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This Week in Science: Oct 22, 2010

In a paper published online in advance in Science this week, researchers in the UK and the US report the complete genome sequences of both the M and S molecular forms of the mosquito Anopheles gambiae, a "major vector of malaria." Based on these sequences, the team suggests that A. gambiae was subject to "widespread and heterogeneous genomic divergence inconsistent with appreciable levels of interform gene flow," which will pose "greater challenges to identify genes critical to initiating that process," the authors write.

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, show in this week's Science that "the ligase PIAS1 restricts natural regulatory T cell differentiation by epigenetic repression." Specifically, Bin Liu et al. found that PIAS1 binds the Foxp3 promoter "to recruit DNA methyltransferases and heterochromatin protein 1 for epigenetic modifications"; deletion of the Pias1 gene, they found, resulted in promoter demethylation and enhanced promoter accessibility, among other things. Further, Pias1 knockout mice show an "increased natural [regulatory] T cell population," Liu and colleagues write.

Investigators at the National Cancer Institute show that "an integrated genomic and epigenomic approach predicts therapeutic response to zebularine in human liver cancer" in a paper published online in advance in Science Translational Medicine. The NCI team used both transcriptomic and epigenomic profiling to deduce a zebularine response signature that stratifies liver cancer cell lines into two major subtypes: drug-sensitive — wherein zebularine inhibited proliferation and stimulated apoptosis — and drug resistant — which "showed up-regulation of oncogenic networks that drive liver cancer growth."

Also in Science Translational Medicine this week, researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College and their international colleagues report to have reversed depressed behaviors in mice by p11 gene therapy in the nucleus accumbens. Using somatic gene transfer, the Cornell-led team was able to restore the gene's expression in p11 knockout mice. The team writes that the nucleus accumbens tissue depressed human patients, too, showed a "significant reduction of p11 protein ... when compared to matched healthy controls," suggesting that their approach "may be of therapeutic value."

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.