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This Week in Nature: Nov 2, 2017

In this week's Nature Ecology & Evolution, a team of Hungarian researchers publishes the genomes of four species of the fungal pathogen Armillaria, which is known for reaching immense sizes and for its devastating effects on other plant species. In their study, the researchers compare the genomes to 22 related fungi to find that Armillaria species have expanded gene families associated with several pathogenicity-related genes and enzymes that degrade plant tissue. They also identify various genes in rhizomorphs — root-like multicellular structures of clonal dispersal — that are associated with colonization of new plants. Notably, rizhomorphs and fruiting bodies both express genes associated with complex multicellularity, suggesting common developmental origins for the two structures.

In Nature Genetics, a multi-institute group of investigators reports the discovery of new genetic variants associated with levels of plasma lipids. The researchers screened variants on an exome-focused genotyping array in more than 300,000 participants, and uncovered 444 independent variants in 250 loci significantly associated with total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and/or triglycerides. They also used mouse models and genome editing to pinpoint causal genes and protein-altering variants. GenomeWeb has more on this and a related study, here.

Also in Nature Genetics, a group of Australian scientists reports the identification of immune-related genes that influence asthma, hay fever, and eczema. They analyzed genetic data from individuals with allergic disease and pinpointed risk variants shared across conditions, the majority of which are not disease-specific. The data show that "asthma, hay fever, and eczema partly coexist because they share many genetic risk variants that dysregulate the expression of immune-related genes," the authors write. GenomeWeb also covers this, here.