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This Week in PLOS: Feb 25, 2019

In PLOS Genetics, a team from China, Germany, and the US explores a potential role for the VGLL4 Hippo pathway transcription co-factor-coding gene in heart valve function in the mouse model organism. Using a fluorescent, reporter version of the VGLL4 enzyme and Cre recombinase enzyme-based approach for knocking VGLL4 out in specific cell lineages, the investigators saw heart valve malformations in mice missing VGLL4 from the endothelial cell lineage, and traced an uptick in VGLL4 expression to the post-endothelial-to-mesenchymal transition stage in the reporter mice. From these and other results, the authors suggest that the Hippo pathway may have a "critical role in valve remodeling, maturation, and homeostasis," noting that "mutations in VGLL4 may underlie human congenital heart valve dysplasia."

James Cook University researchers report on results from a genetic survey of the Buruli ulcer skin disease-causing Mycobacterium ulcerans pathogen and its potential mosquito carriers in northern Queensland, Australia in a PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases paper. After trapping some 16,900 mosquitoes from 845 population pools, along with nearly 300 March flies, from an area known to be endemic for Buruli ulcer, the team used PCR to screen for M. ulcerans. In the process, the authors narrowed in on seven M. ulcerans-positive mosquito pools but no March fly samples with detectable levels of the pathogen's DNA, though they note that "all three [PCR] targets … were detected from only one of these seven pools."

A team from Japan searches for possible ties between gut microbe community profiles, colorectal adenoma, and intra-mucosal colorectal carcinoma for a PLOS One study. Using 16S ribosomal RNA gene hyper-variable region sequencing, the researchers assessed fecal samples from 47 Japanese individuals with colorectal adenoma, two dozen CRC patients, and 10 healthy control individuals. Whereas Fusobacterium species such as F. nucleatum or F. periodonticum turned up in the majority of the healthy gut microbiomes, they found that F. varium microbes previously associated with advanced CRC were far more common in gut microbial communities from colorectal adenoma or intra-mucosal CRC patients compared with the unaffected controls.