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This Week in Nature: Oct 19, 2017

In Nature Communications this week, a team led by scientists from the Broad Institute reports the discovery of gene variants linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder. The group analyzed sequencing data for 608 candidate genes and identified four with strong association to the condition. The variants were found to play roles in neural pathways including serotonin and glutamate signaling and synaptic connectivity, and may be therapeutic targets for future treatments. GenomeWeb has more on this, here.

And in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, researchers from the University of Copenhagen present a review of key enzymes in the CRISPR gene-editing system, discussing how the effector proteins achieve recognition, unzipping, and cleavage of target DNA. They focus on CRISPR class 2 type V enzymes — specifically the widely used Cpf1 and C2c1, which have different DNA-recognition and cleavage characteristics than Cas9 — and provide a mechanistic overview of their activity to help with their improvement and expanded use in genomics. 

Finally, in Nature Chemistry, Stanford University researchers review the use of synthetic fluorescent nucleobases to study DNA and RNA. They look at the development of fluorescent nucleobases and discuss their utility as research tools in biophysics, biochemistry, and the biology of nucleic acids. The researchers also offer chemical insights into the two main classes of the compounds — canonical and non-canonical nucleobases — touching on the advantages and disadvantages of each.

The Scan

Polygenic Risk Score to Predict Preeclampsia, Gestational Hypertension in Pregnant Women

Researchers in Nature Medicine provide new mechanistic insights into the development of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, which may help develop therapeutics.

New Oral Nanomedicine Strategy Targets Gut-Brain Axis to Treat IBD

A new paper in Science Advances describes a platform to design polyphenol-armored oral medicines that are effective at treating inflammatory bowel disease.

Phylogenetic Data Enables New Floristic Map

Researchers in Nature Communications use angiosperm phylogenetic data to refine the floristic regions of the world.

Machine Learning Helps ID Molecular Mechanisms of Pancreatic Islet Beta Cell Subtypes in Type 2 Diabetes

The approach helps overcome limitations of previous studies that had investigated the molecular mechanisms of pancreatic islet beta cells, the authors write in their Nature Genetics paper.