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This Week in PLOS: Jul 17, 2017

In PLOS Genetics, researchers from Yale University and Michigan State University report on relationships between transcriptomic and developmental patterns across different developmental stages in five Fusarium or Neurospora species of filamentous fungi from the Sordariomycetes class — an analysis that helped them retrace ancestral gene expression. The team used existing gene expression data, combined with results from knockout experiments and phenotypic profiling, to track gene expression evolution in the fungi as a means of creeping toward a more complete understanding of their gene function.

A Nagasaki University-led team outlines a linkage group selection-assisted strategy for finding malaria parasite genes involved in virulence or immunity. As they report in a PLOS Pathogens study, the researchers generated a hybrid parasite population by crossing slow- and intermediate-growing Plasmodium yoelii strains before applying selective pressure to the system and comparing genetic patterns in selected and unselected progeny. In those experiments, for example, they uncovered a single nucleotide mutation that appeared to impact red blood cell invasion, along with alterations that seem to influence interactions with the host immune system.

For a paper appearing in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, investigators in Iran and the UK describe a non-invasive method that uses tape strips and PCR to diagnose cutaneous leishmaniasis. After demonstrating the feasibility of detecting Leishmania DNA with sequential tape sampling and PCR analyses, the team used the approach to test active lesions, healed lesions, and/or uninfected skin areas from 88 more individuals with cutaneous leishmaniasis, as well as samples from dozens of healthy individuals or individuals with fungal infections. "The sequential tape stripping sampling method is a sensitive, non-invasive, and cost-effective alternative to traditional diagnostic assays," the authors note, "and it is suitable for field studies as well as for use in healthcare centers."