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How They Get Their Stripes

Researchers have teased out the role of one gene that influences cats' coat color patterns, New Scientist reports.

"It's this really amazing natural phenomenon and we don't know — or we didn't know — much about how it came about or how evolution had changed it over time," senior author Gregory Barsh from the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology tells it. "Why does the tiger have stripes and the cheetah have spots? How does evolution act on those on a common mechanism to give rise to different patterns?"

By examining fetal cat skin cells — collected from feral cat spay-neuter clinics — Barsh and his colleagues noticed stripe-like differences in skin thickness. As they report in Nature Communications, they turned to single-cell gene expression analysis to find differences in the expression of the Dkk4 gene, which encodes a Wnt inhibitor, associated with these tabby patterns. The researchers further note that the Dkk4 gene is mutated in cats with a Ticked coat pattern.

The findings additionally suggest cats may be a good model organism for studying coat colors and patterns, Eduardo Eizirik from Brazil's Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul tells New Scientist.

The Scan

Highly Similar

Researchers have uncovered bat viruses that are highly similar to SARS-CoV-2, according to Nature News.

Gain of Oversight

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Biden Administration is considering greater oversight of gain-of-function research.

Lasker for mRNA Vaccine Work

The Scientist reports that researchers whose work enabled the development of mRNA-based vaccines are among this year's Lasker Award winners

PLOS Papers on Causal Variant Mapping, Ancient Salmonella, ALK Fusion Test for NSCLC

In PLOS this week: MsCAVIAR approach to map causal variants, analysis of ancient Salmonella, and more.