In this week's Nature Ecology & Evolution, an international research team presents the assembled and annotated draft genome of Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, a fungal pathogen that causes a steadily spreading ash tree disease called ash dieback. The scientists find that the ash dieback invasion of Europe from Asia was founded by two genetically divergent individuals, and that divergence between these haplotypes represents the ancestral polymorphism within a large source population. "Subsequent introduction from this source would greatly increase adaptive potential of the pathogen," the authors write, adding that further introgression of the pathogen into Europe is a concern, and Europe-wide biological security measures are needed to address this threat.
And in Nature Communications, an group of Israeli investigators reports a new method for the non-invasive and cell-specific detection of cardiomyocyte death based on a methylation signature in circulating cell-free DNA. The researchers say that the approach can diagnose heart attack patients with high sensitivity and specificity, matching the performance of gold standard protein markers. They also note that increased levels of the DNA marker in patients with sepsis is strongly predictive of mortality, suggesting a major role of cardiomyocyte death in mortality from sepsis. Overall, the assay is expected to help diagnose and monitor cardiac pathologies, and be useful in the study of normal human cardiac physiology and development, the authors conclude.