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This Week in PLOS: Apr 25, 2016

Mutations in the RNA-splicing gene SRSF1 prompt the progression of some small-cell lung cancer cases in individuals of Chinese ancestry, according to a PLOS Genetics study. When they sequenced the protein-coding and transcriptome sequences of primary tumors from 99 individuals with small-cell lung cancer, researchers from China and the US saw altered regulation and/or mutations of known tumor suppressor gene such as TP53 and RB1 in the majority of cases. But they also discovered ties between copy number gains or over-expression of SRSF1 and shorter-than-usual survival times in the group, suggesting alterations in the gene might provide prognostic information for the disease.

In PLOS Pathogens, researchers from the US, New Zealand, and South Africa explore the evolutionary history of polyomaviruses, a family of mammal- and bird-infecting DNA viruses that sometimes prompt tumor formation. Using database searches, combined with sequencing on new fresh fish samples, the team uncovered previously unknown polyomavirus species in an Antarctic perciform fish and in a giant guitarfish. With these and other polyomavirus sequences — including some found in spider and scorpion sequence data — the group put together a polyomavirus phylogeny that pointed to a long history for polyomaviruses in animals, where the viruses appear to diversify slowly within hosts and occasionally recombine with one another.

A University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center-led team did whole-genome sequencing on four pairs of colon adenoma and matched normal tissues to search for mutations involved in progression to colon cancer. As they report in PLOS One, the researchers identified a distinct mutational signature in half of the adenomas, or polyps, tested — results they verified through follow-up testing on another seven adenoma-matched normal pairs. Across all 11 adenoma samples, the team saw mutations affecting the TGF-beta-CEA pathway more than a third of the time, potentially leading to lower-than-usual tumor suppression.