Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

This Week in PLoS: Aug 2, 2010

In PLoS Biology this week, investigators in Belgium present cisTargetX, a new computational method "that predicts transcription factor binding motifs and their target genes through the integration of gene expression data and comparative genomics." Using three Drosophila species, the team first validated their method in silico; their subsequent perturbations of predicted neurogenesis transcription factors and gene-expression analyses via microarrays, showed the team that "cisTargetX efficiently predicts genetic regulatory interactions and provides mechanistic insight into gene regulatory networks of postembryonic developmental systems."

Also in PLoS Biology, researchers at the University of Münster Institute for Experimental Pathology "provide evidence from newly established and virtually homoplasy-free retroposon insertion markers for the basal relationships among marsupial orders." Specifically, the team screened 217,000 retroposon-containing loci from opossum and kangaroo in silico and deduced 53 phylogenetically informative markers. The authors say that their study "provides important insight into the evolution of retroposable elements in the marsupial genome," and that, when combined with paleobiogeographic information, this retrotransposon insertion pattern "indicates a single marsupial migration from South America to Australia." In an accompanying editorial, Mason Inman says that "jumping genetic elements are themselves shifty, but they could help settle the science."

Over in PLoS Genetics, an international research team led by investigators at North Carolina State University reports their "quantitative and molecular genetic analyses of mutations increasing Drosophila life span." They confirmed 58 mutations for increased longevity in the fruit fly, the effects of which they also confirmed to be highly sex-specific. "Mutations in the same gene were associated with both increased and decreased life span, depending on the location and orientation of the P–element insertion, and genetic background," the authors write, adding that a "comparison of transcript profiles of long-lived mutations and the control line reveals a transcriptional signature of increased life span."

Investigators at the University of Maryland and their colleagues this week report that three genes — hrg-4, mrp-5, and F22B5.4 — are "vital for organismal heme homeostasis in C. elegans." With gene-expression array and RNAi-mediated knockdown experiments, found a "catalog of genes that are essential for metazoan heme homeostasis" in the nematode, some of which, they write, have putative homologs in humans. They conclude that their work demonstrates "the power of C. elegans as a genetic animal model to dissect the regulatory circuits which mediate heme trafficking in both vertebrate hosts and their parasites, which depend on environmental heme for survival."

The Scan

Study Finds Sorghum Genetic Loci Influencing Composition, Function of Human Gut Microbes

Focusing on microbes found in the human gut microbiome, researchers in Nature Communications identified 10 sorghum loci that appear to influence the microbial taxa or microbial metabolite features.

Treatment Costs May Not Coincide With R&D Investment, Study Suggests

Researchers in JAMA Network Open did not find an association between ultimate treatment costs and investments in a drug when they analyzed available data on 60 approved drugs.

Sleep-Related Variants Show Low Penetrance in Large Population Analysis

A limited number of variants had documented sleep effects in an investigation in PLOS Genetics of 10 genes with reported sleep ties in nearly 192,000 participants in four population studies.

Researchers Develop Polygenic Risk Scores for Dozens of Disease-Related Exposures

With genetic data from two large population cohorts and summary statistics from prior genome-wide association studies, researchers came up with 27 exposure polygenic risk scores in the American Journal of Human Genetics.