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PNAS Presents Cell Assay for Adult-Onset Muscular Dystrophy

Researchers from University of Florida College of Medicine and SUNY-Albany have developed a cell line that stably expresses a toxic repeat expansion affecting the DMPK gene, which causes an adult-onset muscular dystrophy called myotonic dystrophy type 1, and an analogous control. They used this cell line to screen small molecules that might act as therapeutics, and, as they report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week, identified multiple microtubule inhibitors that modulate the RNA levels of that toxic expansion. The researchers say this not only sheds light on the biology of the disease, but also possible therapeutic approaches.

A Nagoya University-led team has used a genome-wide association study to uncover a key gene involved in rice architecture. The researchers first performed a principal components analysis for eight rice traits, including stem length and panicle number. Then through a GWAS using the first PCA as a dependent variable, they homed in on the gene SPINDLY, which activates the protein SLR1 to suppress gibberellin signaling. The researchers further note that crops with a favorable SPINDLY allele could be employed to boost crop productivity.

A team of researchers in Mexico examined through genotyping by sequencing how the genomes of seven maize landraces and two of their wild relatives have changed during the past 60 years as modern maize varieties were adopted in the region. As they report in PNAS this week, the researchers found introgression from the modern maize varieties into the landraces and wild relatives. Additionally, they note that the genetic diversity of the landraces increased after the year 2000, which they say was likely due to the introduction of modern varieties in the 1990s. These findings, the researchers say, could be applied to approaches to monitor the genetic diversity of maize.