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New and Exciting in PLoS ONE

There are 21 new articles in PLoS ONE today. As always, you should rate the articles, post notes and comments and send trackbacks when you blog about the papers. You can now also easily place articles on various social services (CiteULike, Mendeley, Connotea, Stumbleupon, Facebook and Digg) with just one click. Here are my own picks for the week – you go and look for your own favourites:

Vertebrate DNA in Fecal Samples from Bonobos and Gorillas: Evidence for Meat Consumption or Artefact?:

Deciphering the behavioral repertoire of great apes is a challenge for several reasons. First, due to their elusive behavior in dense forest environments, great ape populations are often difficult to observe. Second, members of the genus Pan are known to display a great variety in their behavioral repertoire; thus, observations from one population are not necessarily representative for other populations. For example, bonobos (Pan paniscus) are generally believed to consume almost no vertebrate prey. However, recent observations show that at least some bonobo populations may consume vertebrate prey more commonly than previously believed. We investigated the extent of their meat consumption using PCR amplification of vertebrate mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) segments from DNA extracted from bonobo feces. As a control we also attempted PCR amplifications from gorilla feces, a species assumed to be strictly herbivorous. We found evidence for consumption of a variety of mammalian species in about 16% of the samples investigated. Moreover, 40% of the positive DNA amplifications originated from arboreal monkeys. However, we also found duiker and monkey mtDNA in the gorilla feces, albeit in somewhat lower percentages. Notably, the DNA sequences isolated from the two ape species fit best to the species living in the respective regions. This result suggests that the sequences are of regional origin and do not represent laboratory contaminants. Our results allow at least three possible and mutually not exclusive conclusions. First, all results may represent contamination of the feces by vertebrate DNA from the local environment. Thus, studies investigating a species’ diet from feces DNA may be unreliable due to the low copy number of DNA originating from diet items. Second, there is some inherent difference between the bonobo and gorilla feces, with only the later ones being contaminated. Third, similar to bonobos, for which the consumption of monkeys has only recently been documented, the gorilla population investigated (for which very little observational data are as yet available) may occasionally consume small vertebrates. Although the last explanation is speculative, it should not be discarded a-priori given that observational studies continue to unravel new behaviors in great ape species.

Hotspots of Large Rare Deletions in the Human Genome:

We have examined the genomic distribution of large rare autosomal deletions in a sample of 440 parent-parent-child trios from the Quebec founder population (QFP) which was recruited for a study of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. DNA isolated from blood was genotyped on Illumina Hap300 arrays. PennCNV combined with visual evaluation of images generated by the Beadstudio program was used to determine deletion boundary definition of sufficient precision to discern independent events, with near-perfect concordance between parent and child in about 98% of the 399 events detected in the offspring; the remaining 7 deletions were considered de novo. We defined several genomic regions of very high deletion frequency (‘hotspots’), usually of 0.4-0.6 Mb in length where independent rare deletions were found at frequencies of up to 100 fold higher than the average for the genome as a whole. Five of the 7 de novo deletions were in these hotspots. The same hotspots were also observed in three other studies on members of the QFP, those with schizophrenia, with endometriosis and those from a longevity cohort. Nine of the 13 hotspots carry one gene (7 of which are very long), while the rest contain no known genes. All nine genes have been implicated in disease. The patterns of exon deletions support the proposed roles for some of these genes in human disease, such as NRXN1 and PARKIN, and suggest limited roles or no role at all, for others, including MACROD2 and CTNNA3. Our results also offer an alternative interpretation for the observations of deletions in tumors which have been proposed as reflecting tumor-suppressive activity of genes in these hotspots.

Prevalence of Livestock-Associated MRSA in Communities with High Pig-Densities in The Netherlands:

Recently, livestock-associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus CC398 has been discovered in animals, livestock farmers and retail meat. This cross-sectional study aimed to determine the spread to persons not in direct contact with livestock in areas with a high density of pig farms. With a random mailing in 3 selected municipalities in the Netherlands, adult persons were asked to fill in a questionnaire and to take a nose swab. In total, complete information was obtained on 583 persons. Of the 534 persons without livestock-contact, one was positive for MRSA (0.2%; 95% confidence interval, <0.01-1.2). Of the 49 persons who did indicate to be working at or living on a livestock farm, 13 were positive for MRSA (26.5%; 95% confidence interval, 16.1-40.4). All spa-types belonged to CC398. Livestock-associated MRSA has a high prevalence in people with direct contact with animals. At this moment it has not spread from the farms into the community.