In Nature this week, members of the Anopheles gambiae 1000 Genomes Consortium present a genomic analysis of A. gambiae and A. coluzzii mosquitos — the two primary malaria hosts in Africa. The researchers sequenced 765 specimens of the two species from 15 locations across eight African countries featuring a range of ecologies. They found that the genomes of individual mosquitoes carry between 1.7 million and 2.7 million variant alleles, confirming that they are among the most genetically diverse eukaryotic species. The team also discovered strong signals of recent selection in insecticide-resistance genes. Based on the findings, the scientists say that new tools for mosquito control should take into account the high levels of genetic diversity in natural mosquito populations. GenomeWeb has more on this, here.
Also in Nature, collaborators from the Scripps Research Institute and Synthorx describe a semi-synthetic bacterium capable of storing and retrieving man-made genetic information. The team previously produced a semi-synthetic strain of the Escherichia coli that incorporated an extended genetic code containing two unnatural nucleotides in addition to the four natural nucleotides of pair to form DNA. While that bacterium could maintain and reproduce the altered genetic code, it was unclear whether the added nucleotides could be used to encode protein. In their latest effort, the scientists were able to engineer a bacterium that could efficiently transcribe and translate the unnatural nucleotides in order to synthesize protein containing unnatural amino acids. The work, the authors state, may serve as a platform for the creation of new life forms and functions.