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This Week in PLOS: Jan 30, 2017

In PLOS Genetics, researchers from the UK, the US, and France consider the health consequences of genetic variation in individuals that share an environment. By putting together pairs of mouse roommates from different genetic backgrounds, the team attempted to tease apart so-called social genetic effects on a wide range of mouse phenotypes, ranging from body weight to wound healing, along with gene expression profiles in prefrontal cortex brain tissue from mice in the lab. "[O]ur study uncovers an important contribution of the social environment to phenotypic variation, sets the basis for using [social genetic interactions] to dissect social effects, and identifies an opportunity to improve studies of direct genetic effects," the authors write. The Scan has more on this here.

A form of leprosy-causing Mycobacterium leprae detected in an ancient sample from the UK appears to have been quite similar to strains still circulating in south-central and western Asia, according to a PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases paper. UK researchers used SNP genotyping and other ancient DNA analyses to assess samples from a man who died in Britain at the end of the 11th century or beginning of the 12th century. Based on the M. leprae lineage identified in the sample, coupled with morphological analyses of the infected individual's skull and his burial at a site for pilgrims, the team concluded that the man was not from the area where his remains were found. GenomeWeb has more on this study, here.  

Finally, a Tanzanian team takes a look at genetic patterns and population structure in Tanzania Short Horn Zebu cattle, commonly known as zebu. As they report in PLOS One, the researchers used array-based genotyping to profile SNP patterns in 168 cattle, including representatives from the Sukuma, Tarime, and Maasai zebu types and cattle from the Boran and Friesian breeds. The analysis uncovered relatively low levels of inbreeding in the zebu cattle, for example, while highlighting past mixing between various cattle populations in the country.