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This Week in PNAS: Sep 29, 2009

In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week, University of California, Berkeley's Sung-Hou Kima is senior author on work that used whole-genome phylogenies to study genic and nongenic regions in mammals. Scientists compared ten mammalian genomes using a method called "feature frequency profile" and found that the entire nongenic portion of mammalian genomes contains evolutionary information that is similar to the intron and exon regions, says the abstract. "Our results reveal that the footprints of evolutionary history are spread throughout the entire length of the whole genome of an organism and are not limited to genes, introns, or short, highly conserved, nongenic sequences," they write. GenomeWeb Daily News has a full report.

It's all about the bubbly, or at least that's what a paper from first author Gérard Liger-Belair of Reims University says. In the work, his team used ultrahigh-resolution mass spec to identify hundreds of compounds active on the surface of champagne in a glass, "unraveling different chemical fingerprints between the champagne bulk and its aerosols." Says Liger-Belair in a story from the BBC, "It's the very first time that we have been able to detect the fine chemistry of champagne aerosols which are really the essence of champagne."

A group of researchers from across the US, Barbados, and China have found a link between changes on chromosome 2 and the risk of primary open-angle glaucoma in the Afro-Caribbean population of Barbados, says work published this week. Primary open-angle glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide, but genes for the multigenic, common form remain to be found. In the study, they performed linkage analysis and case-control studies on families from the Barbados Family Study of Glaucoma, finding a strong association to rs12994401 on chromosome 2p. Their approach, they say, "illustrates the merit of using an isolated population enriched with common disease variants as an efficient method to identify genetic underpinning of POAG."

Using a genomic cDNA screen, scientists at the Scripps Research Institute and Novartis have identified the receptor protein tyrosine kinase TYRO3 as an upstream regulator of MITF expression. Microphthalmia-associated transcription factor is a master gene regulating the development of malignant melanoma. By up- and down-regulating its gene expression, they also found that TYRO3 induces MITF-M expression in a SOX10-dependent manner, says the abstract.

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.