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This Week in Cell: Nov 19, 2014

A long non-coding RNA known as BCAR4 can contribute to breast cancer metastasis via its transcription factor interactions and downstream effects on epigenetic marks, according to a Cell study. Researchers from the University of Texas and elsewhere used array-based lncRNA profiling on stage III breast cancer samples and matched normal breast tissues to find lncRNAs that are dialed up or down in the cancer tissues. The up-regulated set included BCAR4, they report, a lncRNA that interacts with PNUTS and SNIP1 transcription factors in response to chemokine signals. The team's follow-up experiments suggest these transcription factor interactions lead to histone regulatory changes that boost breast cancer progression.

Researchers from the Whitehead Institute, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and elsewhere used an approach called single-haplotype iterative mapping and sequencing to assess the male-specific region of the mouse Y chromosome in search of clues to sex chromosome evolution. The team's analysis of the mouse Y chromosome sequence data revealed a slew of euchromatic sequences and some 700 protein-coding genes. Rather than stemming from ancestral autosomal chromosome sequences, though, the study's authors traced most of the genes in the mouse male-specific region back to amplifications of homologous mouse X chromosome genes.

A Cornell University-led team found a role for host genetics in shaping individuals' gut microbiomes. By comparing 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequencing data for fecal samples from more than 400 identical and non-identical twin pairs enrolled in the TwinsUK project, the researchers narrowed in on gut microbial community members found with variable abundance depending on host genetics. Amongst the most heritable were bugs from a family called Christensenellaceae, which tended to turn up in concert with other bacteria and methanogenic archaea that are prone to host genetic effects. The Christensenellaceae-related collection appeared somewhat more common in lean individuals, too, hinting at a role for Christensenellaceae bugs in controlling obesity. GenomeWeb has more on the study, here.

The Scan

Positive Framing of Genetic Studies Can Spark Mistrust Among Underrepresented Groups

Researchers in Human Genetics and Genomics Advances report that how researchers describe genomic studies may alienate potential participants.

Small Study of Gene Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

In a Novartis-sponsored study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a CRISPR-Cas9-based treatment targeting promoters of genes encoding fetal hemoglobin could reduce disease symptoms.

Gut Microbiome Changes Appear in Infants Before They Develop Eczema, Study Finds

Researchers report in mSystems that infants experienced an enrichment in Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and Finegoldia and a depletion of Bacteroides before developing eczema.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Specificity Enhanced With Stem Cell Editing

A study in Nature suggests epitope editing in donor stem cells prior to bone marrow transplants can stave off toxicity when targeting acute myeloid leukemia with immunotherapy.