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This Week in PNAS: Jul 29, 2014

In the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers with Washington University's Center for Pharmacogenomics describe long non-coding RNAs that seem to appear to contribute to epigenetic regulation of transcripts in developing heart tissue. Through a combination of quantitative RNA sequencing and bioinformatics analyses on mouse embryonic heart tissue, the team tracked down more than 300 heart-expressed lncRNAs. Comparisons with RNA patterns in mouse liver and skin samples suggested that 117 of the lncRNAs have enhanced heart expression, while experiments on embryonic, normal adult, or atrophied adult mouse hearts highlighted lncRNAs with differential developmental expression. In particular, the study's authors saw transcriptional networks under the sway of lncRNAs in the mouse ticker, including transcripts tied to embryonic heart growth and development.

The expression of genes contributing to neuronal plasticity can be prompted by the presence of lactate via a pathway that contains the glutamate receptor N-methyl-D-aspartate, or NMDA, according to a team from Switzerland and Saudi Arabia. The researchers used quantitative RT-PCR and other approaches to assess primary mouse neuron cultures treated with L-lactate, a sugar produced through the process of aerobic glycolysis. Such lactate stimulation led to a jump in the expression of genes known for roles in synaptic plasticity — an effect that investigators traced back to currents under the control of the NMDA receptor and its downstream signaling partners.

An American and Finnish team used a combination of deep sequencing and two different capture methods to follow 5-hydroxymethylcytosine patterns during T-cell development and differentiation. In the process, the researchers managed to map the distribution of this epigenetic modification in several purified cell types from the thymus and peripheral lymphoid tissue, creating a compendium that's expected to help in teasing apart additional the epigenetics of T-cell development and lineage specification. "[O]ur data constitute an important resource for future studies addressing the role of DNA modifications in regulating gene expression during T-cell lineage specifications in a physiological or pathological contact," authors of the study write.

The Scan

Genetic Ancestry of South America's Indigenous Mapuche Traced

Researchers in Current Biology analyzed genome-wide data from more than five dozen Mapuche individuals to better understand their genetic history.

Study Finds Variants Linked to Diverticular Disease, Presents Polygenic Score

A new study in Cell Genomics reports on more than 150 genetic variants associated with risk of diverticular disease.

Mild, Severe Psoriasis Marked by Different Molecular Features, Spatial Transcriptomic Analysis Finds

A spatial transcriptomics paper in Science Immunology finds differences in cell and signaling pathway activity between mild and severe psoriasis.

ChatGPT Does As Well As Humans Answering Genetics Questions, Study Finds

Researchers in the European Journal of Human Genetics had ChatGPT answer genetics-related questions, finding it was about 68 percent accurate, but sometimes gave different answers to the same question.