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This Week in PLOS: Jul 18, 2016

In PLOS Pathogens, researchers from the US, Sweden, and Denmark describe genetic and other host factors influencing susceptibility to necrotizing soft tissue infections caused by invasive group A Streptococcus in mice. The team used a forward systems genetics approach to screen recombinant inbred mouse strains with varying susceptibility to group A Streptococcus infection. The search uncovered mouse quantitative trait loci that influenced necrotizing soft tissue infection features ranging from lesion size to survival outcomes, along with hundreds of genes suspected of being influenced by these QTLs — including genes with ties to inflammation, innate immune functions, cell growth, cell death, and development.

A PLOS One paper by a team from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences outlines transcript and gene expression patterns present in the salivary glands of a rice pest called the white-backed planthopper, Sogatella furcifera. Using RNA sequencing on salivary gland samples from adult white-backed planthoppers, the researchers uncovered nearly 65,600 transcripts, representing more than 51,800 individual genes. Their subsequent analyses — which included comparisons with available protein and nucleotide sequence data for other insects from the hemipteran order — led to 32 salivary protein genes in the white-backed planthopper. Genes for four of those proteins were most prominently expressed in the insect's salivary gland.

Investigators from China and Denmark parse the potential for low-coverage genome sequencing to pick up fetal copy number variants from plasma DNA during non-invasive prenatal testing for another PLOS One study. The team did low-coverage genome sequencing on more than 900 archived maternal blood plasma samples for which karyotyping and/or microarray results were available. The sequencing-based approach detected deletions or duplications spanning one to 129 million bases of sequence in 33 of the samples. Compared with the karyotyping or array results, this testing approach produced 10 false-positive results and two false-negative, the study's author note, corresponding to just over 84 percent sensitivity and more than 98 percent specificity for finding such deletions or duplications.