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This Week in PNAS: Jun 7, 2016

Editor's Note: Some of the articles described below are not yet available at the PNAS site, but they are scheduled to be posted some time this week.

In the early, online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from Australia's Griffith University and elsewhere describe efforts to sequence mitochondrial genomes from four ancient Aboriginal Australians going back as far as 42,000 years, including remains from the so-called "Mungo Man," who was the subject of mitochondrial analysis in the past. Using DNA capture enrichment, single primer extension methods, and sequencing, the team tackled four ancient samples from Willandra Lakes and Kow Swamp sites in Australia. For the two samples that yielded mitochondrial sequences, the investigators identified mitochondrial sequences distinct from those detected in the samples in the past, including several modern European contaminants.

An international team led by investigators in Germany and Greece used ancient DNA to garner evidence of Neolithic Aegean ancestry for early European farmers. Using shallow Illumina sequencing and an approach designed to do genotype calling on ancient DNA, the researchers assessed samples from five Neolithic individuals and two Mesolithic individuals from European and Eurasian sites surrounding the Aegean. Based on genetic similarities detected between the Neolithic samples in northern Greece and northwestern Turkey, the study's authors argue that their results point to "a direct genetic link between Mediterranean and Central European early farmer and those of Greece and Anatolia, extending the European Neolithic migratory chain all the way back to southwestern Asia."

A comparative genomics study by researchers from Italy, the US, and Egypt touches on metabolic dynamics across Staphylococcus aureus strains with differing virulence features, environmental sources, and hosts. The team assessed genome sequences from more than five dozen S. aureus strains originating from a broad range of sites and hosts identifying a core genome comprised of some 1,441 genes and a 7,411-gene pan-genome. That data was used to model metabolic features that are expected to be shared between S. aureus strains based on the core genome components, along with metabolic factors found across the bug's broader pan-metabolism. "Our integration of genomic and biochemical data illustrates the dynamic evolution of S. aureus strains," they write, "and the results provide insights into the metabolic determinants of pathogenicity."