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This Week in Nature: Mar 28, 2019

In this week's Nature Human Behavior, a Riken Center for Integrative Medical Sciences-led team presents genome-wide association studies of cigarette smoking behavior in over 150,000 Japanese individuals, identifying seven new loci associated with the activity. The scientists specifically find three loci associated with the number of cigarettes consumed per day, with the rest linked to smoking initiation. Additional findings include 11 diseases — including certain cancers and cardiovascular disorders — that share genetic basis with smoking behaviors.

And in Nature Plants, researchers from the Riken Cluster for Science and collaborators report a new method for efficient DNA- and selectable marker-free genome editing in plant zygotes. The CRISPR-Cas9-based system involves the direct delivery of Cas9 guide RNA ribonucleoproteins into the zygotes, and the researchers demonstrated the technique in rice by generating mature plants with targeted mutation rates of 14 percent to 64 percent. The authors note that certain aspects of their system require specialized technical skills, but say these limitations are likely to be overcome by advances in agrobiotechnology.

Meanwhile, in Nature Genetics, an international research team describes the creation and testing of set of gene expression predictors for schizophrenia using the largest expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) reference panel for the dorso-lateral prefrontal cortex, a region of the brain implicated in the disease. The investigators applied the predictors to 40,299 schizophrenia cases and 65,264 matched controls for a large transcriptomic imputation study of schizophrenia, uncovering 413 genic associations across 13 brain regions, as well as 66 significantly enriched pathways. For 67 schizophrenia-associated genes, the team identified specific groups of pre- and postnatal expression. GenomeWeb has more on this, here.