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This Week in PNAS: Oct 11, 2011

In a paper published online in advance in PNAS this week, a team led by investigators at the US Department of Agriculture shows that "overexpression of the maize Corngrass1 microRNA prevents flowering, improves digestibility, and increases starch content of switchgrass." The researchers show that several greenhouse and field grown plants into which the Cg1 gene was transferred showed up to 250 percent more starch and "a complete inhibition of flowering."

Elsewhere, researchers at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and their international colleagues show that competitive cross-species hybridization of microarray experiments "can characterize the influence of different microenvironments on cancer cells by independently extracting gene expression data of cancer and host cells when human cancer cells were xenografted into different organ sites of immunocompromised mice." Further, in its analysis the team shows that "epigenetic changes coincide with transcriptional reprogramming in cancer cells."

In another paper published online in advance this week, the University of Michigan's Thomas Glover et al. demonstrate that low doses of the sickle cell treatment hydroxyurea induces a greater frequency of de novo copy-number variants in cultured human cells. These variants, the team adds, "resemble pathogenic and aphidicolin-induced CNVs in size and breakpoint structure," and are "distributed throughout the genome, with some hotspots of de novo CNV formation."

And researchers in France this week report on a distant Mimivirus relative that has a larger genome, and that they say "highlights the fundamental features of Megaviridae." The team presents "Megavirus chilensis, a giant virus isolated off the coast of Chile, but capable of replicating in fresh water acanthamoeba." The authors add that "its 1,259,197-bp genome is the largest viral genome fully sequenced so far." Daily Scan has more on this megavirus, here.

The Scan

Genome Sequences Reveal Range Mutations in Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

Researchers in Nature Genetics detect somatic mutation variation across iPSCs generated from blood or skin fibroblast cell sources, along with selection for BCOR gene mutations.

Researchers Reprogram Plant Roots With Synthetic Genetic Circuit Strategy

Root gene expression was altered with the help of genetic circuits built around a series of synthetic transcriptional regulators in the Nicotiana benthamiana plant in a Science paper.

Infectious Disease Tracking Study Compares Genome Sequencing Approaches

Researchers in BMC Genomics see advantages for capture-based Illumina sequencing and amplicon-based sequencing on the Nanopore instrument, depending on the situation or samples available.

LINE-1 Linked to Premature Aging Conditions

Researchers report in Science Translational Medicine that the accumulation of LINE-1 RNA contributes to premature aging conditions and that symptoms can be improved by targeting them.