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PLOS Papers Look at Chimp Adaptation, Renal Cell Carcinoma, Airway Microbiomes

In PLOS Genetics, researchers from the University College London, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, and elsewhere take a look at genetic adaptation in chimpanzees by comparing genetic differentiation signals falling within or between protein-coding genes in four chimpanzee sub-species. Using this strategy, the team searched for signals of selection related to recent adaptations, uncovering signs of relatively recent adaptation in the eastern chimp sub-species, including an over-representation of distinct SNPs in genes implicated in immune responses to pathogens and viruses such as the simian immunodeficiency virus. "[O]ur results suggest that positive selection has contributed to the genetic and phenotypic differentiation of chimpanzee sub-species," they write, "and that viruses likely play a [predominant] role in this differentiation, with SIV being a likely selective agent."

A team from Japan's Shiga University of Medical Science describe transcriptional features found in renal cell carcinoma (RCC) cell lines for a paper in PLOS One. The researchers did RNA sequencing on three RCC cell lines classified as "starvation-resistant," based on the cell's ability to survive under low glucose conditions, and on four "starvation-sensitive" RCC lines. They found that two of the three glucose starvation-resistant cell lines shared transcriptional features with tumor samples from chemotherapy-resistant RCC cases, including enhanced expression of genes involved in invasiveness and cell proliferation. "These results indicate these cell lines emulate chemotherapy-resistant RCC," the authors report, "and might be useful in the search for markers to predict poor prognosis and in the development of therapeutic agents and their index markers for chemotherapy-resistant RCCs."

Nanyang Technological University researchers describe microbial community composition differences in the airways of aging or ailing Asian participants for another paper in PLOS One. The team used targeted 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequencing to characterize airway microbial community members in 48 healthy individuals, including two dozen genetically-related younger and older family members, taking into account the participants' lung function and arterial stiffness. "Aging is associated with increased Firmicutes and decreased Proteobacteria representation in the airway microbiome among a healthy Asian cohort," the authors found, while "diversity and composition of the airway microbiome is independently associated with lung function and arterial stiffness in the young and elderly groups respectively."