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This Week in Science: Feb 21, 2009

The Gonzo Scientist is back and John Bohannon leads a tour through gourmet food. He samples truffles from a market in Alba and from an Italian forest while wondering about the interplay of the senses of smell and taste as well as the influence of cost. He later gets his friends to partake in a wine and pâté taste-test -- with some of the wine samples being beer and one of the pâté samples was dog food. In a related news story, Bohannon discusses the latest work on sequencing truffles' genomes -- the black truffle genome sequence was announced last fall and the white truffle genome is expected sometime this summer -- and how that will help scientists fill in the gaps of truffles' evolutionary history as well as root out impostor truffles.

Science says that researchers "are euphoric" over the $21 billion for science and research infrastructure from the US economic stimulus package. The news article describes the roller coaster of changes made over the course of the bill's evolution, which ultimate stayed at the House version's levels. The piece adds that even though NIH will receive the most money, the biggest impact will be on NSF. "It'll enfranchise many people who wouldn't otherwise have been funded and allow NSF to fund more high-risk, transformational research," says Steve Beering, the chair of the National Science Board.

Korean scientists report on the regulation of aging and senescence in Arabidopsis thaliana. They compared aging patterns in both wild-type plants and the long-living oresara1-1 mutant and found that the ORE1 transcription factor positively regulates cell death in aging Arabidopsis leaves. ORE1 is up-regulated by EIN2 and negatively regulate by miR164. With aging, they say that miR164 expression decreases by negative regulation of EIN-2, leading to more ORE1 expression.

Researchers led by Detlef Weigel found a triplet repeat–associated genetic defect in Arabidopsis thaliana collected from the wild and say it can be used to study how copy number variations arise and are conserved in a population. This strain, called Bur-0, has a TTC/GAA repeat in an intron of the isopropyl malate isomerase large subunit 1 gene, which leads to growth abnormalities.

The Scan

New Study Investigates Genomics of Fanconi Anemia Repair Pathway in Cancer

A Rockefeller University team reports in Nature that FA repair deficiency leads to structural variants that can contribute to genomic instability.

Study Reveals Potential Sex-Specific Role for Noncoding RNA in Depression

A long, noncoding RNA called FEDORA appears to be a sex-specific regulator of major depressive disorder, affecting more women, researchers report in Science Advances.

New mRNA Vaccines Offer Hope for Fighting Malaria

A George Washington University-led team has developed mRNA vaccines for malaria that appear to provide protection in mice, as they report in NPJ Vaccines.

Unique Germline Variants Found Among Black Prostate Cancer Patients

Through an exome sequencing study appearing in JCO Precision Oncology, researchers have found unique pathogenic or likely pathogenic variants within a cohort of Black prostate cancer patients.