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This Week in Science: Mar 2, 2013

In Science this week, a multi-institute team of Australian researchers reports on the discovery of a protein found in the female reproductive tract that appears to protect against sexually transmitted diseases. The protein, interferon-epsilon, is expressed by cells that line the ovary, uterus, cervix, and vagina, and mice lacking interferon-epsilon are more susceptible to infection with herpes simplex virus 2 and chlamydia. The regulatory and protective properties of interferon-epsilone may "facilitate the development of new strategies for preventing and treating STIs and, perhaps, other diseases," the researchers say.

Also in Science, a group of Japanese and Australian researchers provide evidence that a family of genes called KNOX2 may be behind the haploid-to-diploid morphological transition found in land plants. "In mosses, the haploid gametophyte generation is dominant, whereas in vascular plants — including ferns, gymnosperms, and angiosperms — the diploid sporophyte generation is dominant," the researchers note. In their study, the scientists found that KNOX2 genes appear to suppress the development of a normal reproductive form of moss during its spore-producing generation, "indicating a critical role for the evolution of KNOX2 in establishing an alternation of generations in land plants."