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This Week in PLOS: Nov 19, 2018

In PLOS Genetics, researchers from Denmark, Norway, and elsewhere explore population genomic patterns in North America's grey wolf and related canid populations. Using 40 new and previously reported whole-genome sequences, representing grey, red, and Eastern timber/Great Lakes wolves, as well as coyotes and a jackal, the team found evidence for recent coyote-wolf admixture. It also describes a single shared common ancestor for canids in North America, which since split into nine population clusters, including three in the high arctic: East and West Arctic wolves in Arctic Canada and Polar wolves in Greenland and Ellesmere Island. "Overall," the authors write, "our study provides results for future research in canid evolution and relevant knowledge about North American grey wolves and wolf-like canids."

A Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention-led team takes a look at Bacillus anthracis genetics in northern China over time for a paper in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. The researchers considered 106 B. anthracis isolates collected in sites in six Chinese provinces with endemic anthrax cases between 1990 and 2016, focusing on 13 canonical SNPs and 15 multi-locus variable-number tandem repeats. Their analyses highlight five canonical SNP-based subgroups and three dozen multilocus variable-number tandem repeat analysis (MLVA) genotypes, including 21 genotypes not described in the past. "By [canonical SNP] analysis and MLVA, we found that the diversification of MLVA genotypes and the geographical distribution of B. anthracis populations is gradually becoming balances across northwestern China," they report.

For a paper appearing in PLOS One, the researchers from Korea describe mutations that appear to coincide with survival in lung adenocarcinoma. Using a machine learning approach, the team searched for specific gene mutations associated with patient outcomes in data for lung adenocarcinoma cases profiled for the Cancer Genome Atlas. "Mutations in DRD3, SETX, and ZNF560 showed significant positive association with survival in patients with [lung adenocarcinoma], while the opposite was true for mutations in DNAJC2, GMPPA, and MMRN2," the authors write, noting that mutation in all but ZNF560 showed similar ties to survival in a subsequent pan-lung cancer analysis.

The Scan

Machine Learning Helps ID Molecular Mechanisms of Pancreatic Islet Beta Cell Subtypes in Type 2 Diabetes

The approach helps overcome limitations of previous studies that had investigated the molecular mechanisms of pancreatic islet beta cells, the authors write in their Nature Genetics paper.

Culture-Based Methods, Shotgun Sequencing Reveal Transmission of Bifidobacterium Strains From Mothers to Infants

In a Nature Communications study, culture-based approaches along with shotgun sequencing give a better picture of the microbial strains transmitted from mothers to infants.

Microbial Communities Can Help Trees Adapt to Changing Climates

Tree seedlings that were inoculated with microbes from dry, warm, or cold sites could better survive drought, heat, and cold stress, according to a study in Science.

A Combination of Genetics and Environment Causes Cleft Lip

In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers investigate what combination of genetic and environmental factors come into play to cause cleft lip/palate.