Disease resistance genes in livestock provide health benefits to animals and opportunities for farmers to meet the growing demand for affordable, high-quality protein. Previously, researchers used gene editing to modify the porcine CD163 gene and demonstrated resistance to a harmful virus that causes porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS). To maximize potential benefits, this disease resistance trait needs to be present in commercially relevant breeding populations for multiplication and distribution of pigs. Toward this goal, a first of-its-kind, scaled gene editing program was established to introduce a single modified CD163 allele into four genetically diverse, elite porcine lines. This effort produced healthy pigs that resisted PRRS virus infection as determined by macrophage and animal challenges. This founder population will be used for additional disease and trait testing, multiplication, and commercial distribution upon regulatory approval. Applying CRISPR-Cas to eliminate a viral disease represents a major step toward improving animal health.
Directly observing the chronology and tempo of adaptation in response to ecological change is rarely possible in natural ecosystems. Sedimentary ancient DNA (sedaDNA) has been shown to be a tractable source of genome-scale data of long-dead organisms1,2,3 and to thereby potentially provide an understanding of the evolutionary histories of past populations.4,5 To date, time series of ecosystem biodiversity have been reconstructed from sedaDNA, typically using DNA metabarcoding or shotgun sequence data generated from less than 1 g of sediment.6,7 Here, we maximize sequence coverage by extracting DNA from ∼50× more sediment per sample than the majority of previous studies1,2,3 to achieve genotype resolution. From a time series of Late Pleistocene sediments spanning from a marine to freshwater ecosystem, we compare adaptive genotypes reconstructed from the environmental genomes of three-spined stickleback at key time points of this transition. We find a staggered temporal dynamic in which freshwater alleles at known loci of large effect in marine-freshwater divergence of three-spined stickleback (e.g., EDA)8 were already established during the brackish phase of the formation of the isolation basin. However, marine alleles were still detected across the majority of marine-freshwater divergence-associated loci, even after the complete isolation of the lake from marine ingression. Our retrospective approach to studying adaptation from environmental genomes of three-spined sticklebacks at the end of the last glacial period complements contemporary experimental approaches9,10,11 and highlights the untapped potential for retrospective “evolve and resequence” natural experiments using sedaDNA.
Investigative genetic genealogy (IGG) has emerged as a highly effective tool for tying a forensic DNA sample to an identity. While much of the attention paid to IGG has focused on cases where the DNA is from an unknown suspect, IGG has also been used to help close hundreds of unidentified human remains (UHR) cases. Genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotype data can be obtained from forensic samples using microarray genotyping or whole-genome sequencing (WGS) with protocols optimized for degraded DNA. After bioinformatic processing, the SNP data can be uploaded to public GG databases that allow law enforcement usage, where it can be compared with other users’ data to find distant relatives. A genetic genealogist can then build the family trees of the relatives to narrow down the identity of the source of the forensic DNA sample. To date, 36 UHR identifications using IGG have been publicly announced. The same IGG techniques developed and refined for UHR cases have significant potential for disaster victim identification, where DNA is often extremely compromised, and close family references may not be available. This paper reviews the laboratory, bioinformatic, and genealogical techniques used in IGG for UHR cases and presents three case studies that demonstrate how IGG is assisting with remains identification.
The origins of treponemal diseases have long remained unknown, especially considering the sudden onset of the first syphilis epidemic in the late 15th century in Europe and its hypothesized arrival from the Americas with Columbus’ expeditions1,2. Recently, ancient DNA evidence has revealed various treponemal infections circulating in early modern Europe and colonial-era Mexico3,4,5,6. However, there has been to our knowledge no genomic evidence of treponematosis recovered from either the Americas or the Old World that can be reliably dated to the time before the first trans-Atlantic contacts. Here, we present treponemal genomes from nearly 2,000-year-old human remains from Brazil. We reconstruct four ancient genomes of a prehistoric treponemal pathogen, most closely related to the bejel-causing agent Treponema pallidum endemicum. Contradicting the modern day geographical niche of bejel in the arid regions of the world, the results call into question the previous palaeopathological characterization of treponeme subspecies and showcase their adaptive potential. A high-coverage genome is used to improve molecular clock date estimations, placing the divergence of modern T. pallidum subspecies firmly in pre-Columbian times. Overall, our study demonstrates the opportunities within archaeogenetics to uncover key events in pathogen evolution and emergence, paving the way to new hypotheses on the origin and spread of treponematoses.
Over the past several decades, most people have come to understand what DNA is – generally, it’s defined as the carrier of a person’s distinct genetic information. Since DNA was first used in forensic science in the late 1980s, it has opened doors for criminal investigators and genealogists to solve cases that have been cold for decades. For the U.S. military, it’s been essential in carrying out the age-old motto, “no one left behind.”
