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This Week in PNAS: Sep 20, 2016

In the early, online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a Harvard University team describe throughput improvements to multiplexed error-robust fluorescence in situ hybridization (MERFISH), an image-based method for doing single-cell transcriptomic profiling. Using this approach — which brings together combinatorial RNA labeling with multiple rounds of single-molecule FISH-based barcode reading — the researchers demonstrated that it can do single-cell gene expression analyses on upwards of 100,000 human cells, cycling through up to 40,000 human osteosarcoma cells within 18 hours.

Researchers from Germany, the UK, France, and the Netherlands profile protein and mitochondrial DNA patterns in ancient archaic hominin samples from the Châtelperronian region in central France and Spain, demonstrating that Neanderthal specimens were indeed found at so-called transitional sites containing pendants and tools associated with modern humans. The team used zooarchaeology by mass spectrometry to screen almost 200 bone samples from a Grotte du Renne site in France, narrowing in on more than two-dozen hominin specimens. Proteins in the samples were subsequently assessed by liquid chromatography tandem mass spec. Our sister publication GenomeWeb Daily News has more on the study, here.

Finally, a group from Canada and the US explores genetic diversity in an alpine butterfly (Parnassius smintheus) population that experienced a recent population bottleneck. The researchers tracked population patterns and profiling microsatellite markers in alpine butterflies from Alberta's Kananaskis region for nearly two decades, studying the interplay between habitat connectivity and allelic diversity in the population before, during, and after a dramatic drop in population size that occurred in 2003. "Our study provides the first evidence in a natural system for a direct effect of connectivity in recovery of genetic diversity following a demographic bottleneck, highlighting the importance of maintaining connectivity in the face of climate change," the authors write.

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