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This Week in PNAS : Feb 7, 2012

A public-private team led by investigators at the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Fla., reports online in PNAS this week on the expression of 854 miRNAs in prefrontal cortical tissue from 100 control, schizophrenic, and bipolar subjects. Among other things, the Scripps-led team found evidence to suggest that "miR-132 dysregulation and subsequent abnormal expression of miR-132 target genes contribute to the neurodevelopmental and neuromorphological pathologies present in schizophrenia."

Elsewhere in the online edition, Ohio State University's Carlo Croce and his colleagues show that a nine-microRNA signature differentiates invasive from in situ carcinoma. The team also identifies miRNAs associated with overall breast cancer survival and time to metastasis. "Additionally, we detected differential splicing isoforms with special features, including a truncated EGFR lacking the kinase domain and overexpressed only in ductal carcinoma in situ," Croce et al. report in PNAS.

Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine show that genetic variation affecting capillary morphogenesis gene 2, or CMG2, dramatically alters toxin sensitivity in humans. In its analysis, the team reports on "a CMG2 single-nucleotide polymorphism occurring frequently in African and European populations [that they found] independently altered toxin uptake." The group goes on to suggest "testing of genomically characterized human cell populations may offer a broadly useful strategy for elucidating effects of genetic variation on infectious disease susceptibility."

Finally, an international team led by investigators at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston reports on the genomic epidemiology of the 2011 Escherichia coli O104:H4 outbreaks in Europe, saying that the "striking difference in diversity between the German and French outbreak samples" it observed "is consistent with several hypotheses, including a bottleneck that purged diversity in the German isolates, variation in mutation rates in the two E. coli outbreak populations, or uneven distribution of diversity in the seed populations that led to each outbreak."

The Scan

Mosquitos Genetically Modified to Prevent Malaria Spread

A gene drive approach could be used to render mosquitos unable to spread malaria, researchers report in Science Advances.

Gut Microbiomes Allow Bears to Grow to Similar Sizes Despite Differing Diets

Researchers in Scientific Reports find that the makeup of brown bears' gut microbiomes allows them to reach similar sizes even when feasting on different foods.

Finding Safe Harbor in the Human Genome

In Genome Biology, researchers present a new approach to identify genomic safe harbors where transgenes can be expressed without affecting host cell function.

New Data Point to Nuanced Relationship Between Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder

Lund University researchers in JAMA Psychiatry uncover overlapping genetic liabilities for major depression and bipolar disorder.