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This Week in PLOS: Oct 21, 2013

In PLOS One, a team from the University of Wisconsin at Madison reports on findings from a study that used herpes simplex virus sequences to retrace historical human migration patterns. Using genome sequences for 31 HSV-1 isolates from around the world, the researchers uncovered half a dozen clade clusters that appeared to coincide with specific human populations and migration events. "Given that HSV-1 has co-evolved with its host," study authors say, "sequencing HSV-1 isolates from various populations could serve as a surrogate biomarker to study human population structure and migration patterns."

University of Helsinki medical genetics researcher Lauri Aaltonen and colleagues narrowed in on inherited variants in nearly a dozen genes that appear to contribute to colorectal cancer cases affecting multiple members of the same family — work that they describe in PLOS Genetics. Starting from a set of more than 1,500 Finnish individuals with CRC, the team performed exome sequencing on 96 familial cases involving individuals with no known CRC-related syndrome. When they sifted through the sequence data to search for rare variants associated with CRC, the investigators identified recurrent truncating variants in 11 genes that are now suspected of predisposing individuals to some forms of familial CRC.

A team from the US and Canada used a so-called "dual-reporter minigenome" to look at the machinery needed for the Ebola virus to achieve a form of RNA editing that involves the addition of non-template-encoded adenosine bases to messenger RNA. As they report in PLOS Pathogens, the researchers narrowed in on up- and downstream sequences that seem to have cis-effects on RNA editing by the Ebola virus. They also identified a viral protein contributing to this editing in trans, along with an RNA secondary structure important to the process. "[O]ur results provide novel insights into the RNA editing mechanism of [Ebola virus]," study authors say, "further understanding of which might result in novel intervention strategies against this viral pathogen."