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This Week in Science: May 8, 2009

A special section in Science this week covers plant-microbe interactions. One perspective looks at PAMP-triggered immunity, another checks in on resistance proteins that function as molecular switches, and yet another investigates the cross-talk between hormonal and defense signaling pathways in these interactions.

Wisconsin's James Thomson has developed a new method to generate human iPS cells without integrating vectors or transgenes into the host genome. In a paper published this week, his team shows that they can derive human iPS cells from postnatal foreskin fibroblasts using the nonintegrating oriP/EBNA1-based episomal vectors. It offers the possibility of removing "one obstacle to the clinical application of human iPS cells," they write in the abstract.

Steve Quake's lab has used high-throughput sequencing to define the diversity of zebrafish antibodies. They sequenced the immunoglobulin mRNA, or the antigen-binding domain of the antibody heavy chain, from 14 zebrafish and found that the antibody repertoire of individual fish covered at least 50 percent of the possible gene combinations. Also, they found a similar frequency distribution and the same antibody in different animals.

Finally, research led by Stewart Cole of the New Medicines for Tuberculosis Consortium describes a new drug target for tuberculosis. Using comparative transcriptome analysis and high content screening, they found that 1,3-benzothiazin-4-ones (BTZs), a new class of antimycobacterial agents that kill Mycobacterium tuberculosis in vitro, ex vivo, and in mouse models of TB, acts on the enzyme decaprenylphosphoryl-β-D-ribose 2'-epimerase. "Inhibition of this enzymatic activity abolishes the formation of decaprenylphosphoryl arabinose, a key precursor that is required for the synthesis of the cell-wall arabinans, thus provoking cell lysis and bacterial death," they write in 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.