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This Week in PNAS: Dec 23, 2014

Researchers led by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine's Bert Vogelstein estimate that only three driver mutations are needed for lung and colorectal cancer to develop, not the six or seven mutations that previous models suggested. As they report this week in the Proceedings of that National Academy of Sciences, Vogelstein and his colleagues drew on both genome-wide sequencing data and epidemiological studies to compare incidence data to somatic mutation rates for different patient groups. This, the researchers say, has implications for future cancer genome sequencing efforts.

A trio of researchers from Sweden used a phylogenetic approach to analyze retroviruses that have inserted themselves into vertebrate genomes. They found more than 36,000 endogenous retroviruses across the 65 vertebrate genomes they analyzed, finding that retroviruses are host generalists and that there are likely many more unknown retroviruses. GenomeWeb has more on these findings here.

Also in PNAS, researchers from the UK and elsewhere present their study of host specialization using subspecies of Salmonella enterica — a lineage with generalist species as well as ones adapted just to birds or cattle, for instance. They sequenced the genomes of some 60 isolates, and by analyzing them, the researchers were able to follow pseudogene formation and how that led to host-adapted pathogens. They further note that specialist subspecies like S. Gallinarum and S. Pullorum lost some metabolic capabilities. "[S]hedding light on how human and animal pathogens arose in the past [could allow] us to predict how emerging pathogens will evolve in the future," the researchers say.

The Scan

Interfering With Invasive Mussels

The Chicago Tribune reports that researchers are studying whether RNA interference- or CRISPR-based approaches can combat invasive freshwater mussels.

Participation Analysis

A new study finds that women tend to participate less at scientific meetings but that some changes can lead to increased involvement, the Guardian reports.

Right Whales' Decline

A research study plans to use genetic analysis to gain insight into population decline among North American right whales, according to CBC.

Science Papers Tie Rare Mutations to Short Stature, Immunodeficiency; Present Single-Cell Transcriptomics Map

In Science this week: pair of mutations in one gene uncovered in brothers with short stature and immunodeficiency, and more.