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This Week in PLOS: Mar 19, 2018

In PLOS Genetics, researchers from the University of Manchester explore non-coding RNA function in Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast using a set of barcoded gene deletion strains, each missing one of the 532 ncRNAs considered with the collection. After analyzing the growth patterns, fitness, and other phenotypes of haploid or diploid yeast strains missing one or both copies of each ncRNA, the team established a "Yeast ncRNA Analysis," or YNCA, database representing ncRNA functions under different conditions, including heat stress and diminished nutrient availability. It also highlighted a handful of essential ncRNAs not appreciated in the past. "Overall," the authors say, "these data significantly expand the information available on the function of ncRNAs in yeast."

A University of Melbourne-led team reports on transcriptomic profiles in the Plasmodium falciparum parasite isolates from individuals with malaria infections of varying severity for a paper appearing in PLOS Biology. With the help of RNA sequencing, the researchers profiled 44 P. falciparum isolates from infected patients in Indonesia, including isolates from 23 severe and 21 uncomplicated malaria cases. Based on data for 19 isolates from severe cases with sufficient expression data, they report transcriptomic changes pointing to a dip in glycolysis, chromatin structure shifts, histone methylation declines, and dialed down chaperone protein activity, along with waning representation of a certain cell surface proteins from the "P. falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1" (PfEMP1) set. "These novel, severe disease-associated PfEMP1 sequences could be useful for informing design of vaccines targeting severe malaria diseases," they write.

Researchers from Sweden and the UK describe low-frequency variants that are recurrently over-represented in Swedish individuals who develop colorectal cancer in a PLOS One study. Using exome array-based genotyping, the team tracked variant patterns in more than 12,100 unaffected individuals from Sweden and 1,515 individuals with the disease, including individuals from CRC-prone families. The search led to eight recurrent, low-frequency variants that were not previously implicated in CRC risk, while verifying ties between CRC and dozens of variants already associated with the cancer.