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This Week in PNAS: Oct 10, 2017

A team from Ghent University, Dokuz Eylül University, and elsewhere present findings from a genome and transcriptome sequencing study of the wild olive tree, oleaster (Olea europaea var. sylvestris). With shotgun DNA sequence reads and RNA sequences from four wild olive tissues, the researchers put together and annotated a 1.48 billion base draft genome for oleaster, containing more than 50,000 predicted protein-coding genes. They also saw signs of at least two whole-genome duplications in the oleaster lineage — one occurring 28 million years ago and another stretching back 59 million years. "These events contributed to the expansion and neofunctionalization of genes and gene families that play important roles in oil biosynthesis," the authors wrote, pointing to the functional diversification of FAD2, SACPD2, and other genes that contribute to the production of oleic and linoleic acids.

Investigators in China and the US compare angiosperm species and phylogenetic diversity in eastern Asia and eastern North America by bringing together published data on species and phylogenetic groups present at sites with comparable environments in a dozen Chinese provinces and 31 states in the US. The team found that angiosperm diversity in eastern Asia eclipsed that at eastern North American sites, even after adjusting for climate and other features of the sampling areas. "The anomaly in species and phylogenetic diversity likely resulted from differences in regional processes, related in part to high climatic and topographic heterogeneity, and a strong monsoon climate, in [eastern Asia]," the group writes.

Finally, researchers from the University of Miami and Scripps Florida describe apparent epigenetic and gene expression effects of a small-molecule histone deacetylase inhibitor M344 in Alzheimer's disease. After assessing M344 activity against a handful of histone deacetylase enzymes, the team tracked Alzheimer's-related gene activity in a cell line and in a mouse model of the disease following treatment with M344. Based on findings from these and other experiments, the authors argue that M344 "favorably addresses a number of key genes reported to be involved in early- and late-onset [Alzheimer's disease] pathogenesis and attenuates cognitive decline in a chronically treated [Alzheimer's disease] mouse model."

The Scan

Cancer Survival Linked to Mutational Burden in Pan-Cancer Analysis

A pan-cancer paper appearing in JCO Precision Oncology suggests tumor mutation patterns provide clues for predicting cancer survival that are independent of other prognostic factors.

Australian Survey Points to Public Support for Genetic Risk Disclosure in Relatives of At-Risk Individuals

A survey in the European Journal of Human Genetics suggests most adult Australians are in favor of finding out if a relative tests positive for a medically actionable genetic variant.

Study Links Evolution of Stony Coral Skeleton to Bicarbonate Transporter Gene

A PNAS paper focuses on a skeleton-related bicarbonate transporter gene introduced to stony coral ancestors by tandem duplication.

Hormone-Based Gene Therapy to Sterilize Domestic Cat

A new paper in Nature Communication suggests that gene therapy could be a safer alternative to spaying domestic cats.