In Science this week, a group of French and US scientists report new details about the factors that determine the sites of retrotransposon integration. They describe an interaction between the Ty1 retrotransposon of the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and an RNA polymerase III subunit called AC40, showing that AC40 is the predominant determinant targeting Ty1 integration upstream of Pol III-transcribed genes. Lack of an integrase-AC40 interaction dramatically alters target site choice, leading to a redistribution of Ty1 insertions in the genome. This mechanism of target specificity allows Ty1 to proliferate while minimizing genetic damage to its host, the researchers say.
Also in Science, Michael Halpern of the Center for Science and Democracy and Pennsylvania State University researcher Michael Mann argue that while open records laws are vital to maintaining transparency at public institutions such as universities, they have the potential to be used to harass academics. Requests by activists for records of discussions between scientists, as well as for preliminary paper drafts and private criticism from colleagues contained in emails, can be used to intimidate, disrupt research, and discourage investigation into contentious topics, the duo says in an editorial. As such, universities should adopt standards for addressing such requests and legislatures should enact laws that protect faculty correspondence when disclosure would compromise the conduct of science, Halpern and Mann say.