In Nature Communications this week, a team from the University of Huddersfield reports on the sequencing of Ashkenazi mitochondrial DNA, finding that maternal Jewish lineages may have originated in Mediterranean Europe and not the Near East or Caucasus as some had thought. The scientists sequenced 74 mitochondrial genomes and analyzed more than 3,500 mitochondrial genomes from across Europe, the Caucasus, and the Near East to reconstruct Ashkenazi genealogical history. They found that at least 80 percent of the variation in Ashkenazi mitochondrial DNA has ancestry in prehistoric Europe, rather than the Near East or Caucasus — suggesting that female Ashkenazi Jews may have been assimilated in Europe around 2,000 years ago.
Meanwhile, in Nature Methods, a group from the University of Zurich publish a new automated method for measuring the expression of genes in thousands of single human cells. The approach involves scaling up single-molecule fluorescence in situ hybridization, or smFISH, to determine where RNA transcripts are located in the cell. The scientists used brighter than normal probes, which allowed them to perform rapid and robust low-magnification imaging of many more cells, quantify low-level expression accurately, and also investigate very short RNA transcripts. Their software, meanwhile, automatically outlines cells and nuclei, counts dots to quantify expression, and documents where transcripts are located in the cell.