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This Week in Cell: Apr 8, 2015

A group from the UK and the US combined a genome-wide association study with immunophenotyping in hundreds of twins to get a look at the genetic architecture underlying the human immune system. Based on tens of thousands of immune traits assessed in nearly 500 females from identical or non-identical twin pairs, the researchers examined the heritability of various immune traits, verifying these patterns with data for 172 more female participants from the twin pairs. From there, they did a GWAS focused on the top 151 heritable immune traits, narrowing in on SNPs at 11 loci that appeared to explain more than a third of the variability that exists for 19 immune-related traits.

Researchers from Columbia University, the University of Southern California, and elsewhere used targeted mutations to look at the consequences that DNA sequence has on the molecule's shape. The team focused on the Hox protein-DNA binding system, introducing mutations at specific residues and tracking their binding effects. Based on their findings, the study's authors conclude that "transcription factors directly use shape readout for protein-DNA recognition," prompting them to argue that "in silico prediction of DNA binding specificities will benefit by taking DNA structural features into consideration."

A Rockefeller University-led team found evidence of sequestration of the liver-specific microRNA miR-122 by the hepatitis C virus during infection. Using high-throughput sequencing and crosslinking immunoprecipitation experiments, together with single cell expression reporters, the team determined that the hepatitis C virus nabs miR-122, a miRNA it needs for replication. That, in turn, appears to de-repress transcript targets that are normally targeted and kept inactive by the miRNA.