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This Week in PLOS: Oct 15, 2018

In PLOS Genetics, researchers from Stanford University and the University of Virginia explore the mechanisms for genes previously implicated in coronary artery disease (CAD). Using a combination of in vitro smooth muscle cell experiments, RNA sequencing, and chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing, the team saw signs that coronary artery disease-related muscle damage may be mitigated by the process of de-differentiation — a process that appears to be influenced in opposing ways by the two genes considered. "We propose that the pro-differentiation action of SMAD3 inhibits de-differentiation that is required for [human coronary artery smooth muscle cells] to expand and stabilize disease plaque as they respond to vascular stresses," the authors write, "counteracting the protective de-differentiating activity of TCF21 and promoting disease risk." 

An Aarhus University-led team takes a look at rumen microbe and host genetic impacts on methane (CH4) emissions by dairy cows for another PLOS Genetics paper. Using 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequencing, the researchers profiled microbial representatives in rumen samples from 750 dairy cows from specific genotypes. Their results suggest that "individual variation in CH4 production was influenced by individual host (cow) genotype, as well as the host's rumen microbiome composition," the authors report, though the host cow's genetic influence on the rumen microbiome appear less likely to affect this methane emission variability.

A team from the Czech Republic, Germany, and the Netherlands presents findings from a genome sequencing analysis of yaws-causing Treponema strains for a paper appearing in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. The researchers focused on T. pallidum strains in the pertenue sub-species that were originally isolated in villages in Sumatra, Indonesia in 1990. After using short read, pooled sequencing to assess the Kampung Dalan K363 and Sei Geringging K403 strains, they compared the sequences to one another and to seven human- or baboon-infecting T. pallidum pertenue strains, considering relationships between them and characterizing modular genes in the treponeme genomes.