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This Week in Nature: Jul 13, 2017

In this week's Nature, a Harvard University-led team reports the use of CRISPR genome editing to encode images and a short movie into the DNA of bacteria, building on previous work pointing to DNA as a potential medium for data storage. They encoded the pixel values of black and white images and a short movie into the genomes of a population of living Escherichia coli, demonstrating a system that can capture and stably store practical amounts of real data within the genomes of populations of living cells. The work also offers new insights into the functioning of the CRISPR system. The Scan has more on this, here.

In Nature Microbiology, a pair of scientists from the University of Pittsburgh presents data showing that bacteriophage evolution varies depending on host, lifestyle, and genetic constitution. They demonstrate that lytic and temperate phages evolve within two different general evolutionary modes that differ in the extent of horizontal gene transfer by an order of magnitude. These modes also appear to depend on the host phylum, genetics, and ecology. "Other factors such as variations in host range evolution, differential access to the common gene pool in different environments, constraints on the diversity of genomes available for recombination, and the roles of temperate phages at different microbial densities are also expected to contribute to these modes of phage genome evolution," the authors note.

The Scan

Machine Learning Helps ID Molecular Mechanisms of Pancreatic Islet Beta Cell Subtypes in Type 2 Diabetes

The approach helps overcome limitations of previous studies that had investigated the molecular mechanisms of pancreatic islet beta cells, the authors write in their Nature Genetics paper.

Culture-Based Methods, Shotgun Sequencing Reveal Transmission of Bifidobacterium Strains From Mothers to Infants

In a Nature Communications study, culture-based approaches along with shotgun sequencing give a better picture of the microbial strains transmitted from mothers to infants.

Microbial Communities Can Help Trees Adapt to Changing Climates

Tree seedlings that were inoculated with microbes from dry, warm, or cold sites could better survive drought, heat, and cold stress, according to a study in Science.

A Combination of Genetics and Environment Causes Cleft Lip

In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers investigate what combination of genetic and environmental factors come into play to cause cleft lip/palate.