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This Week in PNAS: Jun 29, 2010

In the PNAS Early Edition this week, Jeremy Miller, Steve Horvath, and Daniel Geschwind at the University of California, Los Angeles, report their systems-biology approach, "using weighted gene coexpression network analysis on more than 1,000 microarrays from the brain," to characterize gene expression divergence between mice and humans. Overall, the trio found the "global network properties of the brain transcriptome" to be "highly conserved" between species, although they did identify "several robust human-specific modules, including one strongly correlated with measures of Alzheimer's disease progression across multiple data sets," the authors write.

Investigators at the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique in France suggest that β-D-glucuronidase "uncovers a core adaptive function of the human intestinal microbiome," in the PNAS Early Edition. In examining the gut microbes of 11 individuals, the team found the β-D-glucuronidases (H11G11-BG) to be present in each. The authors conclude that their functional metagenomic study "revealed a class of BGs that may be part of a functional core specifically evolved to adapt to the human gut environment with major health implications."

Researchers at Affymetrix, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Stanford University present their microarray-based "high-throughput method for analyzing methylation of CpGs in targeted genomic regions" in this week's PNAS. Their new method "relies on selective enrichment of the regions to be assayed by target amplification by capture and ligation" — or mTACL — to generate "quantitatively accurate" and "highly reproducible" measurements using nanogram amounts of DNA. In short, "mTACL is a platform for profiling the state of methylation of a large number of CpG in many samples in a cost-effective fashion," the authors write.

Also in PNAS this week, Mary-Claire King and colleagues at the University of Washington in Seattle report their "detection of inherited mutations for breast and ovarian cancer using genomic capture and massively parallel sequencing," in an effort to determine whether a genomic assay — designed to capture mutations in 21 genes, including BRCA1 and BRCA2 — would be "accurate, thorough, and cost-effective." King et al. write that their approach generated "zero false-positive calls of nonsense mutations, frameshift mutations, or genomic rearrangements for any gene in the test samples."

The Scan

Fertility Fraud Found

Consumer genetic testing has uncovered cases of fertility fraud that are leading to lawsuits, according to USA Today.

Ties Between Vigorous Exercise, ALS in Genetically At-Risk People

Regular strenuous exercise could contribute to motor neuron disease development among those already at genetic risk, Sky News reports.

Test Warning

The Guardian writes that the US regulators have warned against using a rapid COVID-19 test that is a key part of mass testing in the UK.

Science Papers Examine Feedback Mechanism Affecting Xist, Continuous Health Monitoring for Precision Medicine

In Science this week: analysis of cis confinement of the X-inactive specific transcript, and more.