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This Week in Science: Nov 11, 2011

In Science this week, a team led by researchers at University of Massachusetts Medical School shows that in the mammalian genome, genome-wide demethylation followed by de novo methylation initiates "a pattern inherited throughout development and modified only at tissue-specific loci." The UMass Med-led team reports on its in vivo investigation of methylation in differentiating mouse erythroblasts using reduced representation bisulfite sequencing. They found that "global demethylation was continuous throughout differentiation and required rapid DNA replication," and that this demethylation occurs "globally during somatic cell differentiation, providing an experimental model for its study in development and disease."

MIT's Phillip Sharp and his colleagues show that "tRNAs marked with CCACCA are targeted for degradation." More specifically, Sharp et al. show that "the CCA-adding enzyme plays a key role in tRNA quality control by selectively marking structurally unstable tRNAs and tRNA-like small RNAs for degradation."

This week, AAAS CEO and Science publisher Alan Leshner discusses "rethinking the science system" in the US amid increasing budgetary concerns. Leshner says that "there is a strong case for maintaining investments in S&T [science and technology] as a foundation for long-term economic growth and social well-being," but that when resources are constrained "it is essential that they be used effectively and efficiently to avoid losing scientific momentum and to ensure that society will benefit maximally from S&T's potential." Overall, Leshner editorializes that "the scientific community cannot afford to simply adapt passively to reduced budgets."

And Science’s Eliot Marshall says that in tough times, federal agencies having to set funding priorities "has never been fun." Marshall speaks with lobbyists in Washington, DC, who he says are "spending every free moment talking up the importance of research to friends and acquaintances on Capitol Hill" because "there still is no national framework for allocating R&D spending."

The Scan

Genome Sequences Reveal Range Mutations in Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

Researchers in Nature Genetics detect somatic mutation variation across iPSCs generated from blood or skin fibroblast cell sources, along with selection for BCOR gene mutations.

Researchers Reprogram Plant Roots With Synthetic Genetic Circuit Strategy

Root gene expression was altered with the help of genetic circuits built around a series of synthetic transcriptional regulators in the Nicotiana benthamiana plant in a Science paper.

Infectious Disease Tracking Study Compares Genome Sequencing Approaches

Researchers in BMC Genomics see advantages for capture-based Illumina sequencing and amplicon-based sequencing on the Nanopore instrument, depending on the situation or samples available.

LINE-1 Linked to Premature Aging Conditions

Researchers report in Science Translational Medicine that the accumulation of LINE-1 RNA contributes to premature aging conditions and that symptoms can be improved by targeting them.