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This Week in PLOS: Jun 15, 2015

In PLOS Genetics, researchers from Sweden, Finland, and the US report on genetic variants associated with canine autoimmune conditions called steroid-responsive meningitis-arteritis (SMRA) and immune-mediated rheumatic disease (IMRD), which resemble systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Based on candidate genes sequencing, SNP genotyping, and gene expression profiling of samples from 52 Nova Scotia duck tolling retrievers with IMRD, 66 dogs from the same breed with SRMA, and 132 healthy controls, the team uncovered several risky gene expression haplotypes involving 11 genes as well as alleles falling in the immune-related major histocompatibility complex II.

A Chinese team tracked cases of duck coronavirus known as DdCoV/GD/2014, which was recently detected in that country for a PLOS One study. Through sequencing of swabs from different parts of the birds as well as of fecal and drinking water samples from almost 3,600 ducks and chickens from markets, farms, and backyards flocks in five Chinese provinces, the researchers got a glimpse at the genomic features present in DdCoV, including unexpected tandem repeats in the RNA virus. They also established a clearer picture of relationships between the virus and those described in the past, showing that DdCoV belongs to a different lineage than an avian coronavirus from the Gammacoronavirus genus.

Finally, an international group led by investigators in the Netherlands and Spain describe findings from a study of ancient mitochondrial DNA from 10 sites in present-day Romania, representing individuals spanning a period that stretched from the early Neolithic, or Stone Age, into the Late Bronze Age. Based on mtDNA patterns found in 63 ancient individuals, the study's authors conclude that Stone Age farmers in the region appeared quite genetically distinct from populations in the region today, while individuals who migrated into Romania from the northwest during the Middle-Late Stone Age may have passed on more ancestry to present-day Europeans. Another team reporting in Nature presented their own analysis of Bronze Age Europeans last week.