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This Week in PLOS: Dec 8, 2014

In PLOS Genetics, researchers from the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service and elsewhere report on findings from their effort to characterize the genome, transcriptome, and secretome of Phlebiopsis gigantea, a white-rot fungus from the Agaricomycetes fungal class that can successfully set up shop in conifer material containing compounds that deter most other fungal species. Using a combination of sequencing and mass spectrometry, the team took a look at the fungus' genome sequence, expressed transcripts, and secreted compounds, comparing them to related species and considering the effects of pine extract on the pathogen's gene expression patterns.

A PLOS Neglected Tropical Disease study outlines improvements and upgrades to the original draft genome assemblies for Paracoccidioides, dimorphic fungal pathogen species that cause a South American tropical disease known as paracoccidioidomycosis. A team from Colombia and the US did deep Illumina genome re-sequencing on three strains of Paracoccidioides fungus, representing two different species. By incorporating this data into existing Sanger assemblies, the researchers were able to re-annotate the genomes and establish improved predictions about the pathogens' genes and transcripts, including those suspected of contributing to virulence.

Genetic patterns in a population of non-migratory humpback whales found in the Arabian Sea suggests the animals have low genetic diversity and high levels of isolation from other humpback whales. As they say in PLOS One, researchers from the US, Portugal, Oman, and elsewhere profiled microsatellite and mitochondrial sequences in tissue samples from 67 humpback whales in the Arabian Sea. Through comparisons with existing data on humpback whales in the Southern Hemisphere and North Pacific, the team estimates that the Arabian Sea population shares ancestry with humpback whales in the Southern Ocean, though it appears to have been isolated for up to 70,000 years. Based on the low levels of genetic diversity, limited population size, and potential environmental threats, the study's authors argue in favor of classifying the population as critically endangered rather than endangered (its current designation on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List).

The Scan

Support for Moderna Booster

An FDA advisory committee supports authorizing a booster for Moderna's SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, CNN reports.

Testing at UK Lab Suspended

SARS-CoV-2 testing at a UK lab has been suspended following a number of false negative results.

J&J CSO to Step Down

The Wall Street Journal reports that Paul Stoffels will be stepping down as chief scientific officer at Johnson & Johnson by the end of the year.

Science Papers Present Proteo-Genomic Map of Human Health, Brain Tumor Target, Tool to Infer CNVs

In Science this week: gene-protein-disease map, epigenomic and transcriptomic approach highlights potential therapeutic target for gliomas, and more