In this week's Nature Plants, an international research team reports data showing that an expansion of disease-resistance genes may be responsible for the long lifespans of certain trees like the oak, which can survive for centuries in the face of environmental and biological threats. The scientists sequenced, assembled, and annotated the genome of the English oak, then compared their findings with existing whole-genome sequences for other trees and plants. They find that the English oak underwent a recent burst of tandem gene duplication that appears to have contributed to 73 percent of the its total gene family expansion. These expanded gene families are largely associated with disease-resistance genes and exhibit positive selection signatures. Notably, similar disease-resistance gene expansions were found in various other tree genomes versus those of herbaceous species.
And in Nature Methods, an MIT-led team presents GeNets, a platform for network-based genomic analyses designed to overcome the challenges of comparing the signal-to-noise ratios of different networks and identifying the optimal network with which to interpret a particular genetic dataset. With GeNets, users can train a machine-learning model — called Quack — to carry out such comparisons and execute, store, and share analyses of genetic and RNA-sequencing datasets, according to the researchers. "We believe that as more and more genetic and network datasets become available, the value of GeNets will continue to increase," they write.