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This Week in PLOS: Jul 30, 2018

In PLOS Genetics, researchers from Washington University School of Medicine and the University of Colorado Boulder explore ties between complex traits and autozygosity, a form of homozygosity that involves blocks of identical sequence stretching back to a shared common ancestor in individuals with related parents. Using genome-wide array-based SNP data for between 100,000 and 400,000 UK Biobank participants, the team looked at potential links between more than two dozen complex traits and individuals' estimated autozygosity. The search pointed to significant associations between autozygosity levels and three of those complex traits, including two lung-related traits and a single reproductive trait. Even so, the authors caution that "some of the autozygosity-trait relationships were attenuated after controlling for background sociodemographic characteristics, suggesting that alternative explanations for these associations have not been eliminated."

A team from Beijing Forestry University describes potential salt tolerance markers in the Chinese rose, Rosa chinensis, identified with transcriptomic approaches for a PLOS One paper. The researchers did RNA sequencing on root and leaf samples from two types of R. chinensis — the salt-tolerant Tineke and salt-sensitive Hiogi varieties — grown under similar conditions for a year. In the salt-tolerant roses, they tracked down differentially expressed genes in pathways involved in abscisic acid signaling, plant hormone signal transduction, and glutathione metabolism, along with a handful of individual genes with enhanced expression in salt-tolerant Tineke roses exposed to salt stress.

For another paper appearing in PLOS One, researchers at China Agricultural University and Yunnan Agricultural University report on mitochondrial DNA profiles of horses from Tibet and beyond, which point to multiple maternal lineages in the Tibetan horse. The team sequenced hypervariable regions of the mitochondrial genome in more than 2,000 horses, including 272 horses from the Tibetan highland, 62 from northern China, and 387 from Yunnan province. By comparing these sequences to one another and to mitochondrial sequences from 1,235 domestic and 94 ancient horses from Asia, the investigators retraced relationships between horses from five Tibetan populations and their historical migration patterns. More broadly, the authors note, "our study demonstrated that modern Tibetan horse breeds originated from the introgression of local wild horses with exotic domesticated populations outside China."