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This Week in Nature: Feb 20, 2009

In early online publication, Josh Mendell led work that looks into the mechanism behind altered glucose metabolism in cancer cells. Using a blend of proteomics and RNAi, he shows that the c-Myc transcription factor shuts down expression of miR-23a and miR-23b in several cancer cell types, resulting in increased mitochondrial glutaminase and up-regulation of glutamine catabolism.

A news feature delves into the idea of conservation in the post-genomic age, specifically the case of the American bison. Most bison have cattle genes due to years of interbreeding, and some conservationists, like geneticist James Derr, thinks it's time to change conservation to include genomes and not just population dynamics. "Species conservation is more than skin deep," Derr, who is profiled, says. "It is more than how they look, it is how they are -- that's the genome."

A series of commentaries takes on the recession and science. One checks in with ten leading thinkers, who give their ideas on what role science can play in recovery. Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University's Earth Institute, says we should invest in infrastructure in the developing world, while another story instructs scientists who need funds to be more convincing. Scientists also need to be nation builders, startups need to trim their sails, and researchers need to cooperate.

Three papers reveal the ever-expanding diversity of non-coding RNAs. One from Greg Hannon's lab at CSHL used deep sequencing to find a new class of 5'-modified long and short ncRNAs. Two groups look genome-wide at stable unannotated transcripts (SUTs) and cryptic unstable transcripts (CUTs) in S. cerevisiae, finding that both SUTs and CUTs display “distinct patterns of distribution at specific locations” and that "bidirectionality is an inherent feature of promoters." Says a related news story: "On the basis of some direct and indirect evidence, the two teams propose that CUTs, and indeed SUTs, might be broad regulators of transcription in yeast." The story also goes into more ncRNAs: promoter upstream transcripts (PROMPTs), promoter-associated short RNAs (PASRs), PALRs, TSSa-RNAs, and NRO-RNAs.

The Scan

mRNA-Based Vaccine on the Way in China

China may soon have its own mRNA-based vaccine, according to Nature News.

Arranged Killing, Fraud Alleged by Prosecutors

The Wall Street Journal reports that prosecutors allege that the co-founder of a biotech arranged to have a business associate who threatened to expose him as a fraud killed.

Whirlwind Decade of CRISPR

The New York Times looks back at the 10 years since the University of California, Berkeley's Jennifer Doudna and her colleagues published their CRISPR paper.

PNAS Papers on Blue Cone Monochromacy Structural Variants, HIV-1 Mutant, T-ALL

In PNAS this week: structural variants linked to blue cone monochromacy, HIV-1 variants affecting the matrix protein p17, and more.