New and Exciting in PLoS Community Journals

There are some interesting articles published in PLoS Genetics, Computational Biology, Pathogens and Neglected Tropical Diseases and these got my attention at the first glance – you look around for stuff you may be interested in:
Comparing Patterns of Natural Selection across Species Using Selective Signatures:

Natural selection promotes the survival of the fittest individuals within a species. Over many generations, this may result in the maintenance of ancestral traits (conservation through purifying selection), or the emergence of newly beneficial traits (adaptation through positive selection). At the genetic level, long-term purifying or positive selection can cause genes to evolve more slowly, or more rapidly, providing a way to identify these evolutionary forces. While some genes are subject to consistent purifying or positive selection in most species, other genes show unexpected levels of selection in a particular species or group of species–a pattern we refer to as the “selective signature” of the gene. In this work, we demonstrate that these patterns of natural selection can be mined for information about gene function and species ecology. In the future, this method could be applied to any set of related species with fully sequenced genomes to better understand the genetic basis of ecological divergence.

Evolution of Complex Modular Biological Networks:

The modular organization of cells is not immediately obvious from the network of interacting genes, proteins, and molecules. A new window into cellular modularity is opened up by genetic data that identifies pairs of genes that interact either directly or indirectly to provide robustness to cellular function. Such pairs can map out the modular nature of a network if we understand how they relate to established mathematical clustering methods applied to networks to identify putative modules. We can test the relationship between genetically interacting pairs and modules on artificial data: large networks of interacting proteins and molecules that were evolved within an artificial chemistry and genetics, and that pass the standard tests for biological networks. Modularity evolves in these networks in order to deal with a multitude of functional goals, with a degree depending on environmental variability. Relationships between genetically interacting pairs and modules similar to those displayed by the artificial gene networks are found in the protein-protein interaction network of baker’s yeast. The evolution of complex functional biological networks in silico provides an opportunity to develop and test new methods and tools to understand the complexity of biological systems at the network level.

Social Exclusion Modifies Climate and Deforestation Impacts on a Vector-Borne Disease:

American Cutaneous Leishmaniasis emergence has been associated with changes in the interaction between people and forests. The association between outbreaks and forest clearance, higher risk for populations living close to forests, and the absence of this disease from urban settings has led to the proposal that it will disappear with the destruction of primary forests. This view ignores the complex nature of deforestation as a product of socioeconomic inequities. Our study shows that such inequities, as measured by a marginalization index, may ultimately determine risk within the country, with socially excluded populations most affected by the disease. Contrary to the established view, living close to the forest edge can diminish the risk provided other factors are taken into account. Additionally, differences in vulnerability to climatic variability appear to interact with forest cover to influence risk across counties where the disease has its largest burden. Incidence exacerbation associated with El Niño Southern Oscillation is observed in counties with larger proportions of deforestation. Our study calls for control efforts targeted to socially excluded populations and for more localized ecological studies of transmission in vectors and reservoirs in order to understand the role of biodiversity changes in driving the emergence of this disease.

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