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16 Jul 2019 at 01:45
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Bibliography on: Paleontology Meets Genomics — Sequencing Ancient DNA


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RJR: Recommended Bibliography 16 Jul 2019 at 01:45 Created: 

Paleontology Meets Genomics — Sequencing Ancient DNA

The ideas behind Jurassic Park have become real, kinda sorta. It is now possible to retrieve and sequence DNA from ancient specimens. Although these sequences are based on poor quality DNA and thus have many inferential steps (i,e, the resulting sequence is not likely to be a perfect replica of the living DNA), the insights to be gained from paleosequentcing are nonetheless great. For example, paleo-sequencing has shown that Neanderthal DNA is sufficiently different from human DNA as to be reasonably considered as coming from a different species.

Created with PubMed® Query: "ancient DNA" OR "ancient genome" OR paleogenetic OR paleogenetics NOT pmcbook NOT ispreviousversion

Citations The Papers (from PubMed®)

RevDate: 2019-07-15

Järve M, Saag L, Scheib CL, et al (2019)

Shifts in the Genetic Landscape of the Western Eurasian Steppe Associated with the Beginning and End of the Scythian Dominance.

Current biology : CB pii:S0960-9822(19)30712-2 [Epub ahead of print].

The Early Iron Age nomadic Scythians have been described as a confederation of tribes of different origins, based on ancient DNA evidence [1-3]. It is still unclear how much of the Scythian dominance in the Eurasian Steppe was due to movements of people and how much reflected cultural diffusion and elite dominance. We present new whole-genome sequences of 31 ancient Western and Eastern Steppe individuals, including Scythians as well as samples pre- and postdating them, allowing us to set the Scythians in a temporal context (in the Western, i.e., Ponto-Caspian Steppe). We detect an increase of eastern (Altaian) affinity along with a decrease in eastern hunter-gatherer (EHG) ancestry in the Early Iron Age Ponto-Caspian gene pool at the start of the Scythian dominance. On the other hand, samples of the Chernyakhiv culture postdating the Scythians in Ukraine have a significantly higher proportion of Near Eastern ancestry than other samples of this study. Our results agree with the Gothic source of the Chernyakhiv culture and support the hypothesis that the Scythian dominance did involve a demic component.

RevDate: 2019-07-15

Houldcroft CJ, Rifkin RF, SJ Underdown (2019)

Human biology and ancient DNA: exploring disease, domestication and movement.

Annals of human biology, 46(2):95-98.

RevDate: 2019-07-15
CmpDate: 2019-07-15

Fellows Yates JA, Drucker DG, Reiter E, et al (2017)

Central European Woolly Mammoth Population Dynamics: Insights from Late Pleistocene Mitochondrial Genomes.

Scientific reports, 7(1):17714.

The population dynamics of the Pleistocene woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) has been the subject of intensive palaeogenetic research. Although a large number of mitochondrial genomes across Eurasia have been reconstructed, the available data remains geographically sparse and mostly focused on eastern Eurasia. Thus, population dynamics in other regions have not been extensively investigated. Here, we use a multi-method approach utilising proteomic, stable isotope and genetic techniques to identify and generate twenty woolly mammoth mitochondrial genomes, and associated dietary stable isotopic data, from highly fragmentary Late Pleistocene material from central Europe. We begin to address region-specific questions regarding central European woolly mammoth populations, highlighting parallels with a previous replacement event in eastern Eurasia ten thousand years earlier. A high number of shared derived mutations between woolly mammoth mitochondrial clades are identified, questioning previous phylogenetic analysis and thus emphasizing the need for nuclear DNA studies to explicate the increasingly complex genetic history of the woolly mammoth.

RevDate: 2019-07-13

Teixeira JC, A Cooper (2019)

Using hominin introgression to trace modern human dispersals.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America pii:1904824116 [Epub ahead of print].

The dispersal of anatomically modern human populations out of Africa and across much of the rest of the world around 55 to 50 thousand years before present (ka) is recorded genetically by the multiple hominin groups they met and interbred with along the way, including the Neandertals and Denisovans. The signatures of these introgression events remain preserved in the genomes of modern-day populations, and provide a powerful record of the sequence and timing of these early migrations, with Asia proving a particularly complex area. At least 3 different hominin groups appear to have been involved in Asia, of which only the Denisovans are currently known. Several interbreeding events are inferred to have taken place east of Wallace's Line, consistent with archaeological evidence of widespread and early hominin presence in the area. However, archaeological and fossil evidence indicates archaic hominins had not spread as far as the Sahul continent (New Guinea, Australia, and Tasmania), where recent genetic evidence remains enigmatic.

RevDate: 2019-07-12

Koch E, Schweizer RM, Schweizer TM, et al (2019)

De novo mutation rate estimation in wolves of known pedigree.

Molecular biology and evolution pii:5531468 [Epub ahead of print].

Knowledge of mutation rates is crucial for calibrating population genetics models of demographic history in units of years. However, mutation rates remain challenging to estimate because of the need to identify extremely rare events. We estimated the nuclear mutation rate in wolves by identifying de novo mutations in a pedigree of seven wolves. Putative de novo mutations were discovered by whole-genome sequencing and were verified by Sanger sequencing of parents and offspring. Using stringent filters and an estimate of the false negative rate in the remaining observable genome, we obtain an estimate of ∼4.5 x 10-9 per base pair per generation and provide conservative bounds from 2.6 x 10-9 and 7.1 x 10-9. Although our estimate is consistent with recent mutation rate estimates from ancient DNA (4.0 x 10-9 and 3.0-4.5 x 10-9), it implies a wider possible range. We also examined the consequences of our rate and the accompanying interval for dating several critical events in canid demographic history. For example, applying our full range of rates to coalescent models of dog and wolf demographic history implies a wide set of possible divergence times between the ancestral populations of dogs and extant Eurasian wolves (16,000 - 64,000 years ago) although our point estimate indicates a date between 25,000 and 33,000 years ago. Aside from one study in mice, ours provides the only direct mammalian mutation rate outside of primates, and is likely to be vital to future investigations of mutation rate evolution.

RevDate: 2019-07-12

Cornille A, Antolín F, Garcia E, et al (2019)

A Multifaceted Overview of Apple Tree Domestication.

Trends in plant science pii:S1360-1385(19)30125-6 [Epub ahead of print].

The apple is an iconic tree and a major fruit crop worldwide. It is also a model species for the study of the evolutionary processes and genomic basis underlying the domestication of clonally propagated perennial crops. Multidisciplinary approaches from across Eurasia have documented the pace and process of cultivation of this remarkable crop. While population genetics and genomics have revealed the overall domestication history of apple across Eurasia, untangling the evolutionary processes involved, archeobotany has helped to document the transition from gathering and using apples to the practice of cultivation. Further studies integrating archeogenetic and archeogenomic approaches will bring new insights about key traits involved in apple domestication. Such knowledge has potential to boost innovation in present-day apple breeding.

RevDate: 2019-07-10

Zimmermann HH, Harms L, Epp LS, et al (2019)

Chloroplast and mitochondrial genetic variation of larches at the Siberian tundra-taiga ecotone revealed by de novo assembly.

PloS one, 14(7):e0216966 pii:PONE-D-19-08275.

Larix populations at the tundra-taiga ecotone in northern Siberia are highly under-represented in population genetic studies, possibly due to the remoteness of these regions that can only be accessed at extraordinary expense. The genetic signatures of populations in these boundary regions are therefore largely unknown. We aim to generate organelle reference genomes for the detection of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that can be used for paleogenetic studies. We present 19 complete chloroplast genomes and mitochondrial genomic sequences of larches from the southern lowlands of the Taymyr Peninsula (northernmost range of Larix gmelinii (Rupr.) Kuzen.), the lower Omoloy River, and the lower Kolyma River (both in the range of Larix cajanderi Mayr). The genomic data reveal 84 chloroplast SNPs and 213 putatively mitochondrial SNPs. Parsimony-based chloroplast haplotype networks show no spatial structure of individuals from different geographic origins, while the mitochondrial haplotype network shows at least a slight spatial structure with haplotypes from the Omoloy and Kolyma populations being more closely related to each other than to most of the haplotypes from the Taymyr populations. Whole genome alignments with publicly available complete chloroplast genomes of different Larix species show that among official plant barcodes only the rcbL gene contains sufficient polymorphisms, but has to be sequenced completely to distinguish the different provenances. We provide 8 novel mitochondrial SNPs that are putatively diagnostic for the separation of L. gmelinii and L. cajanderi, while 4 chloroplast SNPs have the potential to distinguish the L. gmelinii/L. cajanderi group from other Larix species. Our organelle references can be used for a targeted primer and probe design allowing the generation of short amplicons. This is particularly important with regard to future investigations of, for example, the biogeographic history of Larix by screening ancient sedimentary DNA of Larix.

RevDate: 2019-07-10

Anonymous (2019)

Ancient DNA reveals the roots of the Biblical Philistines.

Nature, 571(7764):149.

RevDate: 2019-07-09

Lan TM, Lin Y, Njaramba-Ngatia J, et al (2019)

Improving Species Identification of Ancient Mammals Based on Next-Generation Sequencing Data.

Genes, 10(7): pii:genes10070509.

The taxonomical identification merely based on morphology is often difficult for ancient remains. Therefore, universal or specific PCR amplification followed by sequencing and BLAST (basic local alignment search tool) search has become the most frequently used genetic-based method for the species identification of biological samples, including ancient remains. However, it is challenging for these methods to process extremely ancient samples with severe DNA fragmentation and contamination. Here, we applied whole-genome sequencing data from 12 ancient samples with ages ranging from 2.7 to 700 kya to compare different mapping algorithms, and tested different reference databases, mapping similarities and query coverage to explore the best method and mapping parameters that can improve the accuracy of ancient mammal species identification. The selected method and parameters were tested using 152 ancient samples, and 150 of the samples were successfully identified. We further screened the BLAST-based mapping results according to the deamination characteristics of ancient DNA to improve the ability of ancient species identification. Our findings demonstrate a marked improvement to the normal procedures used for ancient species identification, which was achieved through defining the mapping and filtering guidelines to identify true ancient DNA sequences. The guidelines summarized in this study could be valuable in archaeology, paleontology, evolution, and forensic science. For the convenience of the scientific community, we wrote a software script with Perl, called AncSid, which is made available on GitHub.

RevDate: 2019-07-08

Feldman M, Master DM, Bianco RA, et al (2019)

Ancient DNA sheds light on the genetic origins of early Iron Age Philistines.

Science advances, 5(7):eaax0061 pii:aax0061.

The ancient Mediterranean port city of Ashkelon, identified as "Philistine" during the Iron Age, underwent a marked cultural change between the Late Bronze and the early Iron Age. It has been long debated whether this change was driven by a substantial movement of people, possibly linked to a larger migration of the so-called "Sea Peoples." Here, we report genome-wide data of 10 Bronze and Iron Age individuals from Ashkelon. We find that the early Iron Age population was genetically distinct due to a European-related admixture. This genetic signal is no longer detectible in the later Iron Age population. Our results support that a migration event occurred during the Bronze to Iron Age transition in Ashkelon but did not leave a long-lasting genetic signature.

