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This Week in PLOS: Oct 23, 2017

A team from Germany and Denmark explores gene flow patterns in common ash (Fraxinus excelsior) plants growing in an isolated and fragmented German forest. As they explain in PLOS One, the researchers considered more than a dozen microsatellite markers in leaf, bud, and/or embryo tissue from trees documented as male, female, or hermaphrodite. Although they saw significant pollen flow from outside the fragmented forest sampling site, only a fraction appeared to stem from neighboring cultivated trees. Based on genetic diversity and gene flow models for hundreds of cultivated or native common ash trees, the authors estimate that trees within the forest were parental to roughly 55 percent to 64 percent of seeds and between 75 percent and 98 percent of seedlings.

For another PLOS One paper, researchers from Spain and Mexico trace microRNA expression in solid or cystic ameloblastomas, a group of typically benign neoplasms involving tissues normally tasked with tooth development. Using TaqMan low-density arrays, the team assessed miRNA expression in eight solid or multicystic ameloblastomas, eight samples from unicystic forms of the disease, and eight unaffected control samples. The search led to suspicious miRNAs that were subsequently assessed in dozens more cases or controls, highlighting 40 differentially expressed miRNAs in the ameloblastomas.

In PLOS Genetics, an international team led by investigators in Germany and the US present a set of new recommendations for those doing morpholino-based targeted mutagenesis in zebrafish and dealing with potential off-target effects in the model organism, setting out a flow chart for studying gene function with the morpholino approach. The paper "provides an updated set of guidelines regarding the use of [morpholinos] in zebrafish that we anticipate will be of value for experimentalists as well as journal and grant reviewers, and decision makers," the authors say.

The Scan

Machine Learning Helps ID Molecular Mechanisms of Pancreatic Islet Beta Cell Subtypes in Type 2 Diabetes

The approach helps overcome limitations of previous studies that had investigated the molecular mechanisms of pancreatic islet beta cells, the authors write in their Nature Genetics paper.

Culture-Based Methods, Shotgun Sequencing Reveal Transmission of Bifidobacterium Strains From Mothers to Infants

In a Nature Communications study, culture-based approaches along with shotgun sequencing give a better picture of the microbial strains transmitted from mothers to infants.

Microbial Communities Can Help Trees Adapt to Changing Climates

Tree seedlings that were inoculated with microbes from dry, warm, or cold sites could better survive drought, heat, and cold stress, according to a study in Science.

A Combination of Genetics and Environment Causes Cleft Lip

In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers investigate what combination of genetic and environmental factors come into play to cause cleft lip/palate.