Methane emissions from plant foliage may play an important role in the global methane cycle, but their size and the underlying source processes remain poorly understood. Here, we quantify methane fluxes from the shoots of Scots pine trees, a dominant tree species in boreal forests, to identify source processes and environmental drivers, and we evaluate whether these fluxes can be constrained at the ecosystem-level by eddy covariance flux measurements. We show that shoot-level measurements conducted in forest, garden, or greenhouse settings; on mature trees and saplings; manually and with an automated CO2-, temperature-, and water-controlled chamber system; and with multiple methane analyzers all resulted in comparable daytime fluxes (0.144 ± 0.019 to 0.375 ± 0.074 nmol CH4 g−1 foliar d.w. h−1). We further find that these emissions exhibit a pronounced diurnal cycle that closely follows photosynthetically active radiation and is further modulated by temperature. These diurnal patterns indicate that methane production is associated with diurnal cycle of sunlight, indicating that this production is either a byproduct of photosynthesis-associated biochemical reactions (e.g., the methionine cycle) or produced through nonenzymatic photochemical reactions in plant biomass. Moreover, we identified a light-dependent component in stand-level methane fluxes, which showed order-of-magnitude agreement with shoot-level measurements (0.968 ± 0.031 nmol CH4 g−1 h−1) and which provides an upper limit for shoot methane emissions.
Adulis, located on the Red Sea coast in present-day Eritrea, was a bustling trading centre between the first and seventh centuries CE. Several classical geographers—Agatharchides of Cnidus, Pliny the Elder, Strabo—noted the value of Adulis to Greco-Roman Egypt, particularly as an emporium for living animals, including baboons (Papio spp.). Though fragmentary, these accounts predict the Adulite origins of mummified baboons in Ptolemaic catacombs, while inviting questions on the geoprovenance of older (Late Period) baboons recovered from Gabbanat el-Qurud (‘Valley of the Monkeys’), Egypt. Dated to ca. 800–540 BCE, these animals could extend the antiquity of Egyptian–Adulite trade by as much as five centuries. Previously, Dominy et al. (2020) used stable isotope analysis to show that two New Kingdom specimens of Papio hamadryas originate from the Horn of Africa. Here, we report the complete mitochondrial genomes from a mummified baboon from Gabbanat el-Qurud and 14 museum specimens with known provenance together with published georeferenced mitochondrial sequence data. Phylogenetic assignment connects the mummified baboon to modern populations of P. hamadryas in Eritrea, Ethiopia, and eastern Sudan. This result, assuming geographical stability of phylogenetic clades, corroborates Greco-Roman historiographies by pointing toward present-day Eritrea, and by extension Adulis, as a source of baboons for Late Period Egyptians. It also establishes geographic continuity with baboons from the fabled Land of Punt (Dominy et al., 2020), giving weight to speculation that Punt and Adulis were essentially the same trading centres separated by a thousand years of history.
American bison demonstrated differential patterns of extinction, survival, and expansion since the terminal Pleistocene. We determined population dynamics of the Northern Great Plains bison using 40 mitochondrial genomes from radiocarbon dated remains with the age ranging from 12,226 to 167 calibrated years before present. Population dynamics correlated with environmental and anthropogenic factors and was characterized by three primary periods: terminal Pleistocene population growth starting 14,000 years ago, mid Holocene demographic stability between 6700 and 2700 years ago, and late Holocene population decline in the last 2700 years. Most diversification of mtDNA haplotypes occurred in the early Holocene when bison colonized new territories opened by retreating ice sheets. Holocene mtDNA lineages were not found in modern bison and lacked association with archaeological sites and morphological forms.
The metabarcoding of vertebrate DNA found in invertebrate-derived DNA (iDNA) has proven a powerful tool for monitoring biodiversity. To date, iDNA has primarily been used to detect the presence/absence of particular taxa using metabarcoding, though recent efforts demonstrated the potential utility of these data for estimating relative animal abundance. Here, we test whether iDNA can also be used to reconstruct complete mammalian mitogenomes and therefore bring the field closer to population-level analyses. Specifically, we used mitogenomic hybridization capture coupled with high-throughput sequencing to analyze individual (N = 7) or pooled (N = 5) fly-derived DNA extracts, and individual (N = 7) or pooled (N = 1) leech-derived DNA extracts, which were known a priori to contain primate DNA. All sources of iDNA showed their ability to generate large amounts of mammalian mitogenomic information and deeper sequencing of libraries is predicted to allow for even more complete recovery of primate mitogenomes from most samples (90%). Sixty percent of these iDNA extracts allowed for the recovery of (near) complete mammalian mitochondrial genomes (hereafter mitogenomes) that proved useable for phylogenomic analyses. These findings contribute to paving the way for iDNA-based population mitogenomic studies of terrestrial mammals.
Extinct lineages of Yersinia pestis, the causative agent of the plague, have been identified in several individuals from Eurasia between 5000 and 2500 years before present (BP). One of these, termed the ‘LNBA lineage’ (Late Neolithic and Bronze Age), has been suggested to have spread into Europe with human groups expanding from the Eurasian steppe. Here, we show that the LNBA plague was spread to Europe’s northwestern periphery by sequencing three Yersinia pestis genomes from Britain, all dating to ~4000 cal BP. Two individuals were from an unusual mass burial context in Charterhouse Warren, Somerset, and one individual was from a single burial under a ring cairn monument in Levens, Cumbria. To our knowledge, this represents the earliest evidence of LNBA plague in Britain documented to date. All three British Yersinia pestis genomes belong to a sublineage previously observed in Bronze Age individuals from Central Europe that had lost the putative virulence factor yapC. This sublineage is later found in Eastern Asia ~3200 cal BP. While the severity of the disease is currently unclear, the wide geographic distribution within a few centuries suggests substantial transmissibility.
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