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Cell Studies Tackle Tissue Clones, Ocean Microbes, Polygenic Trait Prediction

Researchers from the University of British Columbia, BC Cancer Research Centre, and elsewhere share findings from a single-cell sequencing-based analysis of clones in several tissue types. The team brought together scalable single-cell whole genome sequencing profiles and high-resolution microscopy image data with DLP+, a high-throughput method relies on "direct DNA transposition single-cell library preparation" (DLP) approaches tailored to commercially available array and fluidic tools. When they applied this method to nearly 52,000 individual cells from a range of tumor and normal cell lines, patient-derived xenograft, or tissue samples from humans and mice, the authors got a glimpse at "clonal populations and their genomic features, properties of individual cells including replication state, and chromosomal mis-segregation, and relationships between genomic and morphological properties."

Investigators in Europe, China, and the US profile the microbial community members, genes, gene expression patterns, transcript features, and metabolic markers found in ocean water communities at 126 ocean sampling sites around the world over time in relation to environmental features, based on some 370 metagenomic datasets and almost 190 metatranscriptomic profiles. The team tracked down 47 million microbial genes, for example, along with an overall turnover in microbial communities at polar sites as ocean water warmed. "[W]e find the relative contribution of gene expression changes to be significantly lower in polar than in non-polar regions," the authors write, "and hypothesize that in polar regions, alterations in community activity in response to ocean warming will be driven more strongly by changes in organismal composition than by gene regulatory mechanisms."

Finally, an international team's theoretical analysis suggests polygenic scores informed by genome-wide association studies would not be a particularly accurate way to predict traits such as height or cognitive ability in embryos screened with preimplantation genetic testing. "[W]e use theory, simulations, and real data to evaluate the potential gain of embryo screening, defined as the difference in trait value between the top-scoring embryo and the average embryo," the researchers say, noting that screening is expected to influence average height very little with wide variability, for example, meaning that "in large nuclear families, the majority of children top-scoring for height are not the tallest." GenomeWeb has additional details on the study, which was presented at the American Society of Human Genetics annual meeting in Houston this fall.