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This Week in PLOS: Sep 28, 2015

In PLOS Genetics, researchers from the University of Washington, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and San Diego State University present the draft genome sequence of a haptophyte algal species called Chrysochromulina tobin. Together with transcriptomes produced at seven different time points across a daylong light/dark cycle, the 59 million-base genome offered a look at the microalgae's protein-coding repertoire — including genes that are regulated on a circadian cycle and sequences coding for potential toxins or antibiotic compounds. In particular, the team notes, "a day-night cycle … significantly impacts the expression of algal genes whose products are responsible for synthesizing fats — a rich source of nutrition for many other organisms."

A team from Algeria and Spain explores the genetic heterogeneity in four Algerian populations: the Oran, Algiers, Reguibate, and Zenata. As they report in PLOS One, the researchers did mtDNA genotyping on 336 individuals and Y chromosome genotyping on 201 individuals, coupled with genome-wide autosomal markers for a subset of the individuals. Their results suggest geography and linguistics do not track with Algeria's genetic heterogeneity, arguing against the notion that genetic isolation has occurred in the country's Berber groups. "The genetic heterogeneity among Algerian populations highlights the complex relations between biological, social, cultural, and geographical contexts," the researchers write.

For another PLOS One paper, a National Taiwan University-led team search for SNPs associated with autism spectrum disorder in individuals from a Taiwanese Han population. Starting with 315 individuals with ASD and 1,115 unaffected individuals, the researchers carried out a two-stage genome-wide association study for the neurodevelopmental condition. Their subsequent fine-mapping analyses indicated that seven suspicious SNPs from the discovery stage of the study did not reach genome-wide significance, though they did hint that olfactory and G protein-coupled receptor signaling pathways may play a role in ASD in the Taiwanese Han population.