RevDate: 2019-07-04

Fleskes RE, Bruwelheide KS, West FL, et al (2019)

Ancient DNA and bioarchaeological perspectives on European and African diversity and relationships on the colonial Delaware frontier.

American journal of physical anthropology [Epub ahead of print].

OBJECTIVES: Ancient DNA (aDNA) and standard osteological analyses applied to 11 skeletons at a late17th to early18th century farmstead site in Delaware to investigate the biological and social factors of settlement and slavery in colonial America.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Osteological analysis and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequencing were conducted for all individuals and the resulting data contextualized with archaeological and documentary evidence.

RESULTS: Individuals of European and African descent were spatially separated in this colonial cemetery. The skeletal remains exhibited differences in osteological features and maternal genetic ancestry. A specific mtDNA haplotype appeared in a subset of the European-descended individuals suggesting they were maternally related. Individuals of African descent were not maternally related, and instead showed a diversity of haplotypes affiliated with present-day Western, Central, and Eastern regions of Africa.

DISCUSSION: Along with the bioarchaeological and documentary evidence, the aDNA findings contribute to our understanding of life on the colonial Delaware frontier. Evidence of maternal relatedness among European-descended individuals at the site demonstrates kin-based settlements in 17th century Delaware and provides preliminary identifications of individuals. The maternal genetic diversity of the individuals with African descent aligns with the routes of the trans-Atlantic slave trade but broadens our understanding of the ancestries of persons involved in it. Burial positioning, osteological pathology, and lack of maternal kinship among individuals of African descent provide tangible evidence for the emergence of racialized labor and society in Delaware during the late17th century.

RevDate: 2019-07-01

Joseph TA, I Pe'er (2019)

Inference of Population Structure from Time-Series Genotype Data.

American journal of human genetics pii:S0002-9297(19)30227-7 [Epub ahead of print].

Sequencing ancient DNA can offer direct probing of population history. Yet, such data are commonly analyzed with standard tools that assume DNA samples are all contemporary. We present DyStruct, a model and inference algorithm for inferring shared ancestry from temporally sampled genotype data. DyStruct explicitly incorporates temporal dynamics by modeling individuals as mixtures of unobserved populations whose allele frequencies drift over time. We develop an efficient inference algorithm for our model using stochastic variational inference. On simulated data, we show that DyStruct outperforms the current state of the art when individuals are sampled over time. Using a dataset of 296 modern and 80 ancient samples, we demonstrate DyStruct is able to capture a well-supported admixture event of steppe ancestry into modern Europe. We further apply DyStruct to a genome-wide dataset of 2,067 modern and 262 ancient samples used to study the origin of farming in the Near East. We show that DyStruct provides new insight into population history when compared with alternate approaches, within feasible run time.

RevDate: 2019-06-28

Angelici FM, Ciucani MM, Angelini S, et al (2019)

The Sicilian Wolf: Genetic Identity of a Recently Extinct Insular Population.

Zoological science, 36(3):189-197.

Historically, many local grey wolf (Canis lupus) populations have undergone substantial reductions in size or become extinct. Among these, the wolf population once living in Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, was completely eradicated by human activity in the early decades of the 20th century. To gain a better understanding of the genetic identity of the Sicilian wolf, we used techniques for the study of ancient DNA to analyze the mitochondrial (mt) variability of six specimens stored in Italian museums. We were able to amplify a diagnostic mtDNA fragment of the control region (CR) in four of the samples. Two of the samples shared the same haplotype, differing by two substitutions from the currently most diffused Italian wolf haplotype (W14) and one substitution from the only other Italian haplotype (W16). The third sample showed a previously unreported wolf-like haplotype, and the fourth a haplotype commonly found in dogs. All of the wolf haplotypes analyzed in this study belonged to the mitochondrial haplogroup that includes haplotypes detected in all the known European Pleistocene wolves and in several modern southern European populations. Unfortunately, this endemic island population, which exhibited unique mtDNA variability, was definitively lost before it was possible to understand its taxonomic uniqueness and conservational value.

RevDate: 2019-06-28

Silva PC, Malabarba MC, Vari In Memoriam R, et al (2019)

Comparison and optimization for DNA extraction of archived fish specimens.

MethodsX, 6:1433-1442 pii:S2215-0161(19)30158-X.

The DNA extracted from museum alcohol-fixed specimens can be a valuable source of information for solving taxonomic, phylogenetic, ecological and conservational questions. However, this type of DNA, also called ancient DNA, is routinely obtained in small portions and highly fragmented. We have tested two different extraction kits in museum type-specimens of the fish family Characidae. Aiming to increase the DNA yield, we made modifications on a Qiagen manufacturer protocol, in the elution step. Also, to overcome the issue of DNA fragmentation, we applied our efforts in Sanger sequencing, to find a highly variable and, in result, informative COI fragment. Based on our results, there is no correlation between amount of the DNA extracted and the age of the sample. The Sanger sequencing generated sequences which are useful in solving taxonomic puzzles. Here are presented the customization and guidelines that allowed us to recover DNA from the archived fish specimens. •DNA extraction from archived fish specimens is more effective when using silica columns.•Change of the elution times from minutes in room temperature to 24 h in freezer greatly improved the DNA yielded.•Short but highly variable sequences replace the need to sequence the entire gene to identify a species.

RevDate: 2019-06-27

Botbayev D, Ravegnini G, Sammarini G, et al (2019)

Absence of mutations in the human interferon alpha-2b gene in workers chronically exposed to ionising radiation.

Arhiv za higijenu rada i toksikologiju, 70(2):104-108.

Individuals chronically exposed to low-level ionising radiation (IR) run the risk of harmful and long-term adverse health effects, including gene mutations and cancer development. The search for reliable biomarkers of IR exposure in human population is still of great interest, as they may have a great implementation potential for the surveillance of occupationally exposed individuals. In this context, and considering previous literature, this study aimed to identify mutations in the human interferon alpha-2b (hIFNα-2b) as a potential biomarker of occupational chronic low-dose IR exposure linking low-IR exposure to the effects on haematopoiesis and reduced immunity. The analysis was performed in the genomic DNA of 51 uranium miners and 38 controls from Kazakhstan, and in 21 medical radiology workers and 21 controls from Italy. hIFNα-2b gene mutations were analysed with the real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or Sanger sequencing. However, none of the investigated workers had the hIFNα-2b mutation. This finding highlights the need for further research to identify biomarkers for early detection of health effects associated with chronic low-dose IR exposure.

RevDate: 2019-06-25

De Schepper S, Ray JL, Skaar KS, et al (2019)

The potential of sedimentary ancient DNA for reconstructing past sea ice evolution.

The ISME journal pii:10.1038/s41396-019-0457-1 [Epub ahead of print].

Sea ice is a crucial component of the Arctic climate system, yet the tools to document the evolution of sea ice conditions on historical and geological time scales are few and have limitations. Such records are essential for documenting and understanding the natural variations in Arctic sea ice extent. Here we explore sedimentary ancient DNA (aDNA), as a novel tool that unlocks and exploits the genetic (eukaryote) biodiversity preserved in marine sediments specifically for past sea ice reconstructions. Although use of sedimentary aDNA in paleoceanographic and paleoclimatic studies is still in its infancy, we use here metabarcoding and single-species quantitative DNA detection methods to document the sea ice conditions in a Greenland Sea marine sediment core. Metabarcoding has allowed identifying biodiversity changes in the geological record back to almost ~100,000 years ago that were related to changing sea ice conditions. Detailed bioinformatic analyses on the metabarcoding data revealed several sea-ice-associated taxa, most of which previously unknown from the fossil record. Finally, we quantitatively traced one known sea ice dinoflagellate in the sediment core. We show that aDNA can be recovered from deep-ocean sediments with generally oxic bottom waters and that past sea ice conditions can be documented beyond instrumental time scales. Our results corroborate sea ice reconstructions made by traditional tools, and thus demonstrate the potential of sedimentary aDNA, focusing primarily on microbial eukaryotes, as a new tool to better understand sea ice evolution in the climate system.

RevDate: 2019-06-25
CmpDate: 2019-06-25

Hendy J, Warinner C, Bouwman A, et al (2018)

Proteomic evidence of dietary sources in ancient dental calculus.

Proceedings. Biological sciences, 285(1883):.

Archaeological dental calculus has emerged as a rich source of ancient biomolecules, including proteins. Previous analyses of proteins extracted from ancient dental calculus revealed the presence of the dietary milk protein β-lactoglobulin, providing direct evidence of dairy consumption in the archaeological record. However, the potential for calculus to preserve other food-related proteins has not yet been systematically explored. Here we analyse shotgun metaproteomic data from 100 archaeological dental calculus samples ranging from the Iron Age to the post-medieval period (eighth century BC to nineteenth century AD) in England, as well as 14 dental calculus samples from contemporary dental patients and recently deceased individuals, to characterize the range and extent of dietary proteins preserved in dental calculus. In addition to milk proteins, we detect proteomic evidence of foodstuffs such as cereals and plant products, as well as the digestive enzyme salivary amylase. We discuss the importance of optimized protein extraction methods, data analysis approaches and authentication strategies in the identification of dietary proteins from archaeological dental calculus. This study demonstrates that proteomic approaches can robustly identify foodstuffs in the archaeological record that are typically under-represented due to their poor macroscopic preservation.

RevDate: 2019-06-21

Eisenhofer R, A Cooper (2019)

A new home for microbes.

eLife, 8: pii:48493.

Modern microorganisms growing in fossils provide major challenges for researchers trying to detect ancient molecules in the same fossils.

RevDate: 2019-06-20

Borówka P, Pułaski Ł, Marciniak B, et al (2019)

Screening methods for detection of ancient Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex fingerprints in next-generation sequencing data derived from skeletal samples.

GigaScience, 8(6):.

BACKGROUND: Recent advances in ancient DNA studies, especially in increasing isolated DNA yields and quality, have opened the possibility of analysis of ancient host microbiome. However, such pitfalls as spurious identification of pathogens based on fragmentary data or environmental contamination could lead to incorrect epidaemiological conclusions. Within the Mycobacterium genus, Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex members responsible for tuberculosis share up to ∼99% genomic sequence identity, while other more distantly related Mycobacteria other than M. tuberculosis can be causative agents for pulmonary diseases or soil dwellers. Therefore, reliable determination of species complex is crucial for interpretation of sequencing results.

RESULTS: Here we present a novel bioinformatical approach, used for screening of ancient tuberculosis in sequencing data, derived from 28 individuals (dated 4400-4000 and 3100-2900 BC) from central Poland. We demonstrate that cost-effective next-generation screening sequencing data (∼20M reads per sample) could yield enough information to provide statistically supported identification of probable ancient disease cases.

CONCLUSIONS: Application of appropriate bioinformatic tools, including an unbiased selection of genomic alignment targets for species specificity, makes it possible to extract valid data from full-sample sequencing results (without subjective targeted enrichment procedures). This approach broadens the potential scope of palaeoepidaemiology both to older, suboptimally preserved samples and to pathogens with difficult intrageneric taxonomy.

