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This Week in PLOS: Mar 6, 2017

In PLOS Pathogens, researchers from Australia and the US explore co-evolution between myxoma viruses in the UK and European rabbits using viral isolates collected between 1954 and 1955 and between 2008 and 2013. The team used genome sequences, quantitative PCR, comparative genomic, and/or phylogenomic analyses to characterize European myxoma viruses alongside previously analyzed strains from Australia, where rabbits and myxoma viruses co-evolved independently. From these and other data, the investigators got a glimpse at myxoma lineages appearing in later stages of co-evolution with UK rabbits, along with the genes and pathways involved in host-pathogen co-evolution in this setting and clues to rabbit phenotypes associated with infections by various strains.

A Japanese team presents findings from a genome analysis of Nocardia seriolae, a fish pathogen that causes a condition called nocardiosis in yellowtail fish and other species grown under aquaculture conditions. As they report in PLOS One, the researchers focused on a N. seriolae strain isolated from a cultured yellowtail fish in 2008, generating Illumina short read and longer Roche 454 and Pacific Biosciences RS reads that were used to assembly an 8.1 million base genome assembly de novo. By analyzing the genome alongside sequences from four other Nocardia species, they uncovered nearly 7,700 predicted protein-coding genes in N. seriolae's bacterial genome, including antibiotic resistance genes, genes suspected of coding for virulence factors, and genes suspected of helping N. seriolae adapt to its ocean environment.

The National Human Genome Research Institute's Elaine Ostrander and colleagues from the US, France, and the UK describe X chromosome genes involved in adding heft, muscle, and insulation to some large dog breeds. As they report in PLOS Genetics, the researchers applied a canine SNP array to 165 large dogs and 690 small dogs from 19 large dog breeds and 69 small dog breeds, respectively — part of a genome-wide association study for size-related genetic variants. Their search led to two large body size-linked loci on the X chromosome, while fine-mapping with data from 163 dog genome sequences highlighted three genes with apparent ties to dog mass, muscle bulk, and back fat patterns.

The Scan

Genetic Ancestry of South America's Indigenous Mapuche Traced

Researchers in Current Biology analyzed genome-wide data from more than five dozen Mapuche individuals to better understand their genetic history.

Study Finds Variants Linked to Diverticular Disease, Presents Polygenic Score

A new study in Cell Genomics reports on more than 150 genetic variants associated with risk of diverticular disease.

Mild, Severe Psoriasis Marked by Different Molecular Features, Spatial Transcriptomic Analysis Finds

A spatial transcriptomics paper in Science Immunology finds differences in cell and signaling pathway activity between mild and severe psoriasis.

ChatGPT Does As Well As Humans Answering Genetics Questions, Study Finds

Researchers in the European Journal of Human Genetics had ChatGPT answer genetics-related questions, finding it was about 68 percent accurate, but sometimes gave different answers to the same question.