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This Week in Nature: Mar 24, 2016

In Nature Genetics this week, researchers from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital report data indicating that genetic variants involved in autism are also involved in a range of social and behavioral traits. The team analyzed data from several genome-wide association studies of autism and population-based resources, and found that up to 25 percent of common variants linked to autism also contribute to typical social behavior and communication. "These results suggest that familiality should be studied in a manner beyond a count of categorically affected family members and that trait variation in controls can provide insight into the underlying etiology of severe neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders," they wrote. GenomeWeb has more on this here.

And in Nature Methods, a team of US and Italian scientists presents a new approach for strain-level microbial profiling from metagenomic data. Called PanPhlAn — short for pangenome-based phylogenomic analysis — the software tool detects and characterizes strain-specific gene content from metagenomic data. The researchers show how it can be used to recognize outbreak strains and, in combination with metatranscriptomic data, profile the transcriptional activity of strains within complex communities. GenomeWeb has more on this here, too.

The Scan

Foxtail Millet Pangenome, Graph-Based Reference Genome

Researchers in Nature Genetics described their generation of a foxtail millet pangenome, which they say can help in crop trait improvement.

Protein Length Distribution Consistent Across Species

An analysis in Genome Biology compares the lengths of proteins across more than 2,300 species, finding similar distributions.

Novel Genetic Loci Linked to Insulin Resistance in New Study

A team reports in Nature Genetics that it used glucose challenge test data to home in on candidate genes involved in in GLUT4 expression or trafficking.

RNA Editing in Octopuses Seems to Help Acclimation to Shifts in Water Temperature

A paper in Cell reports that octopuses use RNA editing to help them adjust to different water temperatures.