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This Week in Science: Nov 20, 2009

Just in time for Thanksgiving in the US, Science publishes the maize genome and related papers. In a Perspectives piece, Catherine Feuillet and Kellye Eversole write that the results of this work will affect plant breeding and "will open the floodgates for genome sequencing and genome-enabled breeding of other economically important crops such as wheat, barley, or pine whose larger and more complex genomes have long been viewed as making these plants 'unapproachable.'"

The B73 maize genome, as reported by a large group led by Washington University's Rick Wilson, is 2.3-gigabases. The sequenced it using bacterial artificial chromosomes and fosmid clones. The clones were then shot-gun sequenced. They also identified 855 families of DNA transposable elements and 32,540 protein-encoding and 150 miRNA genes.

In another paper, Cornell's Edward Buckler led a team that identified and genotyped polymorphism from 27 different maize lines. They generated more than a billion sequencing-by-synthesis reads and then "identified evidence for hundreds of regions that are probably involved in domestication and the geographic differentiation of maize."

Patrick Schnable and his colleagues at Iowa State University looked at differentially expressed genes in reciprocal maize hybrids. "We hypothesize that at least some paternally dominant trans-eQTL are small RNAs, because small RNAs regulate gene expression in trans and can be subject to parent-specific genomic imprinting," they write.

A group from the Laboratorio Nacional de Genómica para la Biodiversidad in Mexico reports that they sequenced the Palomero Toluqueño landrace, a Mexican highland popcorn, and compared it to the maize B73 genome. The landrace genome is smaller, contains less repetitive sequences than maize, and has 653 regions that are identical to the B73 genome. "The Palomero landrace genome offers information for exploring allelic variants selected during early maize cultivation," the authors write.

In non-corn reports, Dion Dickman and Graeme Davis used an electrophysiology-based forward genetic screen to study how neural function is stabilized during development and throughout life. They looked at the function of more than 250 genes to see if any played a role in regulating the homeostasis of synaptic transmissions in Drosophila. They identified a mutation in dysbindin, which is linked to schizophrenia in humans. "Dysbindin is essential for adaptive neural plasticity and may link altered homeostatic signaling with a complex neurological disease," they write.

The Scan

Germline-Targeting HIV Vaccine Shows Promise in Phase I Trial

A National Institutes of Health-led team reports in Science that a broadly neutralizing antibody HIV vaccine induced bnAb precursors in 97 percent of those given the vaccine.

Study Uncovers Genetic Mutation in Childhood Glaucoma

A study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation ties a heterozygous missense variant in thrombospondin 1 to childhood glaucoma.

Gene Co-Expression Database for Humans, Model Organisms Gets Update

GeneFriends has been updated to include gene and transcript co-expression networks based on RNA-seq data from 46,475 human and 34,322 mouse samples, a new paper in Nucleic Acids Research says.

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.