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This Week in Science: Jun 22, 2013

Researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science and elsewhere report in the online early edition of Science that they uncovered 10 genes involved in the synthesis of steroidal glycoalkaloids. SGAs, the researchers note, are found in a number of crops like tomatoes and potatoes and are antinutritional factors, meaning that they can cause gastrointestinal and neurological disorders and, at high concentrations, can be lethal. Using comparative coexpression analysis of tomatoes and potatoes, they homed in on genes involved in SGA biosynsthesis, noting that six of them cluster together on chromosome 7 and two others on chromosome 12. By silencing the GLYCOALKALOID METABOLISM 4, or GAME4 gene, the researcher found that they could prevent the accumulation of the SGAs in the crops. "The findings open the way for developing new strategies, through genetic engineering or more classical breeding programs, to reduce quantities of the antinutritional SGAs in key crops of the Solanaceae including potato, tomato, and eggplant," the researchers write.

Also in Science, researchers led by Elaine Fuchs and Hermann Steller at Rockefeller University report that Sept4/ARTS regulates stem cell death and skin regeneration. They found that mice lacking the Sept4/ARTS gene have increased hair follicle stem cells and are protected against apoptosis. In addition, they note that have increased wound healing and hair follicle regeneration. "Our results indicate that apoptosis plays an important role in regulating SC-dependent regeneration and suggest that this pathway may be a target for regenerative medicine," the researchers write.

Finally, in an opinion piece at Science Translational Medicine, Florian Rieder from the Cleveland Clinic Foundation writes that the gut microbiome increasingly appears to play a role in gut fibrogenesis which occurs in people with inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Still, he says, "several key fundamental questions remain, the most important of which is, what are the early triggers that lead to intestinal fibrosis in IBD? No other organ is exposed to as many endogenous and exogenous factors as the gut, and in no other organ is the relation between the environment and the immune system as intimate."