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This Week in PNAS: Oct 18, 2011

In a paper published online in advance in PNAS this week, researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and China Wildlife Conservation Association report "evidence of cellulose metabolism by the giant panda gut microbiome," which they unearthed in a metagenomic investigation. Using approximately 37-Mbp contig sequences from gut microbes, the team identified "putative genes coding two cellulose-digesting enzymes and one hemicellulose-digesting enzyme, cellulase, β-glucosidase, and xylan 1,4-β-xylosidase, in Clostridium group I." Overall, the team says that its discovery of "putative cellulose-digesting microbes, in combination with adaptations related to feeding, physiology, and morphology, show that giant pandas have evolved a number of traits to overcome the anatomical and physiological challenge of digesting a diet high in fibrous matter."

Elsewhere in this week's PNAS Early Edition, investigators at the University of Washington School of Medicine report their use of targeted capture and massively parallel genome sequencing to screen for germ-line mutations in 21 tumor suppressor genes in genomic DNA from women with primary ovarian, peritoneal, or fallopian tube carcinomas. "Of 360 subjects, 24 percent carried germ-line loss-of-function mutations: 18 percent in BRCA1 or BRCA2 and 6 percent in BARD1, BRIP1, CHEK2, MRE11A, MSH6, NBN, PALB2, RAD50, RAD51C, or TP53," the authors write. The team adds that rather than performing clinical genetic testing gene by gene, as it's currently often done, "massively parallel sequencing allows such testing for many genes simultaneously at low cost."

An international team led by researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory this week presents evidence to suggest that the "targeted inhibition of the Notch pathway may induce squamous epithelial malignancies."

The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center's Luca Cartegni and his colleagues discuss the "antitumorigenic potential of STAT3 alternative splicing modulation." Cartegni et al. say that "in vivo redirection of STAT3 alternative splicing leads to tumor regression in a xenograft cancer model" demonstrates how "pharmacological manipulation of a single key splicing event can manifest powerful antitumorigenic properties and validating endogenous splicing reprogramming as an effective cancer therapeutic approach."

The Scan

Missed Early Cases

A retrospective analysis of blood samples suggests early SARS-CoV-2 infections may have been missed in the US, the New York Times reports.

Limited Journal Editor Diversity

A survey finds low diversity among scientific and medical journal editors, according to The Scientist.

How Much of a Threat?

Science writes that need for a provision aimed at shoring up genomic data security within a new US bill is being questioned.

PNAS Papers on Historic Helicobacter Spread, Brain Development, C. difficile RNAs

In PNAS this week: Helicobacter genetic diversity gives insight into human migrations, gene expression patterns of brain development, and more.