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This Week in PLOS: Jan 12, 2015

A PLOS Genetics study by researchers in the Netherlands looks at quantitative trait loci linked to metabolite levels in the blood. Using fasting serum samples from almost 2,500 individuals enrolled through a Dutch family study, the team quantified levels for 42 different metabolites using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. By folding in exome sequence and genome-wide association study data, the investigators were able to estimate the heritability of metabolite levels, which varied from around 10 percent in some cases to more than 50 percent in others. They also found new and known metabolite QTLs, including variants found in protein-coding sequences or in regulatory regions. 

The Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology's Detlef Weigel and colleagues from Germany, the UK, and the US scrutinized methylation patterns in geographically diverse Arabidopsis thaliana plants that stemmed lineages that started out nearly clonal — work they present in PLOS Genetics. Based on whole-genome and whole-methylome bisulfite sequencing experiments on pooled plant samples from these sites, the study's authors found that "both patterns and rates of methylome variation were in many aspects similar to those of lines grown in stable environments, which suggests that environment induced changes are only minor contributors to durable genome-wide heritable epigenetic variation."

In PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, an international team presents findings from a genome and phylogenetic study of Trypanosoma evansi, a single-celled trypanosome parasite that can cause a disease called surra in cattle, horses, and camels. The researchers used a combination of Roche 454 and Illumina sequencing to study the T. evansi strain from China, comparing the resulting genome with the sequences from the sleeping sickness-causing trypanosome species, T. brucei, which is transmitted with the help of tsetse flies. They also performed a phylogenetic analysis of the trypanosomes, which indicated that T. evansi and at least one other species evolved from T. brucei on multiple occasions.