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This Week in Nature: Mar 12, 2009

In an early online publication, scientists at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center have used RNAi to show that the histone acetyl transferase CBP in flies and CBP and p300 (Ep300) in humans acetylate H3K56, whereas Drosophila Sir2 and human SIRT1 and SIRT2 deacetylate H3K56ac. Acetylation within the globular core domain of histone H3 on lysine 56 (H3K56) has recently been shown to play a key role in chromatin formation after DNA replication and repair in budding yeast and that acetylation of H3K56 is increased in multiple types of cancer.

A series of letters from readers discusses the debate on whether GWAS and whole genome sequencing should be used to study the race-intelligence link, in response to commentaries from February saying that science and society won't benefit from that. While several say that IQ doesn't exist and shouldn't be used as a measure of intelligence anyway, one argues that using GWAS to get a more detailed analysis of what makes up intelligence "may provide useful insights into the molecular architecture of cognition," according to blogger Daniel MacArthur. "This is not a debate that will be resolved any time soon, but it is a credit to Nature that they have permitted such a robust exchange of views on this rather dangerous topic within their pages."

Research led by Broad scientists used a new approach to identify a class of large non-coding RNAs. Using chromatin-state maps across protein-coding loci, scientists identified about 1,600 large multi-exonic RNAs -- large intervening non-coding RNAs (lincRNAs) -- in four mouse cell types. They found 95 percent of these lincRNAs to show clear evolutionary conservation. Follow-up functional genomics studies demonstrated a diverse range of roles for lincRNAs, from embryonic stem cell pluripotency to cell proliferation.

Finally, there is a series of technology features on transcriptomics. One considers how next-generation sequencing, or a digital approach to studying RNA transcripts, may eventually outcompete the analog methods of microarrays and real-time PCR. A second delves into the search for function in lincRNAs, with a closer look at the Broad's John Rinn, who led the study published this week on these non-coding RNAs. "We are going to throw the Broad kitchen sink at them," says Rinn, who plans to systematically knock down each lincRNA to find out what it does.

The Scan

Study Finds Sorghum Genetic Loci Influencing Composition, Function of Human Gut Microbes

Focusing on microbes found in the human gut microbiome, researchers in Nature Communications identified 10 sorghum loci that appear to influence the microbial taxa or microbial metabolite features.

Treatment Costs May Not Coincide With R&D Investment, Study Suggests

Researchers in JAMA Network Open did not find an association between ultimate treatment costs and investments in a drug when they analyzed available data on 60 approved drugs.

Sleep-Related Variants Show Low Penetrance in Large Population Analysis

A limited number of variants had documented sleep effects in an investigation in PLOS Genetics of 10 genes with reported sleep ties in nearly 192,000 participants in four population studies.

Researchers Develop Polygenic Risk Scores for Dozens of Disease-Related Exposures

With genetic data from two large population cohorts and summary statistics from prior genome-wide association studies, researchers came up with 27 exposure polygenic risk scores in the American Journal of Human Genetics.