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This Week in PNAS: Apr 24, 2013

Columbia University's Ian Lipkin led an international team that unearthed dozens of hepaciviruses and pegiviruses in bats. As they report in the early, online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers started with an RNA sequencing-based look at viral diversity in blood samples from more than 400 African and Central American bats. When they tossed out host sequences and compared the remaining reads with RNA and amino acid databases, investigators identified various viral representatives from the Flaviridae family. Among them: representatives from the Hepacivirus and Pegivirus genera that contain hepatitis C and related GB viruses, respectively. Follow-up experiments in more than 1,200 samples from bats in seven countries indicated that a significant proportion of bats — almost 5 percent of those tested — carried hepaciviruses and/or pegiviruses.

An international team led by investigators at the University of California, Davis, describes a new four billion base physical map for Aegilops tauschii — a diploid plant with a genome that's thought to correspond to the hexaploid wheat plant's "D genome." Using an Ae. tauschii SNP array and contigs assembled from fingerprinting information on hundreds of thousands of bacterial artificial chromosomes, researchers put together a 4.03 billion base physical map for Ae. tauschii. Through comparisons with sequenced plants, authors of that study gained insights into gene density, disease resistance gene profiles, recombination, chromosome structure, and other features related to grass plant evolution.

Finally, for another study slated to come out online this week in PNAS, researchers from Cornell University outline a single-molecule analysis strategy that they are using to tally up multiple epigenetic marks in combination with one another. The "single chromatin molecule analysis in nanochannels," or SCAN, approach centers on a nanofluidic manipulation of bits of chromatin with fluorescent labels recognizing methylated DNA and other epigenetic marks, study authors explain. In the new study, for example, they demonstrated that this method could assess combinations of epigenetic marks in both normal and cancerous cell lines.