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This Week in Nature: Apr 9, 2015

In Nature Communications this week, a team led by researchers from Warwick University report the results of a genomic analysis of individuals from the 18th century infected with tuberculosis, which revealed new insight into the evolution of the disease. Using shotgun metagenomics, the investigators analyzed bacterial DNA extracted from 26 people from a crypt in Hungary, most of whom had undergone natural mummification. The researchers were able to reconstruct 14 Mycobacterium tuberculosis genomes from eight of the people, five of whom yielded more than one genotype, indicating the prevalence of multi-strain tuberculosis infections. All of the tuberculosis genomes belonged to a lineage responsible for more than one million modern-day cases of the disease each year in the US and Europe. GenomeWeb has more on this study here.

And in Nature Biotechnology, researchers from Duke University describe a programmable system based on CRISPR/Cas9 genome-editing technology to control the epigenome and downstream gene regulation. They designed a fusion protein of Cas9 with the catalytic histone acetyltransferase core domain of a highly conserved acetyltransferase, which catalyzed acetylation of histone H3 lysine 27 at its target sites, leading to robust transcriptional activation of target genes from promoters and enhancers. Gene activation by the targeted acetyltransferase proved to be highly specific across the genome. GenomeWeb also covers this study here.

The Scan

Cancer Survival Linked to Mutational Burden in Pan-Cancer Analysis

A pan-cancer paper appearing in JCO Precision Oncology suggests tumor mutation patterns provide clues for predicting cancer survival that are independent of other prognostic factors.

Australian Survey Points to Public Support for Genetic Risk Disclosure in Relatives of At-Risk Individuals

A survey in the European Journal of Human Genetics suggests most adult Australians are in favor of finding out if a relative tests positive for a medically actionable genetic variant.

Study Links Evolution of Stony Coral Skeleton to Bicarbonate Transporter Gene

A PNAS paper focuses on a skeleton-related bicarbonate transporter gene introduced to stony coral ancestors by tandem duplication.

Hormone-Based Gene Therapy to Sterilize Domestic Cat

A new paper in Nature Communication suggests that gene therapy could be a safer alternative to spaying domestic cats.