RevDate: 2019-06-19

Xavier C, Eduardoff M, Strobl C, et al (2019)

SD quants-Sensitive detection tetraplex-system for nuclear and mitochondrial DNA quantification and degradation inference.

Forensic science international. Genetics, 42:39-44 pii:S1872-4973(19)30178-4 [Epub ahead of print].

Measuring the quantity of DNA present in a forensic sample is relevant in a number of ways. First, it informs the analyst about the general DNA content to adjust the volume of DNA extract used for the genotyping assay to the optimal conditions (when possible). Second, quantification values can serve as plausibility checks for the performance of the DNA extraction method used as extraction positive and negative controls demand expected values. Third and relevant to highly compromised specimens, DNA quantification can inform about the degradation state of the DNA extracted from the unknown biological sample and aid the choice of downstream genotyping assays. While there are different, commercial products for the quantification of nuclear DNA available, commercial mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) quantification systems are rare. Even more so, the simultaneous quantification of nuclear and mtDNA that is of relevance in highly degraded forensic specimens has rarely been described. We present here a novel real-time qPCR based tetraplex system termed SD quants that targets two different-sized mtDNA and a nuclear DNA region and includes an internal positive control to monitor potential inhibition. SD quants was compared to other existing quantification systems and subjected to analysis of severely degraded DNA present in ancient DNA and aged forensic specimens. This study complies with the MIQE (Bustin et al., 2009) guidelines (when applicable).

RevDate: 2019-06-19

Wren CD, A Burke (2019)

Habitat suitability and the genetic structure of human populations during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) in Western Europe.

PloS one, 14(6):e0217996 pii:PONE-D-19-02959.

Human populations in Western Europe during the Last Glacial Maximum were geographically constrained to glacial refugia by the severity of the climate and ecological risk factors. In this research we use an agent-based model of human mobility and interaction, based on ethnographic and archaeological data, to explore the impact of ecological risk on human population structure via a reconstructed landscape of habitat suitability. The agent-based model allows us to evaluate the size and location of glacial refugia, the size of the populations occupying them and the degree of genetic relatedness between people occupying these areas. To do this, we model the probability of an agent foraging groups' survival as a function of habitat suitability. The model's simulated "genomes" (composed of regionally specific genetic markers) allow us to track long-term trends of inter-regional interaction and mobility. The results agree with previous archaeological studies situating a large glacial refugium spanning southern France and northeastern Spain, but we expand on those studies by demonstrating that higher rates of population growth in this central refugium led to continuous out-migration and therefore genetic homogeneity across Western Europe, with the possible exception of the Italian peninsula. These results concur with material culture data from known archaeological sites dating to the Last Glacial Maximum and make predictions for future ancient DNA studies.

RevDate: 2019-06-19

Epp LS (2019)

A global perspective for biodiversity history with ancient environmental DNA.

Molecular ecology, 28(10):2456-2458.

The past centuries have seen tremendous turnovers in species distributions and biodiversity due to anthropogenic impacts on a global scale. The processes are ongoing and mostly not well documented. Long-term records of biotic change can be recovered from sedimentary deposits, but traditional analyses were restricted to organisms that leave behind visible traces and molecular genetic tools were mostly employed on samples that promised good DNA preservation. In this issue of Molecular Ecology, Shaw, Weyrich, Hallegraeff and Cooper (2019) and Gomez Cabrera et al. (2019) present two studies on marine sedimentary records from warm environments, in which they successfully analyze ancient environmental DNA (aeDNA) on a decadal and centennial scale. Notably, the studies were conducted on novel samples with nonoptimal preservation conditions for ancient DNA - historical collections of ship ballast tank sediments from Australia and two coral reef cores spanning up to 750 years (Figure 1) - but yielded a high diversity of taxa. This highlights that aeDNA is a promising tool to globally study biodiversity history on scales of decades to centuries - the timeframe most relevant to human society in the context of both current climate change and direct anthropogenic modifications of the environment.

RevDate: 2019-06-18

Bradshaw CJA, Ulm S, Williams AN, et al (2019)

Minimum founding populations for the first peopling of Sahul.

Nature ecology & evolution pii:10.1038/s41559-019-0902-6 [Epub ahead of print].

The timing, context and nature of the first people to enter Sahul is still poorly understood owing to a fragmented archaeological record. However, quantifying the plausible demographic context of this founding population is essential to determine how and why the initial peopling of Sahul occurred. We developed a stochastic, age-structured model using demographic rates from hunter-gatherer societies, and relative carrying capacity hindcasted with LOVECLIM's net primary productivity for northern Sahul. We projected these populations to determine the resilience and minimum sizes required to avoid extinction. A census founding population of between 1,300 and 1,550 individuals was necessary to maintain a quasi-extinction threshold of ≲0.1. This minimum founding population could have arrived at a single point in time, or through multiple voyages of ≥130 people over ~700-900 years. This result shows that substantial population amalgamation in Sunda and Wallacea in Marine Isotope Stages 3-4 provided the conditions for the successful, large-scale and probably planned peopling of Sahul.

RevDate: 2019-06-13
CmpDate: 2019-06-10

Posth C, Nägele K, Colleran H, et al (2018)

Language continuity despite population replacement in Remote Oceania.

Nature ecology & evolution, 2(4):731-740.

Recent genomic analyses show that the earliest peoples reaching Remote Oceania-associated with Austronesian-speaking Lapita culture-were almost completely East Asian, without detectable Papuan ancestry. However, Papuan-related genetic ancestry is found across present-day Pacific populations, indicating that peoples from Near Oceania have played a significant, but largely unknown, ancestral role. Here, new genome-wide data from 19 ancient South Pacific individuals provide direct evidence of a so-far undescribed Papuan expansion into Remote Oceania starting ~2,500 yr BP, far earlier than previously estimated and supporting a model from historical linguistics. New genome-wide data from 27 contemporary ni-Vanuatu demonstrate a subsequent and almost complete replacement of Lapita-Austronesian by Near Oceanian ancestry. Despite this massive demographic change, incoming Papuan languages did not replace Austronesian languages. Population replacement with language continuity is extremely rare-if not unprecedented-in human history. Our analyses show that rather than one large-scale event, the process was incremental and complex, with repeated migrations and sex-biased admixture with peoples from the Bismarck Archipelago.

RevDate: 2019-06-11

Scheib CL, Hui R, D'Atanasio E, et al (2019)

East Anglian Early Neolithic monument burial linked to contemporary Megaliths.

Annals of human biology [Epub ahead of print].

In the fourth millennium BCE a cultural phenomenon of monumental burial structures spread along the Atlantic façade. Megalithic burials have been targeted for aDNA analyses, but a gap remains in East Anglia where Neolithic structures were generally earthen or timber. An early Neolithic (3762 - 3648 cal. BCE) burial monument at the site of Trumpington Meadows, Cambridgeshire, U.K. contained the partially articulated remains of at least three individuals. To determine whether this monument fits a pattern present in megalithic burials regarding sex bias, kinship, diet, and relationship to modern populations, teeth and ribs were analysed for DNA and carbon and nitrogen isotopic values respectively. Whole ancient genomes were sequenced from two individuals to a mean genomic coverage of 1.6 and 1.2X and genotypes imputed. Results show that they were brothers from a small population genetically and isotopically similar to previously published British Neolithic individuals, with a level of genome-wide homozygosity consistent with a small island population sourced from continental Europe, but bearing no signs of recent inbreeding. The first Neolithic whole genomes from a monumental burial in East Anglia confirm that this region was connected with the larger pattern of Neolithic megaliths in the British Isles and the Atlantic façade.

RevDate: 2019-06-10

Delsuc F, Kuch M, Gibb GC, et al (2019)

Ancient Mitogenomes Reveal the Evolutionary History and Biogeography of Sloths.

Current biology : CB pii:S0960-9822(19)30613-X [Epub ahead of print].

Living sloths represent two distinct lineages of small-sized mammals that independently evolved arboreality from terrestrial ancestors. The six extant species are the survivors of an evolutionary radiation marked by the extinction of large terrestrial forms at the end of the Quaternary. Until now, sloth evolutionary history has mainly been reconstructed from phylogenetic analyses of morphological characters. Here, we used ancient DNA methods to successfully sequence 10 extinct sloth mitogenomes encompassing all major lineages. This includes the iconic continental ground sloths Megatherium, Megalonyx, Mylodon, and Nothrotheriops and the smaller endemic Caribbean sloths Parocnus and Acratocnus. Phylogenetic analyses identify eight distinct lineages grouped in three well-supported clades, whose interrelationships are markedly incongruent with the currently accepted morphological topology. We show that recently extinct Caribbean sloths have a single origin but comprise two highly divergent lineages that are not directly related to living two-fingered sloths, which instead group with Mylodon. Moreover, living three-fingered sloths do not represent the sister group to all other sloths but are nested within a clade of extinct ground sloths including Megatherium, Megalonyx, and Nothrotheriops. Molecular dating also reveals that the eight newly recognized sloth families all originated between 36 and 28 million years ago (mya). The early divergence of recently extinct Caribbean sloths around 35 mya is consistent with the debated GAARlandia hypothesis postulating the existence at that time of a biogeographic connection between northern South America and the Greater Antilles. This new molecular phylogeny has major implications for reinterpreting sloth morphological evolution, biogeography, and diversification history.

RevDate: 2019-06-07

Presslee S, Slater GJ, Pujos F, et al (2019)

Palaeoproteomics resolves sloth relationships.

Nature ecology & evolution pii:10.1038/s41559-019-0909-z [Epub ahead of print].

The living tree sloths Choloepus and Bradypus are the only remaining members of Folivora, a major xenarthran radiation that occupied a wide range of habitats in many parts of the western hemisphere during the Cenozoic, including both continents and the West Indies. Ancient DNA evidence has played only a minor role in folivoran systematics, as most sloths lived in places not conducive to genomic preservation. Here we utilize collagen sequence information, both separately and in combination with published mitochondrial DNA evidence, to assess the relationships of tree sloths and their extinct relatives. Results from phylogenetic analysis of these datasets differ substantially from morphology-based concepts: Choloepus groups with Mylodontidae, not Megalonychidae; Bradypus and Megalonyx pair together as megatherioids, while monophyletic Antillean sloths may be sister to all other folivorans. Divergence estimates are consistent with fossil evidence for mid-Cenozoic presence of sloths in the West Indies and an early Miocene radiation in South America.

RevDate: 2019-06-05

Keller M, Spyrou MA, Scheib CL, et al (2019)

Ancient Yersinia pestis genomes from across Western Europe reveal early diversification during the First Pandemic (541-750).

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America pii:1820447116 [Epub ahead of print].

