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This Week in Science: Sep 3, 2010

In an article published online in advance in Science this week, Emily Balskus and Christopher Walsh at Harvard Medical School describe the "genetic and molecular basis for sunscreen biosynthesis in cyanobacteria." They show that a mycosporine-like amino acid biosynthetic gene cluster generates four enzymes in vitro. "In addition to clarifying the origin of the MAAs, these efforts have revealed two unprecedented enzymatic strategies for imine formation," Balskus and Walsh write.

In Science Signaling this week, the University of Connecticut's Daniel Schwartz and George Church of Harvard describe "the viral post-translational modification database, which contains a comprehensive list of 329 accurately localized phosphorylation sites in proteins from 52 human viruses published between 1986 and the present." The team also used the scan-x tool to make thousands of phosphorylation predictions in more than 200 human viruses. Using scan-x, Schwartz and Church found "at least 4,000 as yet unidentified phosphorylation sites on hundreds of viral proteins," they write.

Janardan Pandey of the Medical University of South Carolina writes in Science this week that "given the many surveys of individuals of European ancestry, one might assume that the majority of common genetic variants are represented by at least one of the single-nucleotide polymorphisms in the genotyping platforms," though this is not the case. "For instance, the immunoglobulin GM loci have at least 18 alleles, but none of the SNPs useful for indentifying these are included in the human diversity panel used in the HapMap project," Pandey writes, adding that GWAS are unlikely to detect certain genes for variation in immune response.

Science Careers has published the results of a postdoc survey it launched in March. Of the 3,475 respondents, 49 percent were from North America, 29 percent from Europe, and 22 percent from Asia Pacific, and the majority work in the life and medical sciences disciplines. Funding and grants, the respondents noted, contribute most to the success of a postdoc experience, followed by networking and advancement/career options. In 2009, PIs surveyed indicated that "communication" ranked the highest in terms of a successful postdoc experience. Postdocs this year ranked communication and the employer/situation equally, and considered these factors less important than mentoring, direction and vision.

The Scan

Genetic Risk Factors for Hypertension Can Help Identify Those at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease

Genetically predicted high blood pressure risk is also associated with increased cardiovascular disease risk, a new JAMA Cardiology study says.

Circulating Tumor DNA Linked to Post-Treatment Relapse in Breast Cancer

Post-treatment detection of circulating tumor DNA may identify breast cancer patients who are more likely to relapse, a new JCO Precision Oncology study finds.

Genetics Influence Level of Depression Tied to Trauma Exposure, Study Finds

Researchers examine the interplay of trauma, genetics, and major depressive disorder in JAMA Psychiatry.

UCLA Team Reports Cost-Effective Liquid Biopsy Approach for Cancer Detection

The researchers report in Nature Communications that their liquid biopsy approach has high specificity in detecting all- and early-stage cancers.