In this week's Nature Communications, a team led by Chinese Academy of Sciences researchers reports details about genetic variation behind the taste and appearance of peaches. They analyzed genome sequencing data generated from a collection of 129 peach varieties — including modern cultivars, traditional landraces, and wild peach relatives — and found that genes associated with flavor traits were likely selected by early farmers during the initial domestication of the peach tree in China. Genes associated with fruit weight, meanwhile, appear associated with more recent breeding efforts. The researchers also uncovered correlations between specific gene sequences and fruit traits, such as acidity levels, and a gene governing a plant hormone transporter. GenomeWeb has more on this study, here.
Also in Nature Communications, a group from the University of Copenhagen presents new evidence indicating that whales and other large mammals were more important to the diet of prehistoric Greenlanders than previously believed. They analyzed DNA extracted from archaeological sediments from as early as 2,000 BCE and discovered that, while whale bones were rare fossils in these sediments, the genetic evidence indicates that bowhead whales and other large animals like caribou and walrus were a key part of the diet of people in Greenland around 4,000 years ago. The team proposed that the lack of whale bones may be because the animals' skin, flesh, and fat may have been scavenged or they were hunted elsewhere. GenomeWeb also covers this, here.
And in Nature Methods, a group led by scientists from the University of California, San Francisco, publishes a new strategy for genome-wide or targeted RNA structure analysis in vivo. The approach — called dimethyl sulfate mutational profiling with sequencing, or DMS-MaPseq — yields a high signal-to-noise ratio, can report multiple structural features per molecule, and allows both genome-wide studies and focused in vivo investigations of even low-abundance RNAs, according to the investigators. They use the method to analyze RNA structure within an animal tissue and to identify a functional structure involved in non-canonical translation initiation, and to compare the in vivo structure of pre-mRNAs with their mature isoforms.