The first historically documented pandemic caused by Yersinia pestis began as the Justinianic Plague in 541 within the Roman Empire and continued as the so-called First Pandemic until 750. Although paleogenomic studies have previously identified the causative agent as Y. pestis, little is known about the bacterium's spread, diversity, and genetic history over the course of the pandemic. To elucidate the microevolution of the bacterium during this time period, we screened human remains from 21 sites in Austria, Britain, Germany, France, and Spain for Y. pestis DNA and reconstructed eight genomes. We present a methodological approach assessing single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in ancient bacterial genomes, facilitating qualitative analyses of low coverage genomes from a metagenomic background. Phylogenetic analysis on the eight reconstructed genomes reveals the existence of previously undocumented Y. pestis diversity during the sixth to eighth centuries, and provides evidence for the presence of multiple distinct Y. pestis strains in Europe. We offer genetic evidence for the presence of the Justinianic Plague in the British Isles, previously only hypothesized from ambiguous documentary accounts, as well as the parallel occurrence of multiple derived strains in central and southern France, Spain, and southern Germany. Four of the reported strains form a polytomy similar to others seen across the Y. pestis phylogeny, associated with the Second and Third Pandemics. We identified a deletion of a 45-kb genomic region in the most recent First Pandemic strains affecting two virulence factors, intriguingly overlapping with a deletion found in 17th- to 18th-century genomes of the Second Pandemic.

RevDate: 2019-06-05

Santander C, Montinaro F, C Capelli (2019)

Searching for archaic contribution in Africa.

Annals of human biology [Epub ahead of print].

Context: Africa's role in the narrative of human evolution is indisputably emphasised in the emergence Homo sapiens. However, once humans disperse beyond Africa, the history of those who stayed remains vastly understudied lacking the proper attention it deserves as the birthplace of both modern and archaic humans. The sequencing of Neanderthal and Denisovan genomes has elucidated evidence of admixture between archaic and modern humans outside of Africa but has not aided efforts in answering whether archaic admixture happened within Africa. Objectives: We review here the state of research for archaic introgression in African populations and discuss recent insights into this topic. Methods: Gathering published sources and recently released preprints, this review reports on the different methods developed for detecting archaic introgression. Particularly we discuss how relevant these are when implemented on African populations and what findings these studies have shown so far. Results: Methods for detecting archaic introgression have been predominantly developed and implemented on non-African populations. Recent preprints present new methods considering African populations. While a number of studies using these methods suggest archaic introgression in Africa, without an African archaic genome to validate these results, such findings remain as putative archaic introgression. Conclusion: In light of the caveats with implementing current archaic introgression detection methods in Africa, we recommend future studies to concentrate on unravelling the complicated demographic history of Africa through means of ancient DNA where possible and through more focused efforts to sequence modern DNA from more representative populations across the African continent.

RevDate: 2019-06-10

Ersmark E, Baryshnikov G, Higham T, et al (2019)

Genetic turnovers and northern survival during the last glacial maximum in European brown bears.

Ecology and evolution, 9(10):5891-5905 pii:ECE35172.

The current phylogeographic pattern of European brown bears (Ursus arctos) has commonly been explained by postglacial recolonization out of geographically distinct refugia in southern Europe, a pattern well in accordance with the expansion/contraction model. Studies of ancient DNA from brown bear remains have questioned this pattern, but have failed to explain the glacial distribution of mitochondrial brown bear clades and their subsequent expansion across the European continent. We here present 136 new mitochondrial sequences generated from 346 remains from Europe, ranging in age between the Late Pleistocene and historical times. The genetic data show a high Late Pleistocene diversity across the continent and challenge the strict confinement of bears to traditional southern refugia during the last glacial maximum (LGM). The mitochondrial data further suggest a genetic turnover just before this time, as well as a steep demographic decline starting in the mid-Holocene. Levels of stable nitrogen isotopes from the remains confirm a previously proposed shift toward increasing herbivory around the LGM in Europe. Overall, these results suggest that in addition to climate, anthropogenic impact and inter-specific competition may have had more important effects on the brown bear's ecology, demography, and genetic structure than previously thought.

RevDate: 2019-05-31

Prendergast ME, Lipson M, Sawchuk EA, et al (2019)

Ancient DNA reveals a multistep spread of the first herders into sub-Saharan Africa.

Science (New York, N.Y.) pii:science.aaw6275 [Epub ahead of print].

How food production first entered eastern Africa ~5000 years ago and the extent to which people moved with livestock is unclear. We present genome-wide data from 41 individuals associated with Later Stone Age, Pastoral Neolithic (PN), and Iron Age contexts in what are now Kenya and Tanzania to examine the genetic impacts of the spreads of herding and farming. Our results support a multi-phase model in which admixture between northeastern African-related peoples and eastern African foragers formed multiple pastoralist groups, including a genetically homogeneous PN cluster. Additional admixture with northeastern and western African-related groups occurred by the Iron Age. These findings support several movements of food producers, while rejecting models of minimal admixture with foragers and of genetic differentiation between makers of distinct PN artifacts.

RevDate: 2019-05-29

Donoghue HD (2019)

Tuberculosis and leprosy associated with historical human population movements in Europe and beyond - an overview based on mycobacterial ancient DNA.

Annals of human biology [Epub ahead of print].

Context: Tuberculosis and leprosy are readily recognized in human remains due to their typical palaeopathology. Both Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) and Mycobacterium leprae (ML) are obligate pathogens and have been detected in ancient human populations. Objective: To demonstrate historical tuberculosis and leprosy cases in Europe and beyond using molecular methods, as human populations are associated with different mycobacterial genotypes. Methods: MTB and ML ancient DNA (aDNA) has been detected by DNA amplification using PCR, or by whole genome sequencing. Mycobacterial cell wall lipids also provide specific markers for identification. Results: In 18th century Hungary the European indigenous MTB genotype 4 strains have been found. However, many individuals were co-infected with up to three MTB sub-genotypes. In C8th-C14th Europe significant differences in ML genotypes were found between northwest Europe compared with central, southern, or eastern Europe. In addition, several co-infections of MTB and ML were detected in historical samples. Conclusion: Both MTB and ML strain types differ between geographically separate populations. This is associated with ancient human migration after an evolutionary bottleneck and clonal expansion. The absence of indigenous leprosy in Europe today may be due to the greater mortality of tuberculosis in individuals who are co-infected with both organisms.

RevDate: 2019-05-28

Wu X, Ding B, Zhang B, et al (2019)

Phylogenetic and population structural inference from genomic ancestry maintained in present-day common wheat Chinese landraces.

The Plant journal : for cell and molecular biology [Epub ahead of print].

Hexaploid common wheat is one of the most important food crops worldwide. Common wheat domestication began in the Fertile Crescent of the Near East approximately 10,000 years ago and then spread west into Europe and eastward into East Asia and China. However, the possible spreading route into and within China is still unclear. In this study, we successfully extracted DNA from single ancient wheat seeds and sequenced the whole genome of seven ancient samples from Xiaohe and Gumugou cemeteries in Xinjiang, China. Genomic inference and morphological observation confirmed their identity as hexaploid common wheat grown in prehistoric China at least 3200 years before present (BP). Phylogenetic and admixture analyses with RNA-seq data of modern hexaploid wheat cultivars from both China and Western countries demonstrated a close kinship of the ancient wheat to extant common wheat landraces in southwestern China. The highly similar allelic frequencies in modern landraces of Qinghai-Tibetan plateau with the ancient wheat support the previously suggested southwestern spreading route into the highland China. A subsequent dispersal route from the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau margins to the Yangtze valley was proposed in this study. Furthermore, the common wheat populations grown in the Middle and Lower Yangtze valley wheat zones were also proposed to be established by population admixture with the wheat grown in the Upper Yangtze valley. Our study reports ancient common wheat sequences at a genome-wide scale, providing important information on the origin, dispersal, and genetic improvement under cultivation of present-day wheat landraces grown in China. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

RevDate: 2019-06-10

Hong JH, Oh CS, Chai JY, et al (2019)

Cytochrome C Oxidase Subunit 1, Internal Transcribed Spacer 1, Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide Hydrogen Dehydrogenase Subunits 2 and 5 of Clonorchis sinensis Ancient DNA Retrieved from Joseon Dynasty Mummy Specimens.

Journal of Korean medical science, 34(20):e149 pii:34.e149.

We analyzed Clonorchis sinensis ancient DNA (aDNA) acquired from the specimens of the Joseon mummies. The target regions were cytochrome C oxidase subunit 1 (CO1), internal transcribed spacer 1 (ITS1), nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide hydrogen (NADH) dehydrogenase subunits 2 (NAD2) and 5 (NAD5). The sequences of C. sinensis aDNA was completely or almost identical to modern C. sinensis sequences in GenBank. We also found that ITS1, NAD2 and NAD5 could be good markers for molecular diagnosis between C. sinensis and the other trematode parasite species. The current result could improve our knowledge about genetic history of C. sinensis.

RevDate: 2019-06-10

Kashuba N, Kırdök E, Damlien H, et al (2019)

Ancient DNA from mastics solidifies connection between material culture and genetics of mesolithic hunter-gatherers in Scandinavia.

Communications biology, 2:185 pii:399.

Human demography research in grounded on the information derived from ancient DNA and archaeology. For example, the study on the early postglacial dual-route colonisation of the Scandinavian Peninsula is largely based on associating genomic data with the early dispersal of lithic technology from the East European Plain. However, a clear connection between material culture and genetics has been lacking. Here, we demonstrate that direct connection by analysing human DNA from chewed birch bark pitch mastics. These samples were discovered at Huseby Klev in western Sweden, a Mesolithic site with eastern lithic technology. We generated genome-wide data for three individuals, and show their affinity to the Scandinavian hunter-gatherers. Our samples date to 9880-9540 calBP, expanding the temporal range and distribution of the early Scandinavian genetic group. We propose that DNA from ancient mastics can be used to study environment and ecology of prehistoric populations.

RevDate: 2019-06-10

Hong JH, Oh CS, Seo M, et al (2019)

Analysis of COI and ITS2 regions of DNA obtained from Paragonimus westermani eggs in ancient coprolites on Joseon dynasty mummies.

Memorias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz, 114:e180595.

The genetic information of ancient Paragonimus westermani, the oriental lung fluke infecting over 20 million people worldwide, has not been thoroughly investigated thus far. We analysed genetic markers (COI and ITS2) of P. westermani from coprolite specimens (n = 6) obtained from 15th to 18th century Korean mummies. Our results indicated that all P. westermani sequences were generally distinct from the other species of the genus Paragonimus. The sequences were clustered into three groups: Group I for East Asia; Group II for South and Southeast Asia; and Group III for India and Sri Lanka. In this study, we found that ancient P. westermani sequences in Korea belong to Group I, adding invaluable information to the existing knowledge of Paragonimus paleogenetics.

RevDate: 2019-05-22

Ham E, Underdown SJ, CJ Houldcroft (2019)

The relative roles of maternal survival and inter-personal violence as selection pressures on the persistence of Neanderthal hypercoagulability alleles in modern Europeans.

Annals of human biology [Epub ahead of print].

BACKGROUND: Simoni et al (2016) reported variation in the frequency of Neanderthal alleles found in modern humans and argued that they may have provided an evolutionary advantage. One such allele is SNP rs3917862, associated with hypercoagulability. rs3917862 can be deleterious but can also help prevent blood loss.

AIM: To investigate two possible selective pressure hypotheses for rs3917862 surviving to higher frequencies: deaths from interpersonal violent trauma and childbirth.

SUBJECTS AND METHODS: Mortality data from modern hunter-gatherers models the living conditions and causes of death of humans and Neanderthals at the point of admixture.

