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This Week in Science: May 27, 2011

Science this week has published eight technical comments on the December 2010 paper — authored by the NASA Astrobiology Institute's Felicia Wolfe-Simon and her colleagues — that sparked scientific debate among researchers who called into question its conclusion: that the authors had identified "a bacterium that can grow using arsenic instead of phosphorous." Among the eight published comments is one from the University of British Columbia's Rosemary Redfield, who was among the most vociferous critics of the Wolfe-Simon et al. paper when it was first published. Wolfe-Simon and her team also present a technical response to the comments. "We maintain that our interpretation of As substitution, based on multiple congruent lines of evidence, is viable," the authors write.

A team led by researchers at the Telethon Institute of Genetics and Medicine in Naples, Italy, shows in a Science paper published online in advance that the transcription factor EB — or TFEB, which is a master gene for lysosomal biogenesis — coordinates the starvation-activated program through which autophagosome formation, autophagosome-lysosome fusion, and substrate degradation occur "by driving expression of autophagy and lysosomal genes."

Over in Science Signaling, a team led by investigators at Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center shows that, in mice, the deletion of α epithelial catenin in the hair follicle stem cell compartment results in the development of skin squamous cell carcinoma. Further, the team shows that "tumor formation was accelerated by simultaneous deletion of αE-catenin and the tumor suppressor-encoding gene p53." Overall, the Fred Hutchinson-led team says its study identifies αE-catenin as a tumor suppressor.

And in Science Translational Medicine this week, José-Alain Sahel at France's Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale says that "evaluating individual research performance is a complex task … that metrics alone have been unable to achieve." Sahel comments on the French Academy of Sciences' January report on current citation metric methodologies as well as its "recommendations for the integration of quality assessment," he says, with an eye toward "improving existing research evaluation practices."

The Scan

mRNA-Based Vaccine on the Way in China

China may soon have its own mRNA-based vaccine, according to Nature News.

Arranged Killing, Fraud Alleged by Prosecutors

The Wall Street Journal reports that prosecutors allege that the co-founder of a biotech arranged to have a business associate who threatened to expose him as a fraud killed.

Whirlwind Decade of CRISPR

The New York Times looks back at the 10 years since the University of California, Berkeley's Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues published their CRISPR paper.

PNAS Papers on Blue Cone Monochromacy Structural Variants, HIV-1 Mutant, T-ALL

In PNAS this week: structural variants linked to blue cone monochromacy, HIV-1 variants affecting the matrix protein p17, and more.