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This Week in Genome Biology: Mar 25, 2015

University of Cambridge researchers report in Genome Biology on evidence that horizontal gene transfer has occurred in metazoans. Cambridge's Gos Micklem and colleagues examined the genomes and transcriptomes of 10 primates, 12 flies, and four nematodes to calculate what they called an HGT index score that reflected how well each transcribed gene aligned to metazoan versus non-metazoan sequences. Based on this, they reported finding hundreds of horizontally transferred genes in primates, flies, and worms, though the transfer events in primates seemed to have occurred a while ago, though the process may be ongoing in flies and worms. GenomeWeb has more on this study here.

An international team of researchers reports on variations in placental transcriptome expression within and between groups of people. They collected 66 placentas samples from African Americans, European Americans, South Asian Americans, and East Asian Americans for analysis and found that nearly 60 percent of the placental transcriptome can be explained by inter-individual variation, about a third by intra-individual variation, and about 8 percent by variation among human groups. They noted that the differences they observed among groups dealt mainly with genes involved in immune response, cell signaling, and metabolism. Additionally, they report that most of the placental gene expression variation was consistent with a neutral-drift model, though slightly more than a third appeared to be influenced by selection.

Using what they called a 'field pathogenomics' strategy, UK researchers studied the wheat yellow rust pathogen Puccinia striiformis f. sp. tritici, or PST, a widespread fungus that affects wheat quality and yield. Using their transcriptome sequencing-based approach, they found that the PST population in the UK has undergone a recent population shift, likely due to the arrival of diverse strains from outside the country that is displacing the historical UK strains. Knowledge of such population shifts of pathogens, the researchers say, is key for understanding and managing plant disease.