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Science Paper Peers into Ancient Social Inequality Within Households

A genomic analysis of European individuals who lived during the Bronze Age reveals the early existence of intrahousehold inequality dynamics. In a study appearing in Science this week, researchers analyzed genome-wide data from 104 individuals recovered from farmstead-related cemeteries in southern Germany from the Late Neolithic to Middle Bronze Ages. They find that households lasting several generations consisted of high-status core family members and unrelated individuals of low status, as evidenced by the quality and extent of goods buried with the people. Notably, in nearly all cases the females were not related to the males, suggesting that they came from other regions to marry. An examination of grave goods also indicates that wealth and status were inherited by offspring. GenoemWeb has more on this study, here.

A new method for quantifying genetic variation in gene dosage from allelic expression (AE) data in a population is presented in Science this week. Called ANEVA — short for analysis of expression variation — the approach uses biologically interpretable units of gene dosage, allowing interpretation of regulatory and coding gene-disrupting variants on the same scale. The framework's developers apply ANEVA to data from the Genotype-Tissues Expression (GTEx) Project and show that resulting variance estimates are robust and correlated with selective constraint in a gene. They also use ANEVA variance estimates in a dosager outlier test (ANEVA-DOT) applied to AE data from 70 Mendelian muscular disease patients to detect genes with pathogenic variants in previously resolved cases, leading to one confirmed and several potential new diagnoses. "Using our reference estimates from GTEx data, ANEVA-DOT can be incorporated in rare disease diagnostic pipelines to use RNA-sequencing data more effectively," the scientists write.

A study appearing in Science Advances identifies an epigenetic mechanism underlying cocaine use relapse after abstinence. Researchers examined rats that were permitted to self administer cocaine for extended periods, and then forced to abstain from the drug. They find a role for increased expression of the chromatin remodeler INO80 and its interaction with E3 ubiquitin ligase Trim3 protein in mediating cocaine craving after prolonged abstinence, offering new avenues of research for treating cocaine use disorder.