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This Week in Nature: Feb 21, 2019

In Nature Genetics this week, an international team of researchers reports the discovery of novel protein-coding variants associated with body-fat distribution, providing new clues into the genetics of how the body stores and distributes fat. The researchers analyzed the association of body-fat distribution — assessed by waist-to-hip ratio adjusted for body mass index — with nearly 230,000 predicted coding and splice site variants available on exome arrays in almost half a million people of different ancestries, uncovering 15 common and nine low-frequency or rare coding novel variants. Additional analyses reveal lipid particle, adiponectin, abnormal white adipose tissue physiology, and bone development and morphology as important contributors to fat distribution. Taken together, the findings "highlight the importance of lipid metabolism in the genetic underpinnings of body-fat distribution," the authors write. GenomeWeb also covers this, here.

Also in Nature Genetics, investigators from the US and Europe publish a study examining the population genomics, transcriptomics, and virulence of Streptococcus pyogenes, offering new details about the bacterium's pathogenesis. The scientists sequenced the genomes of 2,101 emm28 S. pyogenes invasive strains, of which 492 phylogenetically diverse strains were selected for transcriptome analysis and 50 strains for virulence assessment. Genome-wide association study, expression quantitative trait loci analysis, machine learning, and isogenic mutant strains reveal a one-nucleotide indel in an intergenic region that significantly alters global transcript profiles and ultimately virulence. Overall, the study demonstrates an "integrative strategy that is generally applicable to any microbe — pathogenic or otherwise — and may lead to new therapeutics," the researchers say. GenomeWeb has more on this, here.