RESULTS: National census data indicates a positive correlation between presence of rs3917862 and decreased maternal mortality ratios. When maternal mortality ratio is modelled using GDP, births attended by skilled assistants and the presence of rs3917862, women are 0.1% more likely to die in childbirth in populations lacking rs3917862. Deaths due to violence show no correlation with rs3917862.

CONCLUSION: These findings challenge the idea that Neanderthal admixture has negatively impacted the overall health of modern humans. Maternal survival may have acted as a selective pressure for the persistence of hypercoagulability alleles in modern Europeans. Understanding the role of hypercoagulability in childbirth, and the role of rs3917862, could help to reduce maternal mortality ratios.

RevDate: 2019-05-21

Perry GH, CA Makarewicz (2019)

Horse Paleogenomes and Human-Animal Interactions in Prehistory.

Trends in genetics : TIG pii:S0168-9525(19)30077-0 [Epub ahead of print].

A new analysis of paleogenomic data from 278 ancient horses (Fages et al. Cellhttp://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2019.03.049) finds that this animal - crucially important to many ancient and contemporary human societies for subsistence, transportation, conflict, and more - was domesticated in at least two different regions, but with the geographic and cultural origins of the modern domestic horse lineage remaining unknown. By tracing ancient horse population movements and inferring the spatiotemporal trajectories of phenotypic adaptations, this study provides fresh perspectives on past human group interactions and activities.

RevDate: 2019-05-16

Bennett RJ, KS Baker (2019)

Looking backwards to move forward: the utility of sequencing historical bacterial genomes.

Journal of clinical microbiology pii:JCM.00100-19 [Epub ahead of print].

Many pathogens which caused devastating disease throughout human history, such as Yersinia pestis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium leprae, remain problematic today. Historical bacterial genomes represent a unique source of genetic information and advancements in sequencing technologies have allowed unprecedented insights from this previously-understudied resource. This minireview brings together example studies which have utilised ancient DNA, individual historical isolates (both extant and dead) and collections of historical isolates. The studies span human history and highlight the contribution that sequencing, and analysis of historical bacterial genomes have made to a wide variety of fields. From providing retrospective diagnosis, to uncovering epidemiological pathways and characterising genetic diversity, there is clear evidence for the utility of historical isolate studies in understanding disease today. Studies utilising historical isolate collections, such as those from NCTC, ATCC and the Institut Pasteur, offer enhanced insight as they typically span a wide time period encompassing important historical events and are useful for the investigating the phylodynamics of pathogens. Furthermore, historical sequencing studies are particularly useful for looking into the evolution of antimicrobial resistance, a major public health concern. In summary, although there are limitations to working with historical bacterial isolates, especially when utilising ancient DNA, continued improvement in molecular and sequencing technologies, and the resourcefulness of investigators, mean this area of study will continue to expand and contribute to the understanding of pathogens.

RevDate: 2019-05-15

Renaud G, Hanghøj K, Korneliussen TS, et al (2019)

Joint Estimates of Heterozygosity and Runs of Homozygosity for Modern and Ancient Samples.

Genetics pii:genetics.119.302057 [Epub ahead of print].

Both the total amount and the distribution of heterozygous sites within individual genomes are informative about the genetic diversity of the population they belong to. Detecting true heterozygous sites in ancient genomes is complicated by the generally limited coverage achieved and the presence of post-mortem damage inflating sequencing errors. Additionally, large runs of homozygosity found in the genomes of particularly inbred individuals and of domestic animals can skew estimates of genome-wide heterozygosity rates. Current computational tools aimed at estimating runs of homozygosity and genome-wide heterozygosity levels are generally sensitive to such limitations. Here, we introduce ROHan, a probabilistic method which substantially improves the estimate of heterozygosity rates both genome-wide and for genomic local windows. It combines a local Bayesian model and a Hidden Markov Model at the genome-wide level and can work both on modern and ancient samples. We show that our algorithm outperforms currently available methods for predicting heterozygosity rates for ancient samples. Specifically, ROHan can delineate large runs of homozygosity (at megabase scales) and produce a reliable confidence interval for the genome-wide rate of heterozygosity outside of such regions from modern genomes with a depth of coverage as low as 5-6X and down to 7-8X for ancient samples showing moderate DNA damage. We apply ROHan to a series of modern and ancient genomes previously published and revise available estimates of heterozygosity for humans, chimpanzees and horses.

RevDate: 2019-05-15

Upadhyay M, Bortoluzzi C, Barbato M, et al (2019)

Deciphering the patterns of genetic admixture and diversity in southern European cattle using genome-wide SNPs.

Evolutionary applications, 12(5):951-963 pii:EVA12770.

The divergence between indicine cattle (Bos indicus) and taurine cattle (Bos taurus) is estimated to have occurred approximately 250,000 years ago, but a small number of European cattle breeds still display shared ancestry with indicine cattle. Additionally, following the divergence of African and European taurine, the gene flow between African taurine and southern European cattle has also been proposed. However, the extent to which non-European cattle ancestry is diffused across southern European cattle has not been investigated thoroughly. Also, in recent times, many local breeds have suffered severe reductions in effective population size. Therefore, in the present study, we investigated the pattern of genetic diversity in various European cattle based on single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) identified from whole-genome sequencing data. Additionally, we also employed unlinked and phased SNP-based approaches on high-density SNP array data to characterize non-European cattle ancestry in several southern European cattle breeds. Using heterozygosity-based parameters, we concluded that, on average, nucleotide diversity is greater in southern European cattle than western European (British and commercial) cattle. However, an abundance of long runs of homozygosity (ROH) and the pattern of Linkage disequilibrium decay suggested recent bottlenecks in Maltese and Romagnola. High nucleotide diversity outside ROH indicated a highly diverse founder population for southern European and African taurine. We also show that Iberian cattle display shared ancestry with African cattle. Furthermore, we show that Podolica is an ancient cross-bred between Indicine zebu and European taurine. Additionally, we also inferred similar ancestry profile of non-European cattle ancestry in different Balkan and Italian cattle breeds which might be an indication of the common origin of indicine ancestry in these breeds. Finally, we discuss several plausible demographic scenarios which might account for the presence of non-European cattle ancestry in these cattle breeds.

RevDate: 2019-06-10

Saag L, Laneman M, Varul L, et al (2019)

The Arrival of Siberian Ancestry Connecting the Eastern Baltic to Uralic Speakers further East.

Current biology : CB, 29(10):1701-1711.e16.

In this study, we compare the genetic ancestry of individuals from two as yet genetically unstudied cultural traditions in Estonia in the context of available modern and ancient datasets: 15 from the Late Bronze Age stone-cist graves (1200-400 BC) (EstBA) and 6 from the Pre-Roman Iron Age tarand cemeteries (800/500 BC-50 AD) (EstIA). We also included 5 Pre-Roman to Roman Iron Age Ingrian (500 BC-450 AD) (IngIA) and 7 Middle Age Estonian (1200-1600 AD) (EstMA) individuals to build a dataset for studying the demographic history of the northern parts of the Eastern Baltic from the earliest layer of Mesolithic to modern times. Our findings are consistent with EstBA receiving gene flow from regions with strong Western hunter-gatherer (WHG) affinities and EstIA from populations related to modern Siberians. The latter inference is in accordance with Y chromosome (chrY) distributions in present day populations of the Eastern Baltic, as well as patterns of autosomal variation in the majority of the westernmost Uralic speakers [1-5]. This ancestry reached the coasts of the Baltic Sea no later than the mid-first millennium BC; i.e., in the same time window as the diversification of west Uralic (Finnic) languages [6]. Furthermore, phenotypic traits often associated with modern Northern Europeans, like light eyes, hair, and skin, as well as lactose tolerance, can be traced back to the Bronze Age in the Eastern Baltic. VIDEO ABSTRACT.

RevDate: 2019-05-11

Merheb M, Matar R, Hodeify R, et al (2019)

Mitochondrial DNA, a Powerful Tool to Decipher Ancient Human Civilization from Domestication to Music, and to Uncover Historical Murder Cases.

Cells, 8(5): pii:cells8050433.

Mitochondria are unique organelles carrying their own genetic material, independent from that in the nucleus. This review will discuss the nature of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and its levels in the cell, which are the key elements to consider when trying to achieve molecular identification in ancient and degraded samples. mtDNA sequence analysis has been appropriately validated and is a consistent molecular target for the examination of biological evidence encountered in forensic cases-and profiling, in certain conditions-especially for burnt bodies and degraded samples of all types. Exceptional cases and samples will be discussed in this review, such as mtDNA from leather in Beethoven's grand piano, mtDNA in mummies, and solving famous historical criminal cases. In addition, this review will be discussing the use of ancient mtDNA to understand past human diet, to trace historical civilizations and ancient trade routes, and to uncover geographical domestication origins and lineage relationships. In each topic, we will present the power of mtDNA and how, in many cases, no nuclear DNA was left, leaving mitochondrial DNA analysis as a powerful alternative. Exploring this powerful tool further will be extremely useful to modern science and researchers, due to its capabilities in providing us with previously unattainable knowledge.

RevDate: 2019-05-10

Maurer-Alcalá XX, M Nowacki (2019)

Evolutionary origins and impacts of genome architecture in ciliates.

Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences [Epub ahead of print].

Genome architecture is well diversified among eukaryotes in terms of size and content, with many being radically shaped by ancient and ongoing genome conflicts with transposable elements (e.g., the large transposon-rich genomes common among plants). In ciliates, a group of microbial eukaryotes with distinct somatic and germ-line genomes present in a single cell, the consequences of these genome conflicts are most apparent in their developmentally programmed genome rearrangements. This complicated developmental phenomenon has largely overshadowed and outpaced our understanding of how germ-line and somatic genome architectures have influenced the evolutionary dynamism and potential in these taxa. In our review, we highlight three central concepts: how the evolution of atypical ciliate germ-line genome architectures is linked to ancient genome conflicts; how the complex, epigenetically guided transformation of germline to soma during development can generate widespread genetic variation; and how these features, coupled with their unusual life cycle, have increased the rate of molecular evolution linked to genome architecture in these taxa.

RevDate: 2019-05-29

Schroeder H, Margaryan A, Szmyt M, et al (2019)

Unraveling ancestry, kinship, and violence in a Late Neolithic mass grave.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(22):10705-10710.

The third millennium BCE was a period of major cultural and demographic changes in Europe that signaled the beginning of the Bronze Age. People from the Pontic steppe expanded westward, leading to the formation of the Corded Ware complex and transforming the genetic landscape of Europe. At the time, the Globular Amphora culture (3300-2700 BCE) existed over large parts of Central and Eastern Europe, but little is known about their interaction with neighboring Corded Ware groups and steppe societies. Here we present a detailed study of a Late Neolithic mass grave from southern Poland belonging to the Globular Amphora culture and containing the remains of 15 men, women, and children, all killed by blows to the head. We sequenced their genomes to between 1.1- and 3.9-fold coverage and performed kinship analyses that demonstrate that the individuals belonged to a large extended family. The bodies had been carefully laid out according to kin relationships by someone who evidently knew the deceased. From a population genetic viewpoint, the people from Koszyce are clearly distinct from neighboring Corded Ware groups because of their lack of steppe-related ancestry. Although the reason for the massacre is unknown, it is possible that it was connected with the expansion of Corded Ware groups, which may have resulted in competition for resources and violent conflict. Together with the archaeological evidence, these analyses provide an unprecedented level of insight into the kinship structure and social behavior of a Late Neolithic community.

