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This Week in PNAS: Apr 3, 2012

Emory University's Gina Rodriguez and her colleagues discuss mismatch repair, or MMR-dependent mutagenesis in nondividing cells, saying that it helps to create new phenotypes. "We show that mispairs in yeast that escape MMR during replication can later be subject to MMR activity in a replication strand-independent manner in nondividing cells, resulting in either fully wild-type or mutant DNA sequence," Rodriguez et al. write in a PNAS paper published online in advance this week.

Yale University School of Medicine's Yoann Augagneur and his colleagues report their design and validation of peptide-morpholino oligomer conjugates that "promote the cleavage of specific mRNA as a tool to inhibit gene function and parasite growth." The team shows that, with delivery into Plasmodium-infected erythrocytes, "these conjugates have potent antimalarial activity, blocking early development, maturation, and replication of the parasite," it writes.

Elsewhere in this week's Early Edition, a team led by investigators at the Broad Institute proposes "an approach to diagnosing the presence and drug-susceptibility of infectious diseases based on direct detection of RNA from clinical samples," in which "species-specific RNA signatures can be used to identify a broad spectrum of infectious agents, including bacteria, viruses, yeast, and parasites." Writing in PNAS, the Broad-led team says that "transcriptional signatures could form the basis of a uniform diagnostic platform applicable across a broad range of infectious agents."

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and at the Stanford University School of Medicine this week present "a microfluidic single-channel, multistage immunoblotting strategy," and assay that performs "separation, immobilization of resolved proteins, antibody probing of immobilized proteins, and all interim wash steps," and which they say could enhance protein isoform-based clinical diagnostics.

Prashant Nair profiles Harvard University's George Church in PNAS this week. "With efforts that have spanned many intellectual latitudes, Church continues to push the boundaries of biology with the force of technology," Nair writes. Church says that genomic advances in the next five years will enable "much more do-it-yourself biology, similar to the homebrew electronics that Steven Jobs and Steve Wozniak made famous."