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This Week in PNAS: May 16, 2017

In the early, online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from Iowa State University describe insights from a functional genomic study on the effects of anti-parasitic drugs called anthelmintics on Brugia malayi, a nematode worm that causes elephantiasis. Using a combination of single-cell PCR amplification, muscle cell patch clamp experiments, motility studies, RNA interference, and other approaches, the team detected anthelmintic response activity involving four nicotine acetylcholine receptors. "These four receptors are distinct druggable targets with different physiological functions," the authors note.

Researchers from Stanford University, the University of Manitoba, and the University of Michigan present evidence that linkage disequilibrium patterns can be used to match up genotyping profiles from the same individuals, even when those records stem from distinct genetic markers. With data for 872 individuals, for example, the team demonstrated that it could match genome-wide SNP genotypes up with more than a dozen short tandem repeat profiles between 90 percent and 98 percent of the time. That proportion jumped to more than 99 percent when sequences at additional short tandem repeats were available. "Our method expands the potential of data aggregation, but it also suggests privacy risks intrinsic in maintenance of databases containing even small numbers of markers — including databases of forensic significance," the authors note.

Finally, an international team led by investigators at the University at Buffalo outlines evolutionary insights gleaned from a long-read genome assembly for a carnivorous plant called the humped bladderwort, Utricularia gibba. Using Pacific Biosciences single-molecule, real-time sequencing reads, the researchers put together an updated and more complete assembly for the plant, which they tapped for analyses of its ancestral chromosomes, adaptations, and duplication history. In particular, the authors note that relatively small tandem duplicates appear to be "essential elements in the bladderwort's carnivorous adaptation."