings from the two-year excursion examining coral reefs.