RevDate: 2019-06-10

Fages A, Hanghøj K, Khan N, et al (2019)

Tracking Five Millennia of Horse Management with Extensive Ancient Genome Time Series.

Cell, 177(6):1419-1435.e31.

Horse domestication revolutionized warfare and accelerated travel, trade, and the geographic expansion of languages. Here, we present the largest DNA time series for a non-human organism to date, including genome-scale data from 149 ancient animals and 129 ancient genomes (≥1-fold coverage), 87 of which are new. This extensive dataset allows us to assess the modern legacy of past equestrian civilizations. We find that two extinct horse lineages existed during early domestication, one at the far western (Iberia) and the other at the far eastern range (Siberia) of Eurasia. None of these contributed significantly to modern diversity. We show that the influence of Persian-related horse lineages increased following the Islamic conquests in Europe and Asia. Multiple alleles associated with elite-racing, including at the MSTN "speed gene," only rose in popularity within the last millennium. Finally, the development of modern breeding impacted genetic diversity more dramatically than the previous millennia of human management.

RevDate: 2019-05-05

Aouizerat T, Gutman I, Paz Y, et al (2019)

Isolation and Characterization of Live Yeast Cells from Ancient Vessels as a Tool in Bio-Archaeology.

mBio, 10(2): pii:mBio.00388-19.

Ancient fermented food has been studied based on recipes, residue analysis, and ancient-DNA techniques and reconstructed using modern domesticated yeast. Here, we present a novel approach based on our hypothesis that enriched yeast populations in fermented beverages could have become the dominant species in storage vessels and their descendants could be isolated and studied today. We developed a pipeline of yeast isolation from clay vessels and screened for yeast cells in beverage-related and non-beverage-related ancient vessels and sediments from several archaeological sites. We found that yeast cells could be successfully isolated specifically from clay containers of fermented beverages. The findings that genotypically the isolated yeasts are similar to those found in traditional African beverages and phenotypically they grow similar to modern beer-producing yeast strongly suggest that they are descendants of the original fermenting yeast. These results demonstrate that modern microorganisms can serve as a new tool in bio-archaeology research.IMPORTANCE So far, most of the study of ancient organisms has been based mainly on the analysis of ancient DNA. Here we show that it is possible to isolate and study microorganisms-yeast in this case-from ancient pottery vessels used for fermentation. We demonstrate that it is highly likely that these cells are descendants of the original yeast strains that participated in the fermentation process and were absorbed into the clay matrix of the pottery vessels. Moreover, we characterized the isolated yeast strains, their genomes, and the beer they produced. These results open new and exciting avenues in the study of domesticated microorganisms and contribute significantly to the fields of bio- and experimental archaeology that aim to reconstruct ancient artifacts and products.

RevDate: 2019-05-17

Stahlschmidt MC, Collin TC, Fernandes DM, et al (2019)

Ancient Mammalian and Plant DNA from Late Quaternary Stalagmite Layers at Solkota Cave, Georgia.

Scientific reports, 9(1):6628 pii:10.1038/s41598-019-43147-0.

Metagenomic analysis is a highly promising technique in paleogenetic research that allows analysis of the complete genomic make-up of a sample. This technique has successfully been employed to archaeological sediments, but possible leaching of DNA through the sequence limits interpretation. We applied this technique to the analysis of ancient DNA (aDNA) from Late Quaternary stalagmites from two caves in Western Georgia, Melouri Cave and Solkota. Stalagmites form closed systems, limiting the effect of leaching, and can be securely dated with U-series. The analyses of the sequence data from the Melouri Cave stalagmite revealed potential contamination and low preservation of DNA. However, the two Solkota stalagmites preserved ancient DNA molecules of mammals (bear, roe deer, bats) and plants (chestnut, hazelnut, flax). The aDNA bearing layers from one of the two Solkota stalagmites were dated to between ~84 ka and ~56 ka BP by U-series. The second Solkota stalagmite contained excessive detrital clay obstructing U-series dating, but it also contained bear bones with a minimum age of ~50 BP uncalibrated years and ancient DNA molecules. The preservation of authentic ancient DNA molecules in Late Quaternary speleothems opens up a new paleogenetic archive for archaeological, paleontological and paleoenvironmental research.

RevDate: 2019-06-10

Shaw B, Burrell CL, Green D, et al (2019)

Molecular insights into an ancient form of Paget's disease of bone.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(21):10463-10472.

Paget's disease of bone (PDB) is a chronic skeletal disorder that can affect one or several bones in individuals older than 55 y of age. PDB-like changes have been reported in archaeological remains as old as Roman, although accurate diagnosis and natural history of the disease is lacking. Six skeletons from a collection of 130 excavated at Norton Priory in the North West of England, which dates to medieval times, show atypical and extensive pathological changes resembling contemporary PDB affecting as many as 75% of individual skeletons. Disease prevalence in the remaining collection is high, at least 16% of adults, with age at death estimations as low as 35 y. Despite these atypical features, paleoproteomic analysis identified sequestosome 1 (SQSTM1) or p62, a protein central to the pathological milieu of PDB, as one of the few noncollagenous human sequences preserved in skeletal samples. Targeted proteomic analysis detected >60% of the ancient p62 primary sequence, with Western blotting indicating p62 abnormalities, including in dentition. Direct sequencing of ancient DNA excluded contemporary PDB-associated SQSTM1 mutations. Our observations indicate that the ancient p62 protein is likely modified within its C-terminal ubiquitin-associated domain. Ancient miRNAs were remarkably preserved in an osteosarcoma from a skeleton with extensive disease, with miR-16 expression consistent with that reported in contemporary PDB-associated bone tumors. Our work displays the use of proteomics to inform diagnosis of ancient diseases such as atypical PDB, which has unusual features presumably potentiated by yet-unidentified environmental or genetic factors.

RevDate: 2019-06-10

Santiago-Rodriguez TM, Fornaciari A, Fornaciari G, et al (2019)

Commensal and Pathogenic Members of the Dental Calculus Microbiome of Badia Pozzeveri Individuals from the 11th to 19th Centuries.

Genes, 10(4): pii:genes10040299.

The concept of the human oral microbiome was applied to understand health and disease, lifestyles, and dietary habits throughout part of human history. In the present study, we augment the understanding of ancient oral microbiomes by characterizing human dental calculus samples recovered from the ancient Abbey of Badia Pozzeveri (central Italy), with differences in socioeconomic status, time period, burial type, and sex. Samples dating from the Middle Ages (11th century) to the Industrial Revolution era (19th century) were characterized using high-throughput sequencing of the 16S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene V4 region. Consistent with previous studies, individuals from Badia Pozzeveri possessed commensal oral bacteria that resembled modern oral microbiomes. These results suggest that members of the oral microbiome are ubiquitous despite differences in geographical regions, time period, sex, and socioeconomic status. The presence of fecal bacteria could be in agreement with poor hygiene practices, consistent with the time period. Respiratory tract, nosocomial, and other rare pathogens detected in the dental calculus samples are intriguing and could suggest subject-specific comorbidities that could be reflected in the oral microbiome.

RevDate: 2019-05-12

Haber M, Doumet-Serhal C, Scheib CL, et al (2019)

A Transient Pulse of Genetic Admixture from the Crusaders in the Near East Identified from Ancient Genome Sequences.

American journal of human genetics, 104(5):977-984.

During the medieval period, hundreds of thousands of Europeans migrated to the Near East to take part in the Crusades, and many of them settled in the newly established Christian states along the Eastern Mediterranean coast. Here, we present a genetic snapshot of these events and their aftermath by sequencing the whole genomes of 13 individuals who lived in what is today known as Lebanon between the 3rd and 13th centuries CE. These include nine individuals from the "Crusaders' pit" in Sidon, a mass burial in South Lebanon identified from the archaeology as the grave of Crusaders killed during a battle in the 13th century CE. We show that all of the Crusaders' pit individuals were males; some were Western Europeans from diverse origins, some were locals (genetically indistinguishable from present-day Lebanese), and two individuals were a mixture of European and Near Eastern ancestries, providing direct evidence that the Crusaders admixed with the local population. However, these mixtures appear to have had limited genetic consequences since signals of admixture with Europeans are not significant in any Lebanese group today-in particular, Lebanese Christians are today genetically similar to local people who lived during the Roman period which preceded the Crusades by more than four centuries.

RevDate: 2019-04-20

Membrebe JV, Suchard MA, Rambaut A, et al (2019)

Bayesian inference of evolutionary histories under time-dependent substitution rates.

Molecular biology and evolution pii:5475507 [Epub ahead of print].

Many factors complicate the estimation of time-scales for phylogenetic histories, requiring increasingly complex evolutionary models and inference procedures. The widespread application of molecular clock dating has led to the insight that evolutionary rate estimates may vary with the time frame of measurement. This is particularly well-established for rapidly evolving viruses that can accumulate sequence divergence over years or even months. However, this rapid evolution stands at odds with a relatively high degree of conservation of viruses or endogenous virus elements over much longer time-scales. Building on recent insights into time-dependent evolutionary rates, we develop a formal and flexible Bayesian statistical inference approach that accommodates rate variation through time. We evaluate the novel molecular clock model on a foamy virus co-speciation history and a lentivirus evolutionary history, and compare the performance to other molecular clock models. For both virus examples, we estimate a similarly strong time-dependent effect that implies rates varying over four orders of magnitude. The application of an analogous codon substitution model does not implicate long-term purifying selection as the cause of this effect. However, selection does appear to affect divergence time estimates for the less deep evolutionary history of the Ebola virus genus. Finally, we explore the application of our approach on woolly mammoth ancient DNA data, which shows a much weaker, but still important, time-dependent rate effect that has a noticeable impact on node age estimates. Future developments aimed at incorporating more complex evolutionary processes will further add to the broad applicability of our approach.

RevDate: 2019-04-26

Hanghøj K, Renaud G, Albrechtsen A, et al (2019)

DamMet: ancient methylome mapping accounting for errors, true variants, and post-mortem DNA damage.

GigaScience, 8(4):.

BACKGROUND: Recent computational advances in ancient DNA research have opened access to the detection of ancient DNA methylation footprints at the genome-wide scale. The most commonly used approach infers the methylation state of a given genomic region on the basis of the amount of nucleotide mis-incorporations observed at CpG dinucleotide sites. However, this approach overlooks a number of confounding factors, including the presence of sequencing errors and true variants. The scale and distribution of the inferred methylation measurements are also variable across samples, precluding direct comparisons.

FINDINGS: Here, we present DamMet, an open-source software program retrieving maximum likelihood estimates of regional CpG methylation levels from ancient DNA sequencing data. It builds on a novel statistical model of post-mortem DNA damage for dinucleotides, accounting for sequencing errors, genotypes, and differential post-mortem cytosine deamination rates at both methylated and unmethylated sites. To validate DamMet, we extended gargammel, a sequence simulator for ancient DNA data, by introducing methylation-dependent features of post-mortem DNA decay. This new simulator provides direct validation of DamMet predictions. Additionally, the methylation levels inferred by DamMet were found to be correlated to those inferred by epiPALEOMIX and both on par and directly comparable to those measured from whole-genome bisulphite sequencing experiments of fresh tissues.

