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This Week in PNAS: Jun 1, 2010

In an advance, online publication of PNAS this week, researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute and their colleagues report their inference of the history of biological metal utilization via comparative phylogenomic analysis of protein structures. Because "all of life exhibits the same proteome size-dependent scaling for the number of metal-binding proteins within a proteome," the team writes, the "fundamental evolutionary constant shows that the selection of one element occurs at the exclusion of another, with the eschewal of Fe for Zn and Ca being a defining feature of eukaryotic proteomes." The authors suggest that Zn bioavailability could have been a limiting factor in eukaryotic evolution.

Researchers in The Netherlands present evidence that "acute stress modulates genotype effects on amygdala processing in humans" in PNAS this week. In examining gene-environment interactions that affect neural processing, and by inducing acute psychological stress, the team probed amygdala responses. They show that "only carriers of a common functional deletion in ADRA2B, the gene coding for the α2b-adrenoreceptor, displayed increased phasic amygdala responses under stress."

In the PNAS Early Edition, investigators at the University of Minnesota and their colleagues report their method for targeted mutagenesis of Arabidopsis genes using the regulated expression of zinc finger nucleases. "The high frequency of observed ZFN-induced mutagenesis suggests that targeted mutations can readily be recovered by simply screening progeny of primary transgenic plants by PCR and DNA sequencing," the authors write, adding that their results suggest it is "possible to obtain mutations in any Arabidopsis target gene regardless of its mutant phenotype."

In a related Early Edition paper, a trio of researchers in Japan demonstrates their targeted-gene inactivation using zinc finger nucleases in Arabidopsis. "These data demonstrate that an approach using ZFNs can be used for the efficient production of mutant plants for precision reverse genetics," the authors suggest.

The Scan

Not as High as Hoped

The Associated Press says initial results from a trial of CureVac's SARS-CoV-2 vaccine suggests low effectiveness in preventing COVID-19.

Finding Freshwater DNA

A new research project plans to use eDNA sampling to analyze freshwater rivers across the world, the Guardian reports.

Rise in Payments

Kaiser Health News investigates the rise of payments made by medical device companies to surgeons that could be in violation of anti-kickback laws.

Nature Papers Present Ginkgo Biloba Genome Assembly, Collection of Polygenic Indexes, More

In Nature this week: a nearly complete Ginkgo biloba genome assembly, polygenic indexes for dozens of phenotypes, and more.