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This Week in Nature: Dec 20, 2018

In this week's Nature Biotechnology, an international research team reports an extension to the Minimum Information about any (x) Sequence (MIxS) standard for reporting sequences of uncultivated virus genomes. The new Minimum Information about an Uncultivated Virus Genome standards were developed within the Genomic Standards Consortium framework and include virus origin, genome quality, genome annotation, taxonomic classification, biogeographic distribution, and in silico host prediction, according to the authors. Their adoption by the research community is expected to improve the reporting of uncultivated virus genomes in public databases, thereby enable "more robust comparative studies and a systematic exploration of the global virosphere," they add.

Meanwhile, in Nature Genetics, a trio of Broad Institute scientists publishes a perspective piece highlighting how recent advances in single-cell and single-molecule epigenomic technologies have enabled the study of genome regulation and dynamics at "unprecedented" resolution. They also discuss advances in single-cell transcriptomics, the essential role of epigenomic technologies in understanding cellular diversity and discovering gene regulatory mechanisms, and look ahead to the next generation of biological tools that are expected to further uncover the fundamental principles of gene regulation.

And in Nature Methods, a group of Heidelberg University Hospital investigators presents a new technique for multiplex orthogonal CRISPR-based genome editing and transcriptional activation that uses Cas12a — an alternative CRISPR genome editing endonuclease to Cas9. They show that catalytically active CRISPR-Cas12a fused to a transcriptional-activator domain enables flexible switching between genome editing and transcriptional activation by altering guide length. The scientists expect their system to "open up new avenues to deciphering the higher-order genetic interactions that underlie phenotypic traits, in both healthy and diseased states."