In this week's Science, a team of German and Australian scientists reports new data suggesting that, in fruit flies, mothers pass both genetic and epigenetic information to their offspring. The researchers found that Drosophila oocytes transmit the repressive histone mark H3K27me3 — which is required in the embryo to instruct future gene expression — to their offspring. Preventing propagation of maternally inherited H3K27me3 was found to cause earlier-than-usual gene activation in the embryo and death, while further investigation showed that maternally inherited H3K27me3 is essential at the early stages of embryo development for suppressing the Hox gene cluster.
And in Science Translational Medicine, a group led by Mayo Clinic investigators describes a new diagnostic for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) that can detect early-stage disease with 98 percent sensitivity and 87 percent specificity. The scientists first identified 107 secreted proteins as potential markers of PDAC using plasma samples from patients and healthy controls, then used gene expression data from the Cancer Genome Atlas to pinpoint one — THBS2 — as a marker for the disease. By combining this marker with another already in clinical use, the team developed a blood test they validated using samples from 197 PDAC patients, 140 healthy controls, and 200 people with non-cancer pancreatic disorders. The findings may represent a new opportunity to catch PDAC early in patients at high risk for the disease. GenomeWeb has more on this, here.