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This Week in Science: Feb 28, 2009

Harvard University's planned academic science center in Allston, Mass., is on "pause," says Science. Only the foundation will be finished. The planned 50,000-square-meter facility was to be home to cutting-edge research in biology, engineering, and medicine. Harvard has lost 30 percent of its endowment and expects to see fewer donations.

Science has a retrospective looking at the work of Frederic Richards, who died in January at age 83. In the 1950s, Richards showed that the product of adding the protease subtilisin to RNase A was RNase S, which was still active. He later reported that two inactive fragments of RNase A become active when brought together. In the late sixties, he constructed a device, first known as "Fred's folly," that helps to fit protein atomic models to experimentally derived electron maps. "Fred was an inspiring and charismatic leader, always with a great smile," adds Thomas Steitz.

Two papers look at mutations causing familial amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. One group, led by the University of Massachusetts' Robert Brown, found a cluster on chromosome 16 through loss-of-heterozygosity mapping of a family with a history of ALS. That cluster included the FUS/TLS gene and by sequencing this region in ALS families, researchers found 13 mutations, the most common ones being R521C and R521G. The other group, led by King's College London's Christopher Shaw, screened people with familial ALS to look for mutations in the FUS gene, finding two missense mutations, including R521C.

Kevin White and his colleagues made a large-scale functional network of Drosophila melanogaster of the homeobox transcription factors Even-skipped and Fushi tarazu, which are important in segmentation. From this model, they determined that the ubiquitin E3 ligase complex factor SPOP, a target of those transcription factors, mediates Jun kinase phosphatase Puckered's degradation and brings about TNF/Eiger–dependent apoptosis. In humans, SPOP is highly expressed in clear cell renal cell carcinomas.

The Scan

Two J&J Doses

Johnson & Johnson says two doses of its SARS-CoV-2 vaccine provides increased protection against symptomatic COVID-19, CNN reports.

Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Response in Kids

The Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine in a lower-dose format appears to generate an immune response among children, according to the Washington Post.

Chicken Changes to Prevent Disease

The Guardian writes that researchers are looking at gene editing chickens to help prevent future pandemics.

PNAS Papers on Siberian Dog Ancestry, Insect Reproduction, Hippocampal Neurogenesis

In PNAS this week: ancestry and admixture among Siberian dogs, hormone role in fruit fly reproduction, and more.