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Nature Paper Maps Butterfly's Resistance to Toxins, More

Using genome editing, a University of California, Berkeley-led research team maps the evolution of the monarch butterfly's resistance to cardiac glycoside toxins — a trait that also evolved in insects from numerous other orders. Resistance to these toxins is believed to result from evolved amino acid substitutions in the alpha-subunit (ATP-alpha) of the sodium pump, the physiological target of cardiac glycosides. The investigators describe in Nature mutational paths involving three repeatedly changing amino acid sites in ATP-alpha that are associated with cardiac glycoside specialization. They apply CRISPR-Cas9 base editing to the native ATP-alpha gene in fruit flies and retrace the mutational path taken across the monarch lineage, showing that the path conferred resistance and target-site insensitivity to cardiac glycosides. The result is triple mutant flies that were as insensitive to cardiac glycosides as monarch butterflies.

A new approach for the isolation and cultivation of uncultivated bacterial communities using reverse genomics is presented in this week's Nature Biotechnology. The method is directed at, and uses antibodies against, predicted cell surface proteins to target efforts to cultivate selected bacteria or archaea. Its developers used it to isolate and sequence single cells and to cultivate three different species-level lineages of human oral Saccharibacteria. They use their pure cultures to show that all three Saccharibacteria species are epibionts of diverse Actinobacteria, and use the technique to isolate and cultivate human oral SR1 bacteria.