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This Week in Science: Feb 1, 2013

In Science this week, a research team led by University of Utah and University of Copenhagen scientists publish the genomes of the domestic rock pigeon as well as 36 other breeds and two wild species of the bird, offering insights into how the animals evolved. The investigators found that most pigeon breeds originated in the Middle East, and that escaped birds of a racing breed contributed to North American populations. They also identified a gene, EphB2, as playing a key role in the development of head crests and noted that this trait evolved just once and spread through the species.

Our sister publication GenomeWeb Daily News has more on the pigeon genome and its head crests here.

Also in Science, scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University introduce a new technique that combines the benefits of microscopy, which can provide spatiotemporal information in living cell — but only for a few recombinant proteins — and mass spectrometry, which can detect thousands of endogenous proteins at once — but only in lysed sampes. The new method is based on "a genetically targetable peroxidase enzyme that biotinylates nearby proteins, which are subsequently purified and identified" by mass spec. The approach was used by the team to identify 495 proteins within the human mitochondrial matrix, including 31 not previously linked to mitochondria with exceptional specificity.

The Scan

Machine Learning Helps ID Molecular Mechanisms of Pancreatic Islet Beta Cell Subtypes in Type 2 Diabetes

The approach helps overcome limitations of previous studies that had investigated the molecular mechanisms of pancreatic islet beta cells, the authors write in their Nature Genetics paper.

Culture-Based Methods, Shotgun Sequencing Reveal Transmission of Bifidobacterium Strains From Mothers to Infants

In a Nature Communications study, culture-based approaches along with shotgun sequencing give a better picture of the microbial strains transmitted from mothers to infants.

Microbial Communities Can Help Trees Adapt to Changing Climates

Tree seedlings that were inoculated with microbes from dry, warm, or cold sites could better survive drought, heat, and cold stress, according to a study in Science.

A Combination of Genetics and Environment Causes Cleft Lip

In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers investigate what combination of genetic and environmental factors come into play to cause cleft lip/palate.