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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.