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This Week in PNAS: May 20, 2014

Editor's Note: Some of the articles described below are not yet available at the PNAS site, but they are scheduled to be posted some time this week.

In an online study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a Harvard School of Public Health-led team outlines findings from a metagenomic and metatranscriptomic study of human microbiomes. Using stool and saliva samples from eight extensively phenotyped individuals enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow Up study, the researchers identified microbial members in the gut and oral microbiomes, along with the sets of genes and transcripts associated with these communities. In general, they saw that microbiome species compositions varied most between individuals, followed by metatransciptomes, though the functional potential of genes in the communities tended to be somewhat less individualized.

In another PNAS study, researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and New York University provide evidence suggesting American adults are prone to assortative mating with respect to both genetics and educational attainment — marrying others who are similar to them. The group assessed array-based genotypes at more than 1.7 million SNPs in thousands of non-Hispanic white individuals from the Health and Retirement study. The cross-population and within spouse pair patterns present in the samples suggest married individuals in the population tended to be more genetically similar than random pairs of individuals. Still, the study authors noted that the genetic assortative mating effect was eclipsed by shared educational attainment, which showed an even more pronounced association in the couples considered.

A Chinese team describes mutational patterns in CD34+ hematopoietic stem/progenitor cells affected by myelodysplastic syndromes, or MDS, a set of related conditions that sometimes progress to acute myeloid leukemia. Along with other informative patterns in the genomes, the researchers narrowed in on recurrent mutations in almost 100 genes when they did whole-genome sequencing on CD34+ samples from eight individual with a high-risk form of MDS. Mutations in a subset of those genes were found at higher rates in samples from 89 more individuals with the same form of MDS than in 95 individuals with another MDS, the researchers report. Meanwhile, other arms of the analysis uncovered MDS potential prognostic markers and mutations that may help in differentiating between MDS and AML.