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This Week in PNAS: Jun 23, 2009

In PNAS this week, scientists at UNC Chapel Hill have used computational prediction to identify a unique motif that is recognized and bound only by the yeast Type I Hsp40s Ydj1. Heat shock proteins such as Ydj1 play a role in refolding damaged proteins. A yeast proteome screen revealed that many proteins contain more than one stretch of residues that contain the motif and are separated by varying numbers of amino acids, they say.

Northwestern University's Jonathan Licht used a combination of ChIP-chip and expression arrays to screen for direct WT1 targets, to study its dual role in tumorigenesis and organogenesis. They found that directly regulated genes include those found in the the MAPK signaling, axon guidance, and Wnt pathways. To prove the importance of the "interplay between WT1 and Wnt signaling," they showed in this paper that WT1 blocked the ability of Wnt8 to induce a secondary body axis during Xenopus embryonic development, they write in the abstract.

At the Center for Genome Sciences at Washington University, Jeffrey Gordon led work that looked at how nutrient deprivation affects the regulation of myocardial ketone body metabolism by the gut microbiota. Using "functional genomic, biochemical, and physiologic assays," they compared the microbial communities of mice who had received a gut microbiota transplant and normal mice, finding that a 24-hour fast "produces a marked change in gut microbial ecology." They discovered that in fasting mice, microbes metabolize glycans to produce more short-chain fatty acids, and a fasted heart performs better due to increased metabolizing of ketone bodies and glucose.

Finally, a study led by Duke's Kenneth Mantona correlates increased NIH budgets over the past almost 70 years with declining disease-related death rates. The study compared death rates from 1938 to 2004 from four major chronic diseases -- cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes -- with the increasing budgets of the NIH institutes responsible for them. For all but diabetes deaths, "which have risen recently because of rising rates of obesity, they found an inverse correlation between budgets and age-adjusted death rates 10 years later," reports the ScienceInsider blog.

The Scan

Could Cost Billions

NBC News reports that the new Alzheimer's disease drug from Biogen could cost Medicare in the US billions of dollars.

Not Quite Sent

The Biden Administration likely won't meet its goal of sending 80 million SARS-CoV-2 vaccine doses abroad by the end of the month, according to the Washington Post.

DTC Regulation Proposals

A new report calls on UK policymakers to review direct-to-consumer genetic testing regulations, the Independent reports.

PNAS Papers on Mosquito MicroRNAs, Acute Kidney Injury, Trichothiodystrophy

In PNAS this week: microRNAs involved in Aedes aegypti reproduction, proximal tubule cell response to kidney injury, and more.