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This Week in PNAS: Sep 15, 2015

In the early, online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from Germany, Singapore, and the US present evidence suggesting both breastfeeding experience and genetic variation in the CD38 gene influence infants' attention to emotion in other people's eyes. Using a combination of CD38 genotypes and breastfeeding behavior reports for 98 seven-month-old infants, the team saw apparent differences in attention to social eye cues for infants carrying a CD38 polymorphism previously linked to autism and diminished oxytocin hormone availability. But such effects were partly modulated by breastfeeding experience, the study's authors say. "These findings underline the importance of maternal care and the oxytocin system in contributing to the early development of responding to social eye cues," they write.

A team from the US and China describe an apparent role for a microRNA called miR-150 in maintaining normal blood vessel repertoires in the retina of the eye and preventing excessive new blood vessel formation. In a mouse model, the researchers used an array-based approach to search for retinal miRNAs showing altered expression in mice with oxygen-induced retinopathy compared to those with normal retinal features. The search led to miR-150 — a miRNA that normally curbs excess retinal vessel formation, but is downregulated in mice with so-called pathologic ocular neovascularization.

Finally, State University of New York at Buffalo and Duke University researchers explore the features found in point centromeres compared to regional centromeres in the yeast model organism and opportunistic human pathogen Candida lusitaniae.  After narrowing in on centromere sites in the C. lusitaniae genome with chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing experiments targeting the centromere proteins Cse4 and Mif2, the team determined that the yeast's regional centromeres are not neighbored by tightly packed pericentromeric heterochromatin. As such, the study's authors explain, the work suggests that "although pericentromeric heterochromatin is generally important for promoting proper centromere function, it is not universally necessary."