CONCLUSIONS: DamMet provides genuine estimates for local DNA methylation levels in ancient individual genomes. The returned estimates are directly cross-sample comparable, and the software is available as an open-source C++ program hosted at https://gitlab.com/KHanghoj/DamMet along with a manual and tutorial.

RevDate: 2019-05-14
CmpDate: 2019-05-14

Meffray A, Perrin M, Richier A, et al (2019)

Molecular detection of Treponema pallidum subspecies pallidum in 150-year-old foetal remains, southeastern France.

Journal of medical microbiology, 68(5):761-769.

PURPOSE: Syphilis, caused by Treponema pallidum subspecies pallidum , is considered as an old disease affecting humans; traces of such infections, including congenital syphilis, are potentially identifiable in archaeological samples. The aim of this research was to perform macroscopic and molecular investigations of T. pallidum on six infant remains, buried between 1837 and 1867, from the cemetery of 'Les Crottes' in Marseille city (southeastern France).

METHODOLOGY: Pathological analysis of bones from individuals, aged from the twenty-ninth week of amenorrhea to 4-9 months, was performed. Samples served also as a source of ancient DNA (aDNA) for PCR-based molecular investigations targeting T. pallidum DNA; all samples were also tested for Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Plasmodium falciparum DNA. Sequences characterized were cloned and sequenced, and compared to those available in databases.Results/Key findings. All samples tested displayed widespread osteoporotic lesions across the skeleton possibly related to some metabolic or infectious disorders. Subsequent molecular analysis revealed that one individual, SP332 (unborn, 29 amenorrhea weeks, inhumation date 1864-1866), exhibited positive signals for the five T. pallidum amplification systems tested; sequence analysis provided strong evidence for the effective detection of T. pallidum subspecies pallidum DNA.

CONCLUSIONS: Individual SP332 is the first PCR-confirmed palaeopathological case of syphilis identified in France, and the youngest specimen ever to be diagnosed with certainty for congenital syphilis. Future research aimed at better characterizing this 150-year-old treponeme genome and exploring new archaelogical cases of syphilis in the very young should contribute to a better comprehension of the disease's history.

RevDate: 2019-04-17

Phillips N (2019)

Indigenous groups look to ancient DNA to bring their ancestors home.

Nature, 568(7752):294-297.

RevDate: 2019-06-10

Brace S, Diekmann Y, Booth TJ, et al (2019)

Ancient genomes indicate population replacement in Early Neolithic Britain.

Nature ecology & evolution, 3(5):765-771.

The roles of migration, admixture and acculturation in the European transition to farming have been debated for over 100 years. Genome-wide ancient DNA studies indicate predominantly Aegean ancestry for continental Neolithic farmers, but also variable admixture with local Mesolithic hunter-gatherers. Neolithic cultures first appear in Britain circa 4000 BC, a millennium after they appeared in adjacent areas of continental Europe. The pattern and process of this delayed British Neolithic transition remain unclear. We assembled genome-wide data from 6 Mesolithic and 67 Neolithic individuals found in Britain, dating 8500-2500 BC. Our analyses reveal persistent genetic affinities between Mesolithic British and Western European hunter-gatherers. We find overwhelming support for agriculture being introduced to Britain by incoming continental farmers, with small, geographically structured levels of hunter-gatherer ancestry. Unlike other European Neolithic populations, we detect no resurgence of hunter-gatherer ancestry at any time during the Neolithic in Britain. Genetic affinities with Iberian Neolithic individuals indicate that British Neolithic people were mostly descended from Aegean farmers who followed the Mediterranean route of dispersal. We also infer considerable variation in pigmentation levels in Europe by circa 6000 BC.

RevDate: 2019-04-13

Kutanan W, Kampuansai J, Srikummool M, et al (2019)

Contrasting paternal and maternal genetic histories of Thai and Lao populations.

Molecular biology and evolution pii:5449617 [Epub ahead of print].

The human demographic history of Mainland Southeast Asia (MSEA) has not been well-studied; in particular there have been very few sequence-based studies of variation in the male-specific portions of the Y chromosome (MSY). Here, we report new MSY sequences of ∼2.3 mB from 914 males, and combine these with previous data for a total of 928 MSY sequences belonging to 59 populations from Thailand and Laos who speak languages belonging to three major MSEA families: Austroasiatic (AA), Tai-Kadai (TK) and Sino-Tibetan (ST). Among the 92 MSY haplogroups, two main MSY lineages (O1b1a1a* (O-M95*) and O2a* (O-M324*)) contribute substantially to the paternal genetic makeup of Thailand and Laos. We also analyse complete mtDNA genome sequences published previously from the same groups, and find contrasting pattern of male and female genetic variation and demographic expansions, especially for the hill tribes, Mon, and some major Thai groups. In particular, we detect an effect of post-marital residence pattern on genetic diversity in patrilocal vs. matrilocal groups. Additionally, both male and female demographic expansions were observed during the early Mesolithic (∼10 kya), with two later major male-specific expansions during the Neolithic period (∼4-5 kya) and the Bronze/Iron Age (∼2.0-2.5 kya). These two later expansions are characteristic of the modern AA and TK groups, respectively, consistent with recent ancient DNA studies. We simulate MSY data based on three demographic models (continuous migration, demic diffusion and cultural diffusion) of major Thai groups and find different results from mtDNA simulations, supporting contrasting male and female genetic histories.

RevDate: 2019-04-12

Oliva A, Pulicani S, Lefort V, et al (2019)

Accounting for ambiguity in ancestral sequence reconstruction.

Bioinformatics (Oxford, England) pii:5448860 [Epub ahead of print].

MOTIVATION: The reconstruction of ancestral genetic sequences from the analysis of contemporaneous data is a powerful tool to improve our understanding of molecular evolution. Various statistical criteria defined in a phylogenetic framework can be used to infer nucleotide, amino-acid or codon states at internal nodes of the tree, for every position along the sequence. These criteria generally select the state that maximizes (or minimizes) a given criterion. Although it is perfectly sensible from a statistical perspective, that strategy fails to convey useful information about the level of uncertainty associated to the inference.

RESULTS: The present study introduces a new criterion for ancestral sequence reconstruction, the minimum posterior expected error (MPEE), that selects a single state whenever the signal conveyed by the data is strong, and a combination of multiple states otherwise. We also assess the performance of a criterion based on the Brier scoring scheme which, like MPEE, does not rely on any tuning parameters. The precision and accuracy of several other criteria that involve arbitrarily set tuning parameters are also evaluated. Large scale simulations demonstrate the benefits of using the MPEE and Brier-based criteria with a substantial increase in the accuracy of the inference of past sequences compared to the standard approach and realistic compromises on the precision of the solutions returned.

AVAILABILITY: The software package PhyML (https://github.com/stephaneguindon/phyml) provides an implementation of the Maximum A Posteriori (MAP) and MPEE criteria for reconstructing ancestral nucleotide and amino-acid sequences.

RevDate: 2019-04-14

Mills JG, Brookes JD, Gellie NJC, et al (2019)

Relating Urban Biodiversity to Human Health With the 'Holobiont' Concept.

Frontiers in microbiology, 10:550.

A relatively unaccounted ecosystem service from biodiversity is the benefit to human health via symbiotic microbiota from our environment. This benefit occurs because humans evolved alongside microbes and have been constantly exposed to diverse microbiota. Plants and animals, including humans, are organised as a host with symbiotic microbiota, whose collective genome and life history form a single holobiont. As such, there are interdependencies between biodiversity, holobionts, and public health which lead us to argue that human health outcomes could be improved by increasing contact with biodiversity in an urban context. We propose that humans, like all holobionts, likely require a diverse microbial habitat to appropriate resources for living healthy, long lives. We discuss how industrial urbanisation likely disrupts the symbiosis between microbiota and their hosts, leading to negative health outcomes. The industrialised urban habitat is low in macro and microbial biodiversity and discourages contact with beneficial environmental microbiota. These habitat factors, alongside diet, antibiotics, and others, are associated with the epidemic of non-communicable diseases in these societies. We suggest that restoration of urban microbial biodiversity and micro-ecological processes through microbiome rewilding can benefit holobiont health and aid in treating the urban non-communicable disease epidemic. Further, we identify research gaps and some solutions to economic and strategic hurdles in applying microbiome rewilding into daily urban life.

RevDate: 2019-05-10

Klunk J, Duggan AT, Redfern R, et al (2019)

Genetic resiliency and the Black Death: No apparent loss of mitogenomic diversity due to the Black Death in medieval London and Denmark.

American journal of physical anthropology, 169(2):240-252.

OBJECTIVES: In the 14th century AD, medieval Europe was severely affected by the Great European Famine as well as repeated bouts of disease, including the Black Death, causing major demographic shifts. This high volatility led to increased mobility and migration due to new labor and economic opportunities, as evidenced by documentary and stable isotope data. This study uses ancient DNA (aDNA) isolated from skeletal remains to examine whether evidence for large-scale population movement can be gleaned from the complete mitochondrial genomes of 264 medieval individuals from England (London) and Denmark.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Using a novel library-conserving approach to targeted capture, we recovered 264 full mitochondrial genomes from the petrous portion of the temporal bones and teeth and compared genetic diversity across the medieval period within and between English (London) and Danish populations and with contemporary populations through population pairwise ΦST analysis.

RESULTS: We find no evidence of significant differences in genetic diversity spatially or temporally in our dataset, yet there is a high degree of haplotype diversity in our medieval samples with little exact sequence sharing.

DISCUSSION: The mitochondrial genomes of both medieval Londoners and medieval Danes suggest high mitochondrial diversity before, during and after the Black Death. While our mitochondrial genomic data lack geographically correlated signals, these data could be the result of high, continual female migration before and after the Black Death or may simply indicate a large female effective population size unaffected by the upheaval of the medieval period. Either scenario suggests a genetic resiliency in areas of northwestern medieval Europe.

RevDate: 2019-04-11

Nakagome S, Hudson RR, A Di Rienzo (2019)

Inferring the model and onset of natural selection under varying population size from the site frequency spectrum and haplotype structure.

Proceedings. Biological sciences, 286(1896):20182541.

A fundamental question about adaptation in a population is the time of onset of the selective pressure acting on beneficial alleles. Inferring this time, in turn, depends on the selection model. We develop a framework of approximate Bayesian computation (ABC) that enables the use of the full site frequency spectrum and haplotype structure to test the goodness-of-fit of selection models and estimate the timing of selection under varying population size scenarios. We show that our method has sufficient power to distinguish natural selection from neutrality even if relatively old selection increased the frequency of a pre-existing allele from 20% to 50% or from 40% to 80%. Our ABC can accurately estimate the time of onset of selection on a new mutation. However, estimates are prone to bias under the standing variation model, possibly due to the uncertainty in the allele frequency at the onset of selection. We further extend our approach to take advantage of ancient DNA data that provides information on the allele frequency path of the beneficial allele. Applying our ABC, including both modern and ancient human DNA data, to four pigmentation alleles in Europeans, we detected selection on standing variants that occurred after the dispersal from Africa even though models of selection on a new mutation were initially supported for two of these alleles without the ancient data.

