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This Week in Nature: Dec 22, 2016

In this week's Nature, a team led by Imperial College London researchers presents data showing that changes in DNA methylation patterns can be used to identify people at higher risk of developing type II diabetes. In their epigenome-wide association study, the investigators uncovered DNA methylation changes associated with body-mass index. In prospective studies, these methylation markers strongly predicted who was likely to develop type 2 diabetes independently of conventional risk factors. The researchers also showed that the altered methylation patterns were a result of obesity, not a cause, and that some are found in genomic regions tied to metabolism, inflammation, and cardiovascular and respiratory disease.

Meanwhile, in Nature Genetics, collaborators from the Whitehead Institute and the Broad Institute publishes a study that identified novel cellular factors necessary for HIV infection using a CRISPR/Cas9 screen. The genome-editing technology was used to create a library of T cells in which the vast majority of genes in the human genome were individually inactivated. These cells were then infected with HIV and screened for genes that, when mutated, led to infection resistance. Five such genes were found, including three previously unknown to be involved in HIV, and then validated using T cells from healthy humans. The work not only offers insights into how to potentially combat HIV, but offers a screening strategy that can be applied to other infectious diseases, the researchers say.

The Scan

Foxtail Millet Pangenome, Graph-Based Reference Genome

Researchers in Nature Genetics described their generation of a foxtail millet pangenome, which they say can help in crop trait improvement.

Protein Length Distribution Consistent Across Species

An analysis in Genome Biology compares the lengths of proteins across more than 2,300 species, finding similar length distributions.

Novel Genetic Loci Linked to Insulin Resistance in New Study

A team reports in Nature Genetics that it used glucose challenge test data to home in on candidate genes involved in GLUT4 expression or trafficking.

RNA Editing in Octopuses Seems to Help Acclimation to Shifts in Water Temperature

A paper in Cell reports that octopuses use RNA editing to help them adjust to different water temperatures.