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This Week in Nature: May 10, 2018

In this week's Nature, a University of Copenhagen-led team reports the sequencing and analysis of the genomes of ancient humans from Eurasia, revealing clues about population history in the region, and that the hepatitis B virus has likely infected humans living in this part of the world for thousands of years. In one paper, the researchers sequenced the genomes of 137 people who lived 1,500 years to 4,500 years ago in the Eurasian steppes and compared the results to genomic data from 502 present day individuals with ancestries across the region. Their findings point to a "gradual transition from Bronze Age pastoralists of West Eurasian ancestry towards mounted warriors of increased East Asian ancestry — a process that continued well into historical times," they write.

In a second paper, the investigators analyzed DNA sequences from 304 central and western Eurasian humans who lived between about 200 years and 7,000 years ago, and find evidence of HBV infections in 25 of the individuals across a period of about 4,000 years. They were able to recover 12 full or partial HBV genomes, which they compared with modern-day human and primate HBV genomes, and provide evidence for "a long-term association of modern HBV genotypes with humans, including the discovery of a human genotype that is now extinct."

The Daily Scan's sister publication, GenomeWeb Daily News, has more on these studies, here and here.


In Nature Communications, an international group of scientists presents a genome-wide association study of more than 175,000 European individuals that suggests a genetic component to skin tanning. By analyzing the genetic variation between thousands of people who reported that they never tan, occasionally tan and burn, or that they tan without burning, the team identified variations at 20 loci that may be involved in tanning. Additionally, variants in one tanning-associated locus appear to increase the risk of skin cancer.

GenomeWeb Daily News has more on this study here.


And in Nature Biotechnology, a multi-institute research team describes a CRISPR-Cas9-based method for multiplexed, accurate genome editing with trackable genomic barcodes in yeast. The approach uses "array-synthesized guide-donor oligos for plasmid-based high-throughput editing, and features genomic barcode integration to prevent plasmid barcode loss and to enable robust phenotyping," the authors write. They expect their method to be broadly applicable in genetic research in yeast.