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This Week in PNAS: Mar 24, 2009

Scientists at SUNY Buffalo have addressed addiction using nanotechnology and siRNA. Their approach used gold nanorod-siRNA silencing complexes that target the dopaminergic signaling pathway in the brain, and induced reduced expression of DARPP-32, ERK, and PP-1. These nanoplexes "appear to be suited for brain-specific delivery of appropriate siRNA for therapy of drug addiction and other brain diseases," they write.

Structural biologists have engineered high-affinity T-cell receptor-like antibodies that they think can be used "in targeting specific pMHC complexes for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes." The adaptive immune response is driven by T-cell receptors binding peptide-MHC complexes, and the researchers designed a "peptide-focused second-generation, high-affinity antibody library" that they could draw from to find one particular antibody that when grafted onto the T-cell receptor resulted in killing of target cells.

Scientists have sequenced a strain of the Wolbachia pipientis genome, wRi, which infects Drosophila simulans. In comparing it to the previously sequenced genome of the strain that infects D. melanogaster, they identified 35 breakpoints associated with mobile elements and repeated sequences that are stable in Drosophila lines transinfected with wRi. They also found a 500-fold variation in sequence divergences at synonymous sites.

University of Colorado researchers identified two noncoding RNAs in mammalian cells that repress transcription by RNA polymerase II in response to heat shock: mouse B2 RNA and human Alu RNA. Assays showed that B2 and Alu RNAs prevent Pol II from binding the promoter both upstream and downstream of the TATA box during closed complex formation.

The Scan

Genetic Risk Factors for Hypertension Can Help Identify Those at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease

Genetically predicted high blood pressure risk is also associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk, a new JAMA Cardiology study says.

Circulating Tumor DNA Linked to Post-Treatment Relapse in Breast Cancer

Post-treatment detection of circulating tumor DNA may identify breast cancer patients who are more likely to relapse, a new JCO Precision Oncology study finds.

Genetics Influence Level of Depression Tied to Trauma Exposure, Study Finds

Researchers examine the interplay of trauma, genetics, and major depressive disorder in JAMA Psychiatry.

UCLA Team Reports Cost-Effective Liquid Biopsy Approach for Cancer Detection

The researchers report in Nature Communications that their liquid biopsy approach has high specificity in detecting all- and early-stage cancers.