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This Week in PNAS : Apr 10, 2012

In a paper published online in advance in PNAS this week, a team led by investigators at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center identifies a heritable genomic feature predisposing overexpression of the brain and acute leukemia cytoplasmic gene, BAALC. "We show that BAALC overexpression occurs in the presence of the T allele of SNP rs62527607[GT], which creates a binding site for the activating RUNX1 transcription factor in the BAALC promoter region," the authors write.

Elsewhere, a team led by researchers at the University of Chicago highlights the importance of molecular response to social conditions in the context of gene regulatory variation in the rhesus macaque immune system. Studying 10 social groups of female macaques in which each individual's social dominance could be controlled, the Chicago-led team found that "dominance rank results in a widespread, yet plastic, imprint on gene regulation, such that peripheral blood mononuclear cell gene expression data alone predict social status with 80 percent accuracy." The team also "explored the possible contribution of DNA methylation levels to these effects," identifying global associations between dominance rank and methylation profiles, which "suggest epigenetic flexibility in response to status-related behavioral cues."

Barret Pfeiffer, James Truman, and Gerald Rubin at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Farm Research Campus show in PNAS this week that "several well-characterized sequence elements derived from plant and insect viruses are able to function in Drosophila to increase the apparent translational efficiency of mRNAs by as much as 20-fold."

The Scan

Harvard Team Report One-Time Base Editing Treatment for Motor Neuron Disease in Mice

A base-editing approach restored SMN levels and improved motor function in a mouse model of spinal muscular atrophy, a new Science paper reports.

International Team Examines History of North American Horses

Genetic and other analyses presented in Science find that horses spread to the northern Rockies and Great Plains by the first half of the 17th century.

New Study Examines Genetic Dominance Within UK Biobank

Researchers analyze instances of genetic dominance within UK Biobank data, as they report in Science.

Cell Signaling Pathway Identified as Metastasis Suppressor

A new study in Nature homes in on the STING pathway as a suppressor of metastasis in a mouse model of lung cancer.