In Science this week, a multi-institute team of researchers report on mouse data showing that genetic factors influence Ebola infection outcomes. To date, mice have not been effective models for the disease because they do not display the hallmark symptoms of infection in humans. The investigators tested the effects of the Zaire strain of the virus on Collaborative Cross mice — a cross of five classic lab strains and three wild-type strains — and found that animals with certain genetic backgrounds were susceptible to Ebola while others were resistant. An analysis of the genomes of the mice pointed to an allele of the Tek gene, which activates coagulation factors, are possibly affecting susceptibility to infection. GenomeWeb Daily News has more on this study here.
Also in Science, a group of Japanese scientists describe the identification of a gene in male persimmon plants that determines flower sex. The gene encodes a small RNA that stops female organ development, suggesting it is a key player in dioecy, which occurs in less than 10 percent of all flowering plants. The researchers noted that small RNAs have also been shown to be involved in determining the sex of animals, pointing to the possibility of similarities in the sex-determination mechanisms across organisms.