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This Week in Nature: Dec 13, 2018

In Nature Ecology & Evolution this week, scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences report a genomic analysis of the fall webworm, a highly invasive pest from North America that has spread throughout the Northern Hemisphere in recent decades. Using whole-genome sequencing and transcriptome profiling, the researchers identify genetic factors underlying the rapid adaptation of the fall webworm, such as genes and pathways associated with carbohydrate metabolism and gustatory receptors. The findings, the authors write, point the potential of the fall webworm as a "novel model organism not only for invasive adaptations but also for important biological phenomena in Lepidoptera."

Meanwhile, in Nature Genetics, researchers from the University of Utah and the University of Colorado, Boulder, present a map of constrained coding regions (CCRs) in the human genome, constructed using variation observed among 123,136 humans from the Genome Aggregation Database. Among their findings are that most constrained CCRs are enriched for pathogenic variants in ClinVar and mutations underlying developmental disorders. They also identify a number of highly constrained CCRs within genes lacking known disease associations. "This observation suggests that CCRs may identify regions under strong purifying selection that, when mutated, cause severe developmental phenotypes or embryonic lethality," the investigators say. GenomeWeb has more on this study, here.

And in Nature Human Behaviour, Stanford University investigators publish a study showing that an individual's learning their genetic risk for a disease alone can trigger physiological changes consistent with the expected risk profile. The team conducted two experiments in which participants were told that they had high-risk obesity-linked genotypes: one associated with poorer aerobic exercise capacity and one with poor satiety. "Merely receiving genetic risk information changed individuals' cardiorespiratory physiology, perceived exertion, and running endurance during exercise, and changed satiety physiology, and perceived fullness after food consumption in a self-fulfilling manner," the scientists write. The findings, they conclude, underscore the "critical need to accompany biological advances in genetics with an equally sophisticated understanding of the impact of receiving genetic risk information on patient health outcomes." GenomeWeb also covers this, here.