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This Week in Science : Jul 8, 2011

In a paper published online in advance in Science this week, investigators at Japan's National Institutes of Natural Sciences show that, in Drosophila, Sex lethal — abbreviated Sxl — acts autonomously in primordial germ cells — or PGCs — to induce female development. "Sxl is transiently expressed in PGCs during their migration to the gonads, and this expression, which was detected only in XX PGCs, is necessary for PGCs to assume a female fate," the authors write, adding that by inducing the expression of Sxl ectopically, they were able to induce oogenesis in XY PGCs.

In another Science paper published online ahead of print, a team led by researchers at the UK's University of Edinburgh shows that "the hippocampal-dependent learning of new paired-associates" — that which is newly learned against a background of established prior knowledge — "is associated with a striking upregulation of immediate early genes in the prelimbic region of the medial prefrontal cortex." Further, the Edinburgh-led team suggests that "pharmacological interventions targeted at that area can prevent both new learning and the recall of remotely and even recently consolidated information," and therefore challenge the concepts of fast versus slow learning systems.

Over in Science Translational Medicine, a public-private team led by investigators at Adaptive TCR Technologies in Seattle reports its use of high-throughput sequencing "to catalog millions of TCR[T cell receptor]γ and TCRβ chains from peripheral blood αβ and γδ T cells from three unrelated individuals," with which it found that "almost all … had rearranged TCRγ sequences." The Adaptive TCR-led team suggests that TCRγ rearranges in all T lymphocytes before lineage commitment, while "rearrangement of the TCRβ locus appears to be restricted after T cell precursors commit to the αβ T cell lineage." Because of this, and as "high-throughput sequencing of TCRs is translated into the clinic for monitoring minimal residual for leukemia/lymphoma," the team says that the target of such sequencing "should be TCRγ."

Francis Collins this week substantiates the National Institutes of Health's proposal to establish the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, which is intended "to catalyze the generation of innovative methods and technologies that will enhance the development, testing, and implementation of diagnostics and therapeutics across a wide range of diseases and conditions." Writing in Science Translational Medicine, the NIH director says that despite the current financial constraints, "the time is right" for the agency to "reengineer translational research" in the US. Daily Scan has more on Collins' take, here.

The Scan

Self-Reported Hearing Loss in Older Adults Begins Very Early in Life, Study Says

A JAMA Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery study says polygenic risk scores associated with hearing loss in older adults is also associated with hearing decline in younger groups.

Genome-Wide Analysis Sheds Light on Genetics of ADHD

A genome-wide association study meta-analysis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder appearing in Nature Genetics links 76 genes to risk of having the disorder.

MicroRNA Cotargeting Linked to Lupus

A mouse-based study appearing in BMC Biology implicates two microRNAs with overlapping target sites in lupus.

Enzyme Involved in Lipid Metabolism Linked to Mutational Signatures

In Nature Genetics, a Wellcome Sanger Institute-led team found that APOBEC1 may contribute to the development of the SBS2 and SBS13 mutational signatures in the small intestine.