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This Week In Nature : May 3, 2018

In this week's Nature Genetics, a team of European and Asian researchers describes the whole-genome sequencing and assembly of the rose, as well as a resequencing of major genotypes that contributed to the flower's domestication. The scientists identify new genetic pathways involved in the rose's color and scent, and candidate genes for flowering. "This genome provides a foundation for understanding the mechanisms governing rose traits and should accelerate improvement in roses ... and ornamentals," they state.

And in Nature Communications, a group led by investigators from Kiel University reports the identification of a modern day genetic risk factor for leprosy that was also present in medieval Europeans, suggesting that this susceptibility factor has been associated with disease for almost 1,000 years. The scientists perform an ancient DNA study on 12th to 14th century skeletons from Denmark that show lesions specific for lepromatous leprosy (LL) and find that these individuals carried the human leukocyte antigen allele DRB1*15:01 — a major genetic risk factor for LL in present day India, China, and Brazil — more frequently than modern or ancient controls. Given that DRB1*15:01 is still common in Europeans, albeit at lower frequencies than in the Middle Ages, the researchers suspect that it may be associated with antagonistic fitness advantages that prevented its disappearance.