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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

Fertility Fraud Found

Consumer genetic testing has uncovered cases of fertility fraud that are leading to lawsuits, according to USA Today.

Ties Between Vigorous Exercise, ALS in Genetically At-Risk People

Regular strenuous exercise could contribute to motor neuron disease development among those already at genetic risk, Sky News reports.

Test Warning

The Guardian writes that the US regulators have warned against using a rapid COVID-19 test that is a key part of mass testing in the UK.

Science Papers Examine Feedback Mechanism Affecting Xist, Continuous Health Monitoring for Precision Medicine

In Science this week: analysis of cis confinement of the X-inactive specific transcript, and more.