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This Week in PLoS: Jun 29, 2009

UCSF'S Pedro Beltrao has helped write an article appearing this week in PLoS Biology on the evolution of phosphoregulation. Using in vivo mass spec of the phosphoproteomes of three yeast species and computational approaches, he and his team were able to reconstruct the evolutionary history for the kinase regulation of proteins across 11 yeast species and demonstrated that more than 2,000 genetic interactions in S. cerevisiae and S. pombe, protein kinases, and to a greater extent transcription factors, show lower than average conservation of genetic interactions.

David Searls has written an article for PLoS Computational Biology on how to choose between industry and academia upon exiting grad studies. Since he's been around that block more than once, his advice seems relevant. "Choosing between industry and academia is easy for some, incredibly fraught for others," he writes, going on to list 10 rules to follow in making the choice. He says that among other things, you should assess not only what you want and need, but also your own qualifications and how your personality might fit in either space.

Two papers in PLoS Genetics this week use GWAS to find more genetic associations with disease. In one, the GIANT consortium performed a meta-analysis of 16 GWAS of 38,580 individuals for genes that might regulate human adiposity. They identified two loci, TFAP2B and MSRA, associated with waist circumference, and another one near LYPLAL1 that was associated with waist-hip ratio in women only.

In a second paper, CHOP's Hakon Hakonarson led a study that used a GWAS for exonic CNVs to find new susceptibility genes for autism spectrum disorders. Genotyping individuals from 912 multiplex families from the Autism Genetics Resource Exchange and contrasting them to 1,488 healthy controls, the scientists identified 150 loci -- and confirmed 27 -- harboring rare variants in probands only, including two novel genes, BZRAP1 and MDGA2. "That hundreds of distinct rare variants were each seen only once further highlights complexity in the ASDs and points to the continued need for larger cohorts," say the abstracts. Greg Laden add that, if confirmed, the research "supports the notion that autism spectrum disorder is a heterogeneous group of disorders, with a heterogeneous set of causes some (or most?) of which may be genetic."

Finally, Thomas Pfeiffer and Robert Hoffmann of Harvard and MIT, respectively, have penned an interesting piece for PLoS ONE on the effect of popularity on the reliability of research results. In their study, they looked at published statements on protein interactions with data from high-throughput experiments, finding evidence that with increasing popularity of the proteins being studied, the literature becomes more incorrect and that the more the proteins are studied, the more distorted the research becomes.

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.