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This Week in Nature: Mar 8, 2018

In this week's Nature Communications, a group of Canadian researchers publishes a study showing the impact of environmental factors on gene expression. The scientists analyzed the interactions between 1.6 million data points — encompassing a range of environmental exposures, health, and gene expression levels — along with whole-genome genetic variation data from about 1,000 people from across Quebec, and identified a "substantial impact of the environment on the transcriptome and clinical endophenotypes, overpowering that of genetic ancestry." For instance, air pollution was found to influence gene expression and pathways affecting cardiometabolic and respiratory traits. The findings show how local environment directly affects disease risk phenotypes and that genetic variation can module an individual's response to environmental challenges, the authors conclude. GenomeWeb has more on this study, here.

Also in Nature Communications, a multi-institute research team presents a genomic analysis of domesticated sheep and goats, along with their respective wild ancestors, revealing that the two animals share a variety of genetic targets involved in domestication and improvement but with different patterns of selection. The investigators sequenced the genomes of the Asiatic mouflon and Bezoar ibex — which gave rise to sheep and goats, respectively — and compared them to domestics from local, traditional, and improved breeds. Of the 90 identified genomic regions that showed signs of selection from wild to domestic populations, 20 are common to both the Asiatic mouflon and Bezoar ibex. "The patterns of selection vary between species, suggesting that while common targets of selection related to domestication and improvement exist, different solutions have arisen to achieve similar phenotypic endpoints within these closely related livestock species," the authors say.