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This Week in Science : Jul 22, 2011

In Science this week, Boston University School of Public Health's Paola Sebastiani and her colleagues retract their July 2010 paper, "Genetic signatures of exceptional longevity in humans." After accounting for technical errors and an inadequate quality control protocol, the "specific details of the new analysis change substantially from those originally published online to the point of becoming a new report." In their retraction, Sebastiani et al. say they plan to "pursue alternative publication of the new findings" from their reduced set of longevity-associated SNPs.

Elsewhere, the Baylor College of Medicine's Shigenori Hirose et al. show that the social amoebae Dictyostelium discoideum discriminates its kin via a "matching pair of tgrB1 and tgrC1 alleles." The self-recognition and differential cell-cell adhesion that this pair mediates represents a "genetically tractable ancient model of eukaryotic self-recognition," the authors write. "We propose that TgrB1 and TgrC1 proteins mediate this adhesion through direct binding," they add in this week's Science.

A team led by Harvard Medical School's Camille Delebecque describes multi-dimensional RNA structures it designed and assembled into "discrete, one-dimensional, and two-dimensional scaffolds with distinct protein-docking sites … used to control the spatial organization of a hydrogen-producing pathway" and, thus, bacterial metabolism. Further, the team reports its increase of "hydrogen output as a function of scaffold architecture." In a related news story, Science's Kate Thodey and Christina Smolke say of this study: "Delebecque et al. demonstrate an exciting role for these nanostructures in engineered biosynthetic pathways."

This week in Science Translational Medicine, researchers at the University of California, Davis, and elsewhere report on a common sequence variant in the defensin DEFB126 that leads to an altered sperm glycocalyx, and causes impaired sperm function and reduced fertility. The team also reports results from its prospective cohort study of newly married couples who were trying to conceive, and say they found that those couples in which the male partner was homozygous for the variant sequence "were less likely to become pregnant and took longer to achieve a live birth."

The Scan

Wolf Howl Responses Offer Look at Vocal Behavior-Related Selection in Dogs

In dozens of domestic dogs listening to wolf vocalizations, researchers in Communication Biology see responses varying with age, sex, reproductive status, and a breed's evolutionary distance from wolves.

Facial Imaging-Based Genetic Diagnoses Appears to Get Boost With Three-Dimensional Approach

With data for more than 1,900 individuals affected by a range of genetic conditions, researchers compared facial phenotype-based diagnoses informed by 2D or 3D images in the European Journal of Human Genetics.

Survey Suggests Multigene Cancer Panel VUS Reporting May Vary Across Genetic Counselors

Investigators surveyed dozens of genetic counselors working in clinical or laboratory settings, uncovering attitudes around VUS reporting after multigene cancer panel testing in the Journal of Genetic Counseling.

Study Points to Tuberculosis Protection by Gaucher Disease Mutation

A mutation linked to Gaucher disease in the Ashkenazi Jewish population appears to boost Mycobacterium tuberculosis resistance in a zebrafish model of the lysosomal storage condition, a new PNAS study finds.