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This Week in PLOS: Jul 2, 2018

A team of researchers from India and Iran generated transcriptomic profiles of two types of chickpeas to tease out how they handle drought conditions. As they report in PLOS One, the researchers uncovered 4,572 differentially expressed genes —including 261 expressed in the shoots and 169 in the roots — between the Bivanij chickpea, which is tolerant of drought conditions, and the Hashem chickpea, which is sensitive to drought. These genes were involved in stress and defense response, and the researchers traced the genes and gene networks most important for drought resistance to the roots. In particular, the researchers say the transcription factors they found to vary between the strains in drought conditions could be candidates to target to improve drought resistance.

A trio of Princeton University researchers examined somatic mutations within Cys2His2 zinc finger genes in a new PLOS Computational Biology paper. In the 10,468 tumor samples from 32 cancer types they analyzed, the researchers uncovered two spots within the zinc finger domain that are recurrently mutated in uterine corpus endometrial carcinoma, colon and rectal adenocarcinomas, and skin cutaneous melanoma. These altered domains are thought to influence when and how the transcription factors bind DNA, suggesting that these mutations can alter gene function. "[W]e propose that mutations within these proteins contribute to the pervasive transcriptional dysregulation observed in cancer cells," the trio adds.

In a PLOS Neglected Tropical Disease paper, researchers from France and Algeria identify potential sand fly vectors and Leishmania species in northern Algeria, where human and canine leishmaniasis are endemic. They monitored four sites in the region and collected more than 4,000 sand flies (Phlebotomus) for analysis. Using DNA collected from the flies and their blood meals, the researchers identified flies belonging to seven species that had fed on both ruminants and humans. Two of the sand fly species were infected with Leishmania — 0.33 percent of P. (L.) perniciosus and 2.56 percent of P. (L.) perfiliewi. "Data reported here revealed the high abundance of Phlebotomus (Larroussius) species including major L. infantum vectors and the detection of the parasite among these latter."