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This Week in PLOS: Nov 2, 2015

In PLOS Genetics, researchers from the Broad Institute, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and elsewhere look at the types of loci that have been linked to heart conditions such as myocardial infarction and coronary artery disease. Using variants identified from past genome-wide association studies, together with information on DNA regulatory elements identified through efforts such as ENCODE and the National Institutes of Health Roadmap Epigenomics Project, the team saw that a significant proportion of SNPs involved in heart attack and heart disease risk fall near histone marks in regions with active enhancers, gene promoters, or other regulatory elements. The effect of such variants appears to be especially pronounced in some tissue, study authors say, including fat, brain, and spleen cells.

Blood plasma levels of 16 different metabolites may help in identifying individuals suffering from trypanosomiasis due to Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense, according to a PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases paper by an Imperial College London and University of Aberdeen team. Using a combination of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, liquid chromatography, and mass spectrometry, the researchers profiled metabolite levels in plasma samples from 46 Ugandan individuals with African trypanosomiasis and 21 unaffected individuals from the same health center. Their analysis uncovered seven plasma metabolites found in higher levels in those with trypanosomiasis and nine metabolites with reduced plasma representation in these patients. On the lipid plasma profiling side, meanwhile, the study authors highlight 37 markers that seem to be differentially expressed in those with human African trypanosomiasis.

Finally, Japanese researchers report on findings from a genome sequencing and comparative genomic study of Bacillus subtilis strains involved in fermented soybean foods in PLOS One. The team started with non-salted, fermented soybean food found in Southeast Asia, sequencing the genomes of eight B. subtilis strains isolated from these foods. When they set these sequences side-by-side and compared them to the genomes of a lab B. subtilis strain and a B. subtilis strain used to produce a non-salted, fermented soybean food from Japan called natto, authors of the study got a glimpse at genes that differed in the strains capable of soybean fermentation. Moreover, their multi-locus sequence typing-based phylogenetic analysis suggested such fermenters cluster across multiple groups.