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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

US Booster Eligibility Decision

The US CDC director recommends that people at high risk of developing COVID-19 due to their jobs also be eligible for COVID-19 boosters, in addition to those 65 years old and older or with underlying medical conditions.

Arizona Bill Before Judge

The Arizona Daily Star reports that a judge is weighing whether a new Arizona law restricting abortion due to genetic conditions is a ban or a restriction.

Additional Genes

Wales is rolling out new genetic testing service for cancer patients, according to BBC News.

Science Papers Examine State of Human Genomic Research, Single-Cell Protein Quantification

In Science this week: a number of editorials and policy reports discuss advances in human genomic research, and more.