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This Week in PNAS: Nov 3, 2015

In the early, online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the US and the UK describe altered expression of a gene that appears to contribute to anemia in individuals with myelodysplastic syndrome. Given the poor prognostic features previously linked to chromosome 7 deletions in myelodysplastic syndrome, the team scrutinized expression of a gene in that region called DOCK4. Using gene expression profiles generated for CD34+ cells in bone marrow from 183 individuals with various myelodysplastic syndrome subtypes, the study's authors saw muted DOCK4 expression in those with chromosome 7 deletions and/or refractory anemia. And their follow-up experiments indicated that this effect is likely due to red blood cell defects stemming from actin filament changes that occur when DOCK4 expression declines.

A University of Oslo- and Oslo University Hospital-led team takes a look at ties between genetic organization and cortical thickness in brain scan samples taken over time in almost 1,000 healthy individuals between the ages of four years and more than 88 years old and in hundreds of middle-aged identical or non-identical twin pairs. From this data, the team determined that cortical thickness tends to decline with age, though this effect varied by brain region in a manner that seemed to coincide with the genetic organization in these regions. "Cortical changes due to maturation and adult age changes adhered to the genetic organization of the cortex," authors of the study note, "indicating that individual differences in cortical architecture in middle-aged adults have a neurodevelopmental origin and that genetic factors affect cortical changes through life."

Finally, researchers participating in the Hepatovirus Ecology Consortium describe findings from an effort to track down new and known hepatoviruses in small mammals from around the world. Through nested RT-PCR testing on nearly 16,000 blood, tissue, or fecal samples from 209 rodent, shrew, hedgehog, tenrec, and bat species, the team identified 117 hepatovirus-positive samples — a set that included 13 new Hepatovirus species. From phylogenetic and other analyses, the group defined seven hepatovirus clades, uncovering clues to the emergence of human hepatitis A virus. GenomeWeb has more on the study, here.