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This Week in Science: Jun 11, 2010

In an advance, online publication of Science this week, investigators at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK, and their colleagues report that the "disruption of both FANCC and [nonhomologous end joining factor] Ku70 suppresses sensitivity to cross-linking agents, diminishes chromosome breaks, and reverses defective homologous recombination" in Fanconi anemia. In this study, the authors demonstrate a function "for the FA pathway in processing DNA ends, diverting double-strand break repair away from abortive NHEJ and toward homologous recombination."

Another study published online, in advance, in Science presents the results of a Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute-led team's investigation of T cells that are reprogrammed to become natural killer-like cells. The team shows that with the deletion of a transcription factor, Bcl11b, "T cells from all developmental stages acquired NK cell properties and concomitantly lost or decreased T cell–associated gene expression." The induced T-to-natural-killer, or ITNK cells, are genetically similar to convential NK cells, the team writes, although they "killed tumor cells in vitro and effectively prevented tumor metastasis in vivo."

Researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research in the UK report that "gatekeeper mutations mediate resistance to BRAF-targeted therapies," in Science Translational Medicine this week. By mutating the gatekeeper residue, the team generated drug-resistant versions of oncogenic BRAF. "Signaling by the mutant proteins was resistant to the small-molecule inhibitor sorafenib, but sorafenib still inhibited the growth of tumors driven by the mutant protein," the authors write.

In a news piece in Science this week, Michael Balter discusses the identity debate about Jewish origins, which was initiated by studies published in Nature and the American Journal of Human Genetics this week. Balter quotes two investigators with opposing viewpoints on the studies' results: Shlomo Sand, of Tel Aviv University, says that "the whole concept of identifying Jews genetically is fallacious," while the school's Anita Shapira saya that "it is nice to get support from modern genetics, which refutes [Sand's] assertions."

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.