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Nature Presents Sequencing Technique to Spatially Characterize Microbial Species, More

A new sequencing technique has enabled researchers to spatially characterize the hundreds of microbial species within the gut at micrometer-scale resolution, according to a new report appearing in this week's Nature Biotechnology. The approach, called metagenomic plot sampling by sequencing — or MaPS-seq — involves immobilizing intact microbiome samples in a gel matrix that is cryofractured into particles. Neighboring microbial taxa in the particles are then identified by droplet-based encapsulation, barcoded 16S rRNA amplification, and deep sequencing. In the study, the method's developers use MaPS-seq to analyze different regions of the intestine of mice undergoing diet perturbations.

Advances in epigenetic research has uncovered links between genetics, the environment, and disease, setting the stage for its clinical translation, two European scientists say in this week's Nature. In a review article, the pair discusses "the interplay between epigenetics and DNA sequence variation, as well as the implications of epigenetics for cellular memory and plasticity." They also examine how environmental effects, along with intergenerational and transgenerational epigenetic inheritance, influences biology, disease, and evolution, and look at how epigenetics may play a role in diagnosing and treating human diseases.

Single-cell RNA sequencing of cardiac progenitor cells shows how the dysregulation of specific cellular subpopulations can result in severe organ-level developmental effects in a new study appearing in Nature this week. The study's authors find that the loss of a single transcription factor results in disrupted fate specification in distinct cell types, which lead to functional deficits such as improper differentiation and migration. This work, they write, "reveals transcriptional determinants that specify fate and differentiation in individual cardiac progenitor cells, and exposes mechanisms of disrupted cardiac development at single-cell resolution, providing a framework for investigating congenital heart defects." It also points to the utility of single-cell transcriptomics in determining the  precise mechanisms and cell types that underlie phenotypic presentation of developmental defects associated with genetic variation, the team adds. GenomeWeb has more on this, here.