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Working Out the Effect

One particular alteration in the SARS-CoV-2 genome is becoming more common, leading researchers to wonder what that change does, the Washington Post reports.

Northwestern University's Egon Ozer tells it that the initial SARS-CoV-2 strains seen in Chicago resembled those observed in China, but that viruses isolated later in the city were more similar to those from Europe and New York. The new strains had a particular mutation within the spike protein-encoding region, the Post says, adding that 70 percent of genomes uploaded to a viral database have this D614G change.

According to the Post, researchers around the US are trying to work out the ramifications of that change. One group led by Scripps Research's Hyeryun Choe reports in a BioRxiv preprint that the change enables the virus to better bind to ACE2 receptors on host cells, possibly making the virus more infectious. Another group led by Neville Sanjana at the New York Genome Center and New York University reports similar results in their own manuscript, though the Post notes that they and other researchers have differing thoughts on why the variant may lead to increased infectiousness.

However, it adds that others argue that this variant's new dominance could be due to a founder effect or just that most of the sequenced viruses are from Europe and the US.

The Scan

Germline-Targeting HIV Vaccine Shows Promise in Phase I Trial

A National Institutes of Health-led team reports in Science that a broadly neutralizing antibody HIV vaccine induced bnAb precursors in 97 percent of those given the vaccine.

Study Uncovers Genetic Mutation in Childhood Glaucoma

A study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation ties a heterozygous missense variant in thrombospondin 1 to childhood glaucoma.

Gene Co-Expression Database for Humans, Model Organisms Gets Update

GeneFriends has been updated to include gene and transcript co-expression networks based on RNA-seq data from 46,475 human and 34,322 mouse samples, a new paper in Nucleic Acids Research says.

New Study Investigates Genomics of Fanconi Anemia Repair Pathway in Cancer

A Rockefeller University team reports in Nature that FA repair deficiency leads to structural variants that can contribute to genomic instability.