By sequencing the genomes of prehistoric dogs, an international research team led by scientists from the Francis Crick Institute reveal a long history of canine/human interaction extending back more than 11,000 years. In their study, appearing in Science, the investigators sequenced the genomes of 27 ancient dogs from Europe, the Near East, and Siberia. They find that all dogs share a common ancestry that is distinct from present-day wolves, with limited gene flow from wolves since dogs were first domesticated. They uncovered, however, substantial dog-to-wolf gene flow. By including human genome-wide data that matched the age, geography, and cultural contexts of the ancient dogs into their analysis, the scientists find some aspects of dog population history that track that of humans, likely reflecting how dogs migrated alongside human groups. In other cases, the histories do not align, "suggesting that humans also dispersed without dogs, dogs moved between human groups, or that dogs were cultural and/or economic trade commodities." GenomeWeb has more on this, here.
An analysis of the genome of a roughly 34,000-year-old hominin skull cap found in northeastern Mongolia sheds new light on the population history of early East Asians. As reported in Science this week, a Max Planck Institute-led team conducted genomic analyses of the remains and found that they belonged to a female member of a modern human population that experienced substantial gene flow from West Eurasians following that group's split from East Eurasians. Notably, both this ancient woman and a 40,000-year-old individual whose remains were discovered near Beijing carried genomic segments of Denisovan ancestry derived from an admixture event(s) that contributed to present-day mainland Asians. These segments are, however, distinct from the Denisovan genetic contributions found in present-day Papuans and Aboriginal Australians. GenomeWeb has has more on this, here
A novel human tissue screen described in this week's Science has enabled the discovery of new candidate genes for microcephaly, including ones in pathways not previously associated with the condition. A group led by researchers from the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Science developed a human brain tissue loss-of-function assay that combines CRISPR/Cas9 with a barcoding technique that traces cell lineages. With the approach — called CRISPR-lineage tracing at cellular resolution in heterogenous tissue, or CRISPR-LICHT — the team finds 25 candidate genes involved in known and uncharacterized microcephaly-associated pathways including one crucial for tissue integrity and brain size.