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This Week in PLOS: May 15, 2017

In PLOS Genetics, an international team led by investigators at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Case Western Reserve University reports on findings from genome-wide association study analyses aimed at findings loci linked to blood pressure and hypertension in individuals with African ancestry. Starting with data for nearly 32,000 individuals of African ancestry from 19 studies, the researchers narrowed in on 72 suspicious SNPs to take forward for replication testing in tens of thousands more individuals from African, East Asian, European, or Hispanic cohorts. Their search led to 11 SNPs at nine loci with ties to systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, and/or hypertension, including handful of new variants enriched in African populations.

French researchers explore meiotic crossover patterns in Brassica plant species for another PLOS Genetics paper. Informed by reference sequences for Brassica napus allotetraploids and the related diploid progenitor plants B. rapa and B. oleracea, the team used SNP markers to track thousands of crossover events in populations hybrid plants produced by crossing B. napus with B. rapa. Based on their results, the study's authors estimate that crossover events are between 1.7 times to 3.4 times more common in allotriploid hybrid plants than in diploid Brassica and typically coincided with broader changes in the landscape of recombination events. "These results offer the opportunity for geneticists and plant breeders to dramatically enhance the generation of new diversity," they write.

Finally, investigators from the UK and Canada consider population genomics and variation in the malaria-causing parasite Plasmodium vivax for a study appearing in PLOS One. The team sifted through genome sequences for 74 P. vivax isolates, narrowing in on the 46 highest quality P. vivax genomes from 10 countries. In addition to analyses of SNPs and other genomic variants, the group searched for signs of selection in the P. vivax genome, leading to selection hotspots spanning genes implicated in drug resistance and a range of other sequences. "[G]enomic diversity that lies within and between P. vivax populations can be used to elucidate potential drug resistance and invasion mechanisms," the researchers note, "as well as facilitate the molecular barcoding of the parasite for surveillance applications."