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Nature Papers Report European Wine Grapes First Domesticated in Western Asia, Use of Single-Cell Tools to Study SARS-CoV-2

An analysis of hundreds of cultivated grape genomes reported in this week's Nature Communications reveals that European wine grapes were first domesticated in Western Asia. Western European domestic grape varieties are the foundation of the global wine industry, accounting for 26 percent of vineyards worldwide, yet the origins of these varieties are unclear. In the study, scientists from the University of Udine examined whole-genome sequencing data of 204 cultivated grape accessions, finding that the processes that led to the creation of the European wine grapes were dominated by introductions of table grapes from the East followed by extensive and frequent gene flow from local wild forms. "This admixture generated the so-called international wine grapes that have diffused from Alpine countries worldwide," the authors write. The researchers also find three genomic regions of reduced genetic diversity, likely a result of artificial selection. Two genes in the lowest diversity region gained berry-specific expression in domesticated varieties may contribute to the change in berry size and morphology that makes the fruit attractive for human consumption and adapted for winemaking, they write.

An overview of the single-cell technologies being used to study SARS-CoV-2, as well as key aspects of such research, is presented by a team of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center researchers in Nature Biotechnology this week. Single-cell technologies such as flow cytometry, mass cytometry, single-cell transcriptomics, and single-cell multi-omic profiling have proven extremely useful in studying SARS-CoV-2 and have enabled a deep dive into the cellular heterogeneity of antiviral immune responses, the authors write. Multiple single-cell immune-profiling studies of patients with COVID-19 have identified distinct cell subsets of the innate and adaptive immune systems that correlate with disease severity, and evidence suggests that targeting certain immunological factors might curb pathogenic responses and improve protective immunity. "The scientific community has mobilized in unprecedented fashion in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic," they write. "Looking ahead, we anticipate that the amount and complexity of single-cell datasets will rapidly grow, including in important populations, such as pediatric patients … and that re-analyses and meta-analyses will become more common as standards become available." In their report, the scientists also provide standardized, download-ready versions of 21 published single-cell sequencing datasets, along with an interactive visualization portal for data exploration.