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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.