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.

This study assessed the usefulness of DNA quantification to predict the success of historical samples when analyzing SNPs, mtDNA, and STR targets. Thirty burials from six historical contexts were utilized, ranging in age from 80 to 800 years postmortem. Samples underwent library preparation and hybridization capture with two bait panels (FORCE and mitogenome), and STR typing (autosomal STR and Y-STR). All 30 samples generated small (~80 bp) autosomal DNA target qPCR results, despite mean mappable fragments ranging from 55–125 bp. The qPCR results were positively correlated with DNA profiling success. Samples with human DNA inputs as low as 100 pg resulted in ≥80% FORCE SNPs at 10X coverage. All 30 samples resulted in mitogenome coverage ≥100X despite low human DNA input (as low as 1 pg). With PowerPlex Fusion, ≥30 pg human DNA input resulted in >40% of auSTR loci. At least 59% of Y-STR loci were recovered with Y-target qPCR-based inputs of ≥24 pg. The results also indicate that human DNA quantity is a better predictor of success than the ratio of human to exogenous DNA. Accurate quantification with qPCR is feasible for historical bone samples, allowing for the screening of extracts to predict the success of DNA profiling.

Recent excavations of Late Antiquity settlements in the Negev Highlands of southern Israel uncovered a society that established commercial-scale viticulture in an arid environment [D. Fuks et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 117, 19780–19791 (2020)]. We applied target-enriched genome-wide sequencing and radiocarbon dating to examine grapevine pips that were excavated at three of these sites. Our analyses revealed centuries long and continuous grape cultivation in the Southern Levant. The genetically diverse pips also provided clues to ancient cultivation strategies aimed at improving agricultural productivity and ensuring food security. Applying genomic prediction analysis, a pip dated to the eighth century CE was determined to likely be from a white grape, to date the oldest to be identified. In a kinship analysis, another pip was found to be descendant from a modern Greek cultivar and was thus linked with several popular historic wines that were once traded across the Byzantine Empire. These findings shed light on historical Byzantine trading networks and on the genetic contribution of Levantine varieties to the classic Aegean landscape.

The increasing interest in studying DNA methylation to understand how traits or diseases develop requires new and flexible approaches for quantifying DNA methylation in a diversity of organisms. In particular, we need efficient yet cost-effective ways to measure CpG methylation states over large and complete regions of the genome. Here, we develop TEEM-Seq (target-enriched enzymatic methyl sequencing), a method that combines enzymatic methyl sequencing with a custom-designed hybridization capture bait set that can be scaled to reactions including large numbers of samples in any species for which a reference genome is available. Using DNA from a passerine bird, the superb starling ( Lamprotornis superbus ), we show that TEEM-Seq is able to quantify DNA methylation states similarly well to the more traditional approaches of whole-genome and reduced-representation sequencing. Moreover, we demonstrate its reliability and repeatability, as duplicate libraries from the same samples were highly correlated. Importantly, the downstream bioinformatic analysis for TEEM-Seq is the same as for any sequence-based approach to studying DNA methylation, making it simple to incorporate into a variety of workflows. We believe that TEEM-Seq could replace traditional approaches for studying DNA methylation in candidate genes and pathways, and be effectively paired with other whole-genome or reduced-representation sequencing approaches to increase project sample sizes. In addition, TEEM-Seq can be combined with mRNA sequencing to examine how DNA methylation in promoters or other regulatory regions is related to the expression of individual genes or gene networks. By maximizing the number of samples in the hybridization reaction, TEEM-Seq is an inexpensive and flexible sequence-based approach for quantifying DNA methylation in species where other capture-based methods are unavailable or too expensive, particularly for non-model organisms.

The order Hymenoptera (wasps, ants, sawflies, and bees) represents one of the most diverse animal lineages, but whether specific key innovations have contributed to its diversification is still unknown. We assembled the largest time-calibrated phylogeny of Hymenoptera to date and investigated the origin and possible correlation of particular morphological and behavioral innovations with diversification in the order: the wasp waist of Apocrita; the stinger of Aculeata; parasitoidism, a specialized form of carnivory; and secondary phytophagy, a reversal to plant-feeding. Here, we show that parasitoidism has been the dominant strategy since the Late Triassic in Hymenoptera, but was not an immediate driver of diversification. Instead, transitions to secondary phytophagy (from parasitoidism) had a major influence on diversification rate in Hymenoptera. Support for the stinger and the wasp waist as key innovations remains equivocal, but these traits may have laid the anatomical and behavioral foundations for adaptations more directly associated with diversification.

Chromatids of mitotic chromosomes were suggested to coil into a helix in early cytological studies and this assumption was recently supported by chromosome conformation capture (3C) sequencing. Still, direct differential visualization of a condensed chromatin fibre confirming the helical model was lacking. Here, we combined Hi-C analysis of purified metaphase chromosomes, biopolymer modelling and spatial structured illumination microscopy of large fluorescently labeled chromosome segments to reveal the chromonema – a helically-wound, 400 nm thick chromatin thread forming barley mitotic chromatids. Chromatin from adjacent turns of the helix intermingles due to the stochastic positioning of chromatin loops inside the chromonema. Helical turn size varies along chromosome length, correlating with chromatin density. Constraints on the observable dimensions of sister chromatid exchanges further supports the helical chromonema model.

Etiology of vestibular schwannoma (VS) is unknown. Viruses can infect and reside in neural tissues for decades, and new viruses with unknown tumorigenic potential have been discovered. The presence of herpesvirus, polyomavirus, parvovirus, and anellovirus DNA was analyzed by quantitative PCR in 46 formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded VS samples. Five samples were analyzed by targeted next-generation sequencing. Viral DNA was detected altogether in 24/46 (52%) tumor samples, mostly representing anelloviruses (46%). Our findings show frequent persistence of anelloviruses, considered normal virome, in VS. None of the other viruses showed an extensive presence, thereby suggesting insignificant role in VS.

The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is the world’s largest coral ecosystem and is threatened by climate change. This study investigated the impact of the 2016 Marine Heatwave (MHW) on plankton associated microbial communities along a ∼800 km transect in the GBR. 16S rRNA gene metabarcoding of archived plankton samples collected from November 2014 to August 2016 in this region showed a significant increase in Planctomycetes and bacteria belonging to the genus Vibrio and Synechococcus during and after the heatwave. Notably, Droplet Digital PCR and targeted metagenomic analysis applied on samples collected four months after the MHW event revealed the presence of several potential pathogenic Vibrio species previously associated with diseases in aquatic animals. Overall, the 2016 MHW significantly impacted the surface picoplankton community and fostered the spread of potentially pathogenic bacteria across the GBR providing an additional threat for marine biodiversity in this area.