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This Week in PLOS: Nov 6, 2017

In PLOS One, researchers from Shandong Provincial Hospital in China consider circular RNAs present in infantile hemangiomas, relatively common non-cancerous tumors in infants that form blood vessels. Using expression arrays, the team assessed circRNA, microRNA, and messenger RNA levels in infantile hemangioma and matched normal samples from four affected children, verifying circRNA expression patterns of interest with reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction. Along with insights into the circRNA-miRNA-mRNA networks behind the benign tumors, the analysis highlighted hundreds of circRNAs found at higher- or lower-than-usual levels in the infantile hemangioma samples.

A team from Norway and the US explores relationships between the common raven (Corvus corax), Chihuahuan raven (C. cryptoleucus) and brown-necked raven (C. ruficollis) species for another PLOS One paper. Based on mitochondrial genome sequences generated by long-range PCR amplification and Ion Torrent IonPGM sequencing for a dozen common ravens, three Chihuahuan ravens, and one brown-necked raven, the researchers saw close genetic ties between the common and Chihuahuan raven species, offering clues to ravens' relationships and speciation history. In particular, the authors note that "[raven] mitogenomes support previously found deep lineages and paraphyly in the common raven/Chihuahuan rave species complex."

Washington University investigators and colleagues from the US and Korea search for mutations in neurodegeneration-associated Mendelian genes in individuals with Alzheimer's disease for paper appearing in PLOS Genetics. By sifting through targeted, exome, and/or whole genome sequence data for 11,710 individuals with sporadic Alzheimer's disease and affected individuals from hundreds of families prone to the neurodegenerative condition, the team looked for pathogenic or relatively low frequency alterations involving genes implicated in Alzheimer's disease, frontotemporal lobar degeneration, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Parkinson's disease. The search uncovered pathogenic mutations in more than 1 percent of the sporadic cases and more than 4 percent of those from Alzheimer's-affected families.