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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.