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This Week in Science: Apr 8, 2011

In a paper published online in advance in Science this week, a trio of investigators at Duke University shows that the neuronal G protein-coupled catecholamine receptor OCTR-1 "controls innate immunity by regulating non-canonical unfolded protein response genes." More specifically, the Duke team found that in certain sensory neurons, OCTR-1 functions "to actively suppress innate immune responses by down-regulating the expression of non-canonical UPR [unfolded protein response ] genes pqn/abu in non-neuronal tissues."

Researchers at Ohio State University present data that demonstrate "the critical role of minor intron splicing in human development" in this week's Science. The team shows that a gene encoding the U4atac small nuclear RNA, which is part of the minor U12-dependent spliceosome, is "mutated in individuals with microcephalic osteodysplastic primordial dwarfism type I," or MOPD I. In its functional analyses of these mutations, the Ohio State team found them to "cause defective U12-dependent splicing," and that "the introduction of wild-type U4atac snRNA into MOPD I cells enhanced U12-dependent splicing."

In a related paper appearing in this week's issue, an international team led by investigators at France's Service de Cytogénétique Constitutionnelle shows that a defect in the same minor splicing component, the U4atac small nuclear RNA, is associated with Taybi-Linder syndrome, a developmental disorder, as well as unexplained postnatal deaths. The team "identified four point mutations in the U4atac snRNA component of the minor spliceosome" associated with both.

And in Science Translational Medicine this week, researchers at the University of Washington report on their prospective study of 2,521 African HIV-1 serodiscordant couples, in which they aimed to evaluate the correlation between high plasma HIV-1 RNA concentrations and the risk of HIV-1 transmission. Using viral sequence analysis, the team assessed HIV-1 transmission linkage within each partnership; the researchers found that "higher genital HIV-1 RNA concentrations are associated with greater risk of heterosexual HIV-1 transmission ... independent of plasma HIV-1 concentrations," they write.

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.