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This Week in PLOS: Feb 29, 2016

Small molecule metabolites present in the blood may serve as useful biomarkers of disease progression and outcomes for those with dengue virus infections, according to a study in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. Members of an international research team used hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography to identify small molecule metabolites present in the blood serum of dozens of dengue-infected individuals in Nicaragua and Mexico. The search uncovered metabolite shifts associated with progression to dengue fever and dengue hemorrhagic fever/dengue shock syndrome, as well as metabolites with apparent ties to severe dengue infection outcomes. "These results provide proof-of-concept that a metabolomics approach can be used to identify metabolites or [small molecule biomarkers] in serum specimens that are associated with distinct [dengue virus] infections and disease outcomes," the study's authors say.

In PLOS Pathogens, UK researchers use a combination of RNA sequencing and ribosome profiling to track gene expression and translation over time in Murine coronavirus, a mouse model for RNA coronaviruses capable of causing human infections such as SARS coronavirus or the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus. "The sensitivity and precision of the approach permitted us to uncover several unanticipated features of coronavirus translation, giving insights into ribosomal frameshifting, ribosome pausing, and utilization of short, potentially regulatory, upstream open reading frames," the authors say.

A team from Germany and Spain explores diversity patterns in bacteria from the Pseudomonas fluorescens complex for a PLOS One paper. Using a combination of multi-locus sequence typing and whole-genome sequencing, the researchers put together eight phylogenomic groups from nearly 100 sequenced P. fluorescens complex strains, including 69 species and 75 sub-species. The strains shared more than 1,300 protein-coding genes in their core genome, they report, though the pan-genome encompassed nearly 31,000 orthologous coding sequences. The analyses also took into account group-specific genomes.