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This Week in PLOS: Dec 28, 2015

In PLOS One, researchers from Portugal, France, France, and the UK explore genetic diversity patterns in domesticated rabbits. Based on microsatellite marker patterns for 471 representatives from 16 domestic rabbit breeds and more than a dozen wild rabbits from France or Iberia, the team estimated that rabbit genetic diversity dropped by roughly one-fifth during the process of domestic breed formation. Though the investigators didn't see deep population structure across the wild and domestic rabbits, their results did reveal more subtle genetic differences between breeds as well as within-breed variation related to color, country of origin, and other features. "These additional layers of population structure within breeds should be taken into account in future mapping studies," they write.

A PLOS Genetics paper by a University of California, Los Angeles-led team considers atherosclerosis-related genetic structure in more than 100 inbred mouse strains. After inducing unusually high lipid levels in genetically characterized mice from the Hybrid Mouse Diversity Panel through transgenic expression of lipid-influencing human genes, the researchers followed and compared lipid, blood glucose, insulin, and other features involved in coronary artery disease risk in offspring of these animals. They were then able to perform an association analysis to uncover sequence variants linked to phenotypes relevant to heart disease. "[O]ur data provide a detailed overview of the genetic architecture of atherosclerosis in mice and a rich resource for studies of the complex genetic and metabolic interactions that underlie the disease," the authors note.

Finally, members of the Cysticercosis Working Group in Peru reporting in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases describe microsatellite markers they detected in the seizure-causing parasitic tapeworm Taenia solium. The team sequenced and assembled two draft genomes and one hybrid genome using DNA from T. solium samples collected at sites in Peru. Starting from the thousands of microsatellites identified in each of the genomes, the study's authors narrowed in on three-dozen microsatellite markers that they subsequently used to distinguish between genetic clusters of T. solium parasites from northern and southern Peru.