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Science Papers on Gut Microbiomes of Honey Bees, Genetic Evidence of Cardiovascular Risk From Cancer Treatments

New research appearing in Science Advances this week suggests that the gut microbiomes of honey bees play a key role in how colony mates identify each other. Despite the similar genetics of honey bees of the same colony, the colony-specific blends of cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) that act as pheromonal cues to signify colony membership appear to be defined by the colony environment and rather than shared genetic variants. To investigate this, a team led by scientists from Washington University performed RNA sequencing on the gut microbiomes of honey bees and observed the microbiotic changes that occurred when members of different colonies were combined into one colony. They find that although the honey bee gut microbiome consists of a core set of bacterial phylotypes common across colonies, members of different colonies exhibit varying relative abundances of these phylotypes. Additionally, the researchers show that manipulation of the insects' gut microbiome could lead genetically related honey bees to develop different chemical cues and genetically unrelated insects to develop similar CHC profiles. The findings "illustrate the importance of host-microbiome interactions as a source of variation in animal behavioral traits," the researchers write.

The first compendium of genetic evidence supporting the cardiovascular risk induced by certain cancer therapies is presented in Science Advances this week. Cardiovascular disease is one of the most common complications of cancer treatment, yet little is known about how genetics influence this adverse effect. In the study, a team led by scientists from Tianjin Medical University use summary statistics of large-cohort cardiovascular disease genome-wide association studies to develop a computational strategy to identify credible risk variants (CRVs) that could potentially cause cardiovascular disease. They then link these variants to target genes to obtain their direction of causal effect mediated by risk alleles. They further identify the concordant direction between the mechanisms of action of drug targets and the direction of causal effect of CRV-associated genes, and perform functional experiments to study the pharmacologic effect of certain cancer drugs on coronary artery disease. With their findings, the scientists build the catalog of genetically supported cardiovascular risk from existing antineoplastic drugs at different evidence levels. The work, the investigators write, "could be helpful for rational drug target evaluation in drug development and could provide an auxiliary reference for selecting patients during clinical trials for testing novel or repurposed antineoplastic drugs."

The Scan

Cancer Survival Linked to Mutational Burden in Pan-Cancer Analysis

A pan-cancer paper appearing in JCO Precision Oncology suggests tumor mutation patterns provide clues for predicting cancer survival that are independent of other prognostic factors.

Australian Survey Points to Public Support for Genetic Risk Disclosure in Relatives of At-Risk Individuals

A survey in the European Journal of Human Genetics suggests most adult Australians are in favor of finding out if a relative tests positive for a medically actionable genetic variant.

Study Links Evolution of Stony Coral Skeleton to Bicarbonate Transporter Gene

A PNAS paper focuses on a skeleton-related bicarbonate transporter gene introduced to stony coral ancestors by tandem duplication.

Hormone-Based Gene Therapy to Sterilize Domestic Cat

A new paper in Nature Communication suggests that gene therapy could be a safer alternative to spaying domestic cats.