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This Week in PLOS: Dec 22, 2014

In PLOS Genetics, a German-led research team describes ties between the RARRES2 gene and serum levels of chemerin, an obesity and chronic inflammation-related adipokine secreted into the bloodstream from fat tissue. The team performed a meta-analysis of genotyping data for nearly 2,800 individuals enrolled through three large European cohorts with known serum chemerin concentration levels and other obesity-related assessments. After testing transcript levels in blood samples from a subset of individuals with or without SNPs suspected of influencing chemerin levels, investigators narrowed in on a variant influencing serum chemerin via regulation of RARRES2 expression in adipose tissue.

Swedish researchers present a one-step real-time RT-PCR assay for detecting dengue viruses in patient serum samples. The team used more than 3,300 dengue virus genome sequences to come up with primer and probe designs for the assay, which targets a 3' untranslated region of the dengue virus sequence. The study's authors validated the RT-PCR assay using experiments done with lab strains of the virus, in vitro transcribed RNA, more than 150 clinical samples, and archived serum samples, demonstrating that the test appears to be as accurate as existing antigen-based tests for dengue virus. "The validation of the RT-PCR assay presented here indicates that this technique can be a reliable diagnostic tool," they write, "and hence we suggest that it be introduced as the method of choice during the first [five] days of dengue symptoms."

A study appearing in PLOS One highlights dozens of frequently mutated genes found in forms of the liver cancer hepatocellular carcinoma that involve infection with hepatitis B. Researchers from Korea and the US performed exome sequencing and array-based expression profiling on previously frozen matched tumor and normal samples from a dozen individuals with hepatitis B virus-related hepatocellular carcinoma at early or advanced disease stages. Their results point to 48 genes showing recurrent genetic glitches and expression shifts in the liver tumors, together with an apparent over-representation of alterations affecting a portion of chromosome 1. The study's authors also saw frequent changes to genes in cell cycle regulation, cytoskeletal organization, and other pathways.

The Scan

Pfizer-BioNTech Seek Full Vaccine Approval

According to the New York Times, Pfizer and BioNTech are seeking full US Food and Drug Administration approval for their SARS-CoV-2 vaccine.

Viral Integration Study Critiqued

Science writes that a paper reporting that SARS-CoV-2 can occasionally integrate into the host genome is drawing criticism.

Giraffe Species Debate

The Scientist reports that a new analysis aiming to end the discussion of how many giraffe species there are has only continued it.

Science Papers Examine Factors Shaping SARS-CoV-2 Spread, Give Insight Into Bacterial Evolution

In Science this week: genomic analysis points to role of human behavior in SARS-CoV-2 spread, and more.