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This Week in PNAS: Feb 28, 2017

In the early, online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the University of Vermont report on findings from an analysis of influenza A virus infection susceptibility in relation to Y chromosome variation in a mouse model. The team tracked response to influenza A virus challenge in male mice from a panel of mouse strains, using Y chromosome copy number information and array-based transcriptional profiling to follow gene expression in infected mouse lung tissue. The analysis suggested Y chromosome variation could affect mouse survival in the face of influenza A virus infection, hinting that susceptibility to other infectious diseases might share ties to variations in the male sex chromosome as well. 

An international team led by investigators in Germany and Finland describe a small deletion that appears capable of causing canine generalized myoclonic epilepsy, along with photosensitivity, in Rhodesian ridgeback dogs. The researchers used pedigree information, genotyping, exome sequencing, and/or whole-genome sequencing to narrow in on a four-base pair deletion in the DIRAS1 gene. "This study reveals a candidate gene for human myoclonic epilepsies," the authors note, "and a translational model to further elucidate the role of DIRAS1 in neurotransmission and neurodevelopment, and its modulation as a therapeutic option in common epilepsy."

Finally, investigators at Uppsala and Stanford Universities present evidence for sex bias in the ancient Eurasian migrations that took place during the Neolithic and Bronze Age. Using sex chromosome and autosomal chromosome sequence data generated from remains for 20 early Neolithic individuals and 16 late Neolithic/Bronze Age individuals, the team retraced admixture patterns in populations migrating from the Pontic-Caspian Steppe region. Although sex biases were not obvious during the early Neolithic period, the researchers estimated that some five to 14 men participated in the late Neolithic migrations for every woman who made the journey. "The contrasting patterns of sex-specific migration during these two migrations suggest that different sociocultural processes drove the two events," they write.