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This Week in PLOS: Jan 8, 2018

Italian and American researchers, reporting in PLOS Pathogens, provide insights on a microRNA that appears to dissuade the immune system from performing autophagy in human dendritic cells infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis. With array- and quantitative PCR-based analyses, the team followed miRNA expression at three, eight, and 24 hours after M. tuberculosis infection in dendritic cells, identifying dozens of differentially expressed miRNAs. Folding in functional information led them to miR-155, a miRNA targeting autophagy-related proteins that got an expression boost during tuberculosis infection. The authors argue that these and miR-155 experimental results "contribute to better elucidate [M. tuberculosis]-triggered escape mechanisms and highlight the importance to develop host-directed therapies to combat tuberculosis based on autophagy boosting."

In PLOS One, a team from Lithuania and Spain describes the potential application of genome-scale metabolic models, or GSMMs, to drug design. In general, GSMMs tally an organism's metabolic reactions — information that can inform everything from disease biology to potential drug response, the researchers say. For their proof-of-principle analysis, they tapped into RNA sequence data for 34 cancer cell lines and more than two dozen healthy tissue samples for GSMM-informed analyses aimed at finding anticancer effects for compounds in the DrugBank database. 

Researchers from the US and Chile explore the microbial constituents of manure-based fertilizers at California dairy farms for a paper appearing in PLOS One. Using 16S ribosomal RNA sequencing, the team profiled microbial members in nearly three dozen solid and liquid manure samples from dairy farms in three counties in California's Central Valley. The authors identified more than 1,800 microbial taxa across the samples, including some bugs that were present in both liquid and solid manure samples and others — such as Sulfuriomonas or Thermos species — that were exclusive to a single manure type. "These findings suggest that the mode of manure application … could have potential impact on the microbiome of cropland receiving manure as fertilizers," they write.