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PLOS Studies Look at Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma lncRNA, Tiger Mosquito Movement, More

In PLOS Genetics, researchers at Sun Yat-Sen University and Jinan University in China present findings from a long non-coding RNA (lncRNA)-focused analysis of nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC). Using expression microarrays, the team profiled lncRNAs in four NPC tumors and nearby non-cancerous tissue samples, uncovering apparent differences in the activity of a lncRNA called NKILA. That prompted an analysis of NKILA expression in more than 100 paraffin-embedded NPC tumors collected at various clinical stages in patients with documented survival outcomes, along with follow-up experiments looking at the consequences of silencing or boosting the expression of NKILA. The results point to reduced expression of the lncRNA in NPC tumors, the authors note, and particularly how low NKILA expression may coincide with riskier tumor features and poor survival outcomes.

A team from the US and Italy explores Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) population structure in southern Europe for a paper appearing in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. With the help of double-digest restriction site-associated DNA sequencing on mosquitos from trap sites in Italy, Greece, and Albania, the researchers tracked down more than 100,000 SNPs for analyzing the genetic structure and migration of Ae. albopictus — a mosquito known for carrying human arboviruses such as dengue virus, chikungunya virus, or zika virus. Their findings point to multiple independent Asian tiger mosquito introductions into southern Europe and the Mediterranean over the past few decades, potentially related to international trade between the regions. "[T]he results are consistent with a major role of human activities in the extraordinary expansion of the species, which today can be considered a permanent pest in all Mediterranean European countries," the authors write.

HER2-positive breast cancer cases marked by higher-than-usual levels of the vacuole membrane protein 1 (VMP1) may be prone to poor prognosis, according to researchers from the National University Hospital of Iceland and University of Iceland reporting in PLOS One. The team started by screening for fusions that might contribute to breast cancer progression by comparing available gene fusion and RNA sequence data for breast tumors and breast cancer cell lines profiled previously, identifying 183 gene fusions in a few dozen breast cancer cell lines and more than 5,300 fusions in the 1,724 breast tumors analyzed. After ranking fusion gene expression with additional published data, the authors used RT-qPCR to measure levels of these genes in hundreds more tumors before analyzing potential ties to patient outcomes in several cancer cohorts. In particular, they found that HER2-positive breast tumors tended to have high VMP1 expression, which, in turn, was linked to patient survival in two of the four cohorts considered.

The Scan

Machine Learning Helps ID Molecular Mechanisms of Pancreatic Islet Beta Cell Subtypes in Type 2 Diabetes

The approach helps overcome limitations of previous studies that had investigated the molecular mechanisms of pancreatic islet beta cells, the authors write in their Nature Genetics paper.

Culture-Based Methods, Shotgun Sequencing Reveal Transmission of Bifidobacterium Strains From Mothers to Infants

In a Nature Communications study, culture-based approaches along with shotgun sequencing give a better picture of the microbial strains transmitted from mothers to infants.

Microbial Communities Can Help Trees Adapt to Changing Climates

Tree seedlings that were inoculated with microbes from dry, warm, or cold sites could better survive drought, heat, and cold stress, according to a study in Science.

A Combination of Genetics and Environment Causes Cleft Lip

In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers investigate what combination of genetic and environmental factors come into play to cause cleft lip/palate.