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This Week in Science: Jan 13, 2012

A team led by investigators at Boston College this week reports its use of whole-genome sequencing to identify an etiological point mutation in Toxoplasma gondii TgDOC2.1 that causes a defect in secretion of the micronemes, "an apicomplexan-specific organelle that contains adhesion proteins."

In another Science paper published online in advance this week, researchers at Yale University show that "most organisms are naturally exposed to toxic levels of fluoride, and that many species use fluoride-sensing RNAs to control the expression of proteins that alleviate the deleterious effects of this anion."

Over in Science Signaling, researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine and at the University of California, Los Angeles, show that the BRAFV600E mutation constitutively activates BRAF signaling in many melanomas, which in turn inhibits Wnt/β-catenin signaling. In its study, the team "investigated whether altering Wnt/β-catenin signaling might enhance the efficacy of the BRAFV600E inhibitor PLX4720," finding that "endogenous β-catenin was required for PLX4720-induced apoptosis of melanoma cells and that activation of Wnt/β-catenin signaling synergized with PLX4720 to decrease tumor growth in vivo and to increase apoptosis in vitro," the authors 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.