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This Week in Science: Mar 9, 2012

In a paper published online in advance in Science this week, researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, report on their identification of tens of thousands of "short extrachromosomal circular DNAs — microDNA — in mouse tissues as well as mouse and human cell lines." The team says these 200- to 400-base pair long microDNAs are "derived from unique nonrepetitive sequence, and are enriched in the 5' untranslated regions of genes, exons, and CpG islands." The team also shows that the generation of these extrachromosomal circular DNAs "leaves behind deletions in different genomic loci."

Over in this week's issue, investigators at Cornell University's Weill Medical College present "an approach for generating fluorescent sensors based on Spinach, an RNA sequence that binds and activates the fluorescence of a small-molecule fluorophore." The researchers say these Spinach-based sensors "can detect a variety of different small molecules in vitro and in living cells."

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign show that food-scouting honey bees show "extensive differences in brain gene expression relative to other foragers, including differences related to catecholamine, glutamate, and γ-aminobutyric acid signaling." Writing in Science this week, the team goes on to further explore the molecular underpinnings of scouting behavior in the bees.

Elsewhere in the issue, investigators at China's Sun Yat-sen University and their colleagues show that "nucleosome-dependent mutation spectra affect eukaryotic genome structure and evolution, and may have implications for understanding the origin of mutations in cancers and in induced pluripotent stem cells," and delve into "how the composition and structure of DNA within the cell affect spontaneous mutations."

The Scan

Two J&J Doses

Johnson & Johnson says two doses of its SARS-CoV-2 vaccine provides increased protection against symptomatic COVID-19, CNN reports.

Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Response in Kids

The Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine in a lower-dose format appears to generate an immune response among children, according to the Washington Post.

Chicken Changes to Prevent Disease

The Guardian writes that researchers are looking at gene editing chickens to help prevent future pandemics.

PNAS Papers on Siberian Dog Ancestry, Insect Reproduction, Hippocampal Neurogenesis

In PNAS this week: ancestry and admixture among Siberian dogs, hormone role in fruit fly reproduction, and more.