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This Week in Science : May 12, 2017

In this week's Science, a University of California, Los Angeles-led research group reports on the identification of a gene in Caenorhabditis elegans that protects embryos from a toxic protein passed down from mothers. Specifically, they found that toxic products from a gene called sup-35 is deposited into fertilized eggs and will cause death in embryos that don't express a gene called pha-1. While it had previously been thought that pha-1 was essential for pharynx development based on its mutant phenotype, this phenotype actually arises from a loss of suppression of sup-35 toxicity. The findings suggest that other essential genes identified by genetic screens may turn out to be components of selfish elements.

And in Science Translational Medicine, a multi-institute research team describes combining electronic medical records with patient genetic data to identify diseases associated with variants in human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes. The scientists used anonymized medical records and DNA sequence data from Vanderbilt University Medical Center's BioVU, including data for 28,839 individuals, and the Marshfield Clinic's Personalized Medicine Research Project, which included an additional 8,431 subjects. By joining these data sets, they were able to uncover links between different HLA types and multiple autoimmune-related diseases including type I diabetes and ankylosing spondylosis, as well as validate connections between forms of HLA and multiple sclerosis and cervical cancer.

The Scan

Machine Learning Helps ID Molecular Mechanisms of Pancreatic Islet Beta Cell Subtypes in Type 2 Diabetes

The approach helps overcome limitations of previous studies that had investigated the molecular mechanisms of pancreatic islet beta cells, the authors write in their Nature Genetics paper.

Culture-Based Methods, Shotgun Sequencing Reveal Transmission of Bifidobacterium Strains From Mothers to Infants

In a Nature Communications study, culture-based approaches along with shotgun sequencing give a better picture of the microbial strains transmitted from mothers to infants.

Microbial Communities Can Help Trees Adapt to Changing Climates

Tree seedlings that were inoculated with microbes from dry, warm, or cold sites could better survive drought, heat, and cold stress, according to a study in Science.

A Combination of Genetics and Environment Causes Cleft Lip

In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers investigate what combination of genetic and environmental factors come into play to cause cleft lip/palate.