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This Week in PLoS: Oct 19, 2009

Scientists have used single-molecule imaging to study how microtubule-associated proteins "translate microtubule heterogeneity into specific cellular functions." They found that Kinesin-1 motors move on a subset of stable microtubules in COS cells, whereas Kinesin-2 and Kinesin-3 motors do not select subsets of microtubules. "This selectivity ... may enable kinesin motors to segregate transport events to distinct microtubule populations and thus to target cargoes to specific subcellular destinations," they write. The work, led by Kristen Verhey at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, appears in PLoS Biology this week.

In PLoS Genetics, the University of California, San Francisco's Jane Gitschier interviews Adrian Bird. Bird, who is the director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology, is one of the founding fathers of epigenetics research, and her Q&A covers his discoveries of DNA methylation at CpG islands as well as his longtime study relating these changes to the development of Rett Syndrome in mouse models.

In research appearing also in PLoS Genetics, Stanford University's Heather Wheeler is first author on a paper that combined gene expression analysis and eQTL mapping to find genes associated with aging in the kidney. Using two methods to determine which of these genes contain SNPs that associate with expression level, her team pinpointed a gene that encodes an extracellular matrix protein, MMP20, significantly associated with kidney aging, "providing the first gene association with kidney aging."

Published in PLoS One by scientists at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, new work has upgraded RegulonDB, the database of transcriptional regulatory information for E. coli K12, with more information on transcription start sites (TSSs). This work extends the bioinformatic base of the database with "experimental data at a genome scale on TSSs, promoters and regulatory regions." Using a method that combined RACE and high-throughput sequencing, they mapped more than 1,700 TSSs. "The new information in RegulonDB, now with more than 2400 experimentally determined TSSs, strengthens the accuracy of promoter prediction, operon structure, and regulatory networks," they write.

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.