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This Week in PNAS: Sep 4, 2018

Editor's Note: Some of the articles described below are not yet available at the PNAS site, but they are scheduled to be posted some time this week.

In a study slated to appear online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a Stanford University-led team describes a DNA vaccine-based approach for improving Duchenne muscular dystrophy symptoms in mice receiving gene therapy to replace mutated versions of the dystrophin gene with the help of the adeno-associated virus serotype-6 (AAV6) vector. Using plasmid DNA designed to dial down potential immune responses to the AAV6 vector or the wild type dystrophin, the researchers came up with a DNA vaccine that was injected into mouse model muscle tissue for a few months following the initial gene therapy in the animals, decreasing the animals' immune responses to the muscle force-improving gene replacement therapy.

Researchers from Russia and the US report on an apparent antimicrobial compound detected in saliva samples from East Siberian brown bears, Ursus arctos collaris. The team turned to an ultrahigh-throughput microfluidic droplet platform method to search for bacteria that could staunch the growth of Staphylococcus aureus pathogens. The strategy uncovered Bacillus pumilus strains that produce an antibiotic called amicoumacin A (Ami) with activity against S. aureus. With follow up analyses, including whole-genome sequencing on B. pumilus, the authors narrowed in on a gene cluster coding for Ami and characterized the compound's activity.

Finally, a team from the University of West Georgia, University of Bristol, and elsewhere explores body plan evolution in metazoan animals using a combination of body plan comparisons, phylogenetic relationships, gene regulatory network data, and more. For example, the researchers note that "'clumpiness' of morphospace occupation by living clades is a consequence of the extinction of phylogenetic intermediates, indicating that the original distribution of morphologies was more homogeneous." In particular, the results suggest that gene regulatory changes has been a key contributor to body plan evolution and diversity in metazoans.