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This Week in Science: Feb 14, 2013

In Science this week, a research team led by scientists from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine reports that a genome-wide analysis of 59 humans and 10 chimpanzees shows that the two species have some of the same combinations of polymorphisms. While previous studies had only identified two shared polymorphisms between people and apes, the investigators discovered 125 regions with similar mutations between the two. "In six cases, there is evidence for an ancestral polymorphism that persisted to the present in humans and chimpanzees." The findings suggest that ancient balancing selection help shape human variation and "point to genes involved in host-pathogen interactions as common targets," the researchers add.

Also in Science, scientists from Harvard University and Peking University describe their use of single-molecule fluorescence microscopy to observe the activity of DNA binding proteins, which revealed that specific binding of a protein on DNA is substantially stabilized or destabilized by another protein bound nearby. Through this process, called allostery, proteins can affect each other's binding affinity to DNA and trigger different gene expression levels. The findings offer new insights into gene expression and regulation.

The Scan

Cancer Survival Linked to Mutational Burden in Pan-Cancer Analysis

A pan-cancer paper appearing in JCO Precision Oncology suggests tumor mutation patterns provide clues for predicting cancer survival that are independent of other prognostic factors.

Australian Survey Points to Public Support for Genetic Risk Disclosure in Relatives of At-Risk Individuals

A survey in the European Journal of Human Genetics suggests most adult Australians are in favor of finding out if a relative tests positive for a medically actionable genetic variant.

Study Links Evolution of Stony Coral Skeleton to Bicarbonate Transporter Gene

A PNAS paper focuses on a skeleton-related bicarbonate transporter gene introduced to stony coral ancestors by tandem duplication.

Hormone-Based Gene Therapy to Sterilize Domestic Cat

A new paper in Nature Communication suggests that gene therapy could be a safer alternative to spaying domestic cats.