RevDate: 2019-04-08

Siripan S, Wonnapinij P, Auetrakulvit P, et al (2019)

Origin of prehistoric cattle excavated from four archaeological sites in central and northeastern Thailand.

Mitochondrial DNA. Part A, DNA mapping, sequencing, and analysis [Epub ahead of print].

Cattle have been domesticated in Southeast Asia, including Thailand, for thousands of years, but the history of cattle domestication in the region remains unclear. To date, only genetic studies of modern Thai cattle DNA have been reported. To gain some insight into cattle domestication in the country, a total of 56 cattle remains excavated from four archaeological sites (dated to between 3550 and 1700 years before present (YBP)) in northeastern and central Thailand were analysed in this study. Of 56, the 157-bp D-loop fragment was successfully generated from 26 samples, all of which belonged to Bos taurus in haplogroup T/T3. One haplotype contained 19 members from all four archaeological sites and clustered with the ancient B. taurus from Iran, Turkey and China. Other haplotypes have not shared haplotype with B. taurus from other countries but they showed close relationship to those from China. This represents the first genetic evidence that B. taurus was domesticated in Thailand between 3550 and 1700 YBP. In addition, the close relationship among ancient Thai, Iranian and Chinese taurines suggests that cattle from the Near East were introduced into North China, and were subsequently brought into Thailand thousands of years ago.

RevDate: 2019-04-20

Brunson K, D Reich (2019)

The Promise of Paleogenomics Beyond Our Own Species.

Trends in genetics : TIG, 35(5):319-329.

Paleogenomics, also known as genome-wide ancient DNA analysis, is transforming our understanding of the human past, but has been much less intensively used to understand the history of other species. However, paleogenomic studies of non-human animals and plants have the potential to address an equally rich range of evolutionary, paleoecological, paleoenvironmental, and archaeological research questions. Three recent case studies of cave bears, horses, and maize provide examples of the ways that paleogenomics can be used to examine potential causes of extinctions and dynamic processes of domestication. Much more research in these areas is needed, and we conclude by highlighting key future directions.

RevDate: 2019-05-18

Spyrou MA, Bos KI, Herbig A, et al (2019)

Ancient pathogen genomics as an emerging tool for infectious disease research.

Nature reviews. Genetics, 20(6):323-340.

Over the past decade, a genomics revolution, made possible through the development of high-throughput sequencing, has triggered considerable progress in the study of ancient DNA, enabling complete genomes of past organisms to be reconstructed. A newly established branch of this field, ancient pathogen genomics, affords an in-depth view of microbial evolution by providing a molecular fossil record for a number of human-associated pathogens. Recent accomplishments include the confident identification of causative agents from past pandemics, the discovery of microbial lineages that are now extinct, the extrapolation of past emergence events on a chronological scale and the characterization of long-term evolutionary history of microorganisms that remain relevant to public health today. In this Review, we discuss methodological advancements, persistent challenges and novel revelations gained through the study of ancient pathogen genomes.

RevDate: 2019-04-05

Yelmen B, Mondal M, Marnetto D, et al (2019)

Ancestry-specific analyses reveal differential demographic histories and opposite selective pressures in modern South Asian populations.

Molecular biology and evolution pii:5364274 [Epub ahead of print].

Genetic variation in contemporary South Asian populations follows a northwest to southeast decreasing cline of shared West Eurasian ancestry. A growing body of ancient DNA evidence is being used to build increasingly more realistic models of demographic changes in the last few thousand years. Through high quality modern genomes, these models can be tested for gene and genome level deviations. Using local ancestry deconvolution and masking, we reconstructed population-specific surrogates of the two main ancestral components for more than 500 samples from 25 South Asian populations, and showed our approach to be robust via coalescent simulations. Our f3 and f4 statistics based estimates reveal that the reconstructed haplotypes are good proxies for the source populations that admixed in the area and point to complex inter-population relationships within the West Eurasian component, compatible with multiple waves of arrival, as opposed to a simpler one wave scenario. Our approach also provides reliable local haplotypes for future downstream analyses. As one such example, the local ancestry deconvolution in South Asians reveals opposite selective pressures on two pigmentation genes (SLC45A2 and SLC24A5) that are common or fixed in West Eurasians, suggesting post-admixture purifying and positive selection signals, respectively.

RevDate: 2019-04-07

Ciucani MM, Palumbo D, Galaverni M, et al (2019)

Old wild wolves: ancient DNA survey unveils population dynamics in Late Pleistocene and Holocene Italian remains.

PeerJ, 7:e6424 pii:6424.

Background: The contemporary Italian wolf (Canis lupus italicus) represents a case of morphological and genetic uniqueness. Today, Italian wolves are also the only documented population to fall exclusively within the mitochondrial haplogroup 2, which was the most diffused across Eurasian and North American wolves during the Late Pleistocene. However, the dynamics leading to such distinctiveness are still debated.

Methods: In order to shed light on the ancient genetic variability of this wolf population and on the origin of its current diversity, we collected 19 Late Pleistocene-Holocene samples from northern Italy, which we analyzed at a short portion of the hypervariable region 1 of the mitochondrial DNA, highly informative for wolf and dog phylogenetic analyses.

Results: Four out of the six detected haplotypes matched the ones found in ancient wolves from northern Europe and Beringia, or in modern European and Chinese wolves, and appeared closely related to the two haplotypes currently found in Italian wolves. The haplotype of two Late Pleistocene samples matched with primitive and contemporary dog sequences from the canine mitochondrial clade A. All these haplotypes belonged to haplogroup 2. The only exception was a Holocene sample dated 3,250 years ago, affiliated to haplogroup 1.

Discussion: In this study we describe the genetic variability of the most ancient wolf specimens from Italy analyzed so far, providing a preliminary overview of the genetic make-up of the population that inhabited this area from the last glacial maximum to the Middle Age period. Our results endorsed that the genetic diversity carried by the Pleistocene wolves here analyzed showed a strong continuity with other northern Eurasian wolf specimens from the same chronological period. Contrarily, the Holocene samples showed a greater similarity only with modern sequences from Europe and Asia, and the occurrence of an haplogroup 1 haplotype allowed to date back previous finding about its presence in this area. Moreover, the unexpected discovery of a 24,700-year-old sample carrying a haplotype that, from the fragment here obtained, falls within the canine clade A, could represent the oldest evidence in Europe of such dog-rich clade. All these findings suggest complex population dynamics that deserve to be further investigated based on mitochondrial or whole genome sequencing.

RevDate: 2019-06-10

Harris DN, Ruczinski I, Yanek LR, et al (2019)

Evolution of Hominin Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Metabolism: From Africa to the New World.

Genome biology and evolution, 11(5):1417-1430.

The metabolic conversion of dietary omega-3 and omega-6 18 carbon (18C) to long chain (>20 carbon) polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs) is vital for human life. The rate-limiting steps of this process are catalyzed by fatty acid desaturase (FADS) 1 and 2. Therefore, understanding the evolutionary history of the FADS genes is essential to our understanding of hominin evolution. The FADS genes have two haplogroups, ancestral and derived, with the derived haplogroup being associated with more efficient LC-PUFA biosynthesis than the ancestral haplogroup. In addition, there is a complex global distribution of these haplogroups that is suggestive of Neanderthal introgression. We confirm that Native American ancestry is nearly fixed for the ancestral haplogroup, and replicate a positive selection signal in Native Americans. This positive selection potentially continued after the founding of the Americas, although simulations suggest that the timing is dependent on the allele frequency of the ancestral Beringian population. We also find that the Neanderthal FADS haplotype is more closely related to the derived haplogroup and the Denisovan clusters closer to the ancestral haplogroup. Furthermore, the derived haplogroup has a time to the most recent common ancestor of 688,474 years before present. These results support an ancient polymorphism, as opposed to Neanderthal introgression, forming in the FADS region during the Pleistocene with possibly differential selection pressures on both haplogroups. The near fixation of the ancestral haplogroup in Native American ancestry calls for future studies to explore the potential health risk of associated low LC-PUFA levels in these populations.

RevDate: 2019-06-10

Traversari M, Serrangeli MC, Catalano G, et al (2019)

Multi-analytic study of a probable case of fibrous dysplasia (FD) from certosa monumental cemetery (Bologna, Italy).

International journal of paleopathology, 25:1-8 pii:S1879-9817(18)30110-4 [Epub ahead of print].

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate, via a multidisciplinary approach, a distinctive paleopathological condition believed to be fibrous dysplasia, found on a 19th/20th century skeleton from Certosa Monumental Cemetery, Bologna, Italy.

MATERIALS: A skeletonized cranium and mandible recovered from an ossuary in 2014.

METHODS: Pathological alterations were analysed by radiological examination, dental macrowear, histopathological and genetic analyses.

RESULT: The skeleton is believed to be an adult male. Differential diagnoses include Paget's disease, McCune-Albright syndrome, osteochondroma and osteosarcoma. The radiographic findings, along with the solitary nature of the lesions, are strong evidence for the diagnosis of fibrous dysplasia (FD). Genetic analysis further revealed a frequency of ˜1% of mutant alleles with the R201C substitution, one of the post-zygotic activating mutation frequently associated with FD.

CONCLUSIONS: The multi-analytical method employed suggests a diagnosis of monostotic form of FD. The diagnostic design incorporates multiple lines of evidence, including macroscopic, histopathological, and genetic analyses.

SIGNIFICANCE: Through the use of a multi-analytic approach, robust diagnoses can be offered. This case serves as one of the oldest examples of FD from an historical context. The genetic mutation detected, associated with FD, has not been previously reported in historical/ancient samples.

RevDate: 2019-04-02

Di Maida G, Mannino MA, Krause-Kyora B, et al (2019)

Radiocarbon dating and isotope analysis on the purported Aurignacian skeletal remains from Fontana Nuova (Ragusa, Italy).

PloS one, 14(3):e0213173 pii:PONE-D-18-23492.

Proving voyaging at sea by Palaeolithic humans is a difficult archaeological task, even for short distances. In the Mediterranean, a commonly accepted sea crossing is that from the Italian Peninsula to Sicily by anatomically modern humans, purportedly of the Aurignacian culture. This claim, however, was only supported by the typological attribution to the Aurignacian of the lithic industries from the insular site of Fontana Nuova. AMS radiocarbon dating undertaken as part of our research shows that the faunal remains, previously considered Aurignacian, actually date to the Holocene. Absolute dating on dentinal collagen also attributes the human teeth from the site to the early Holocene, although we were unable to obtain ancient DNA to evaluate their ancestry. Ten radiocarbon dates on human and other taxa are comprised between 9910-9700 cal. BP and 8600-8480 cal. BP, indicating that Fontana Nuova was occupied by Mesolithic and not Aurignacian hunter-gatherers. Only a new study of the lithic assemblage could establish if the material from Fontana Nuova is a mixed collection that includes both late Upper Palaeolithic (Epigravettian) and Mesolithic artefacts, as can be suggested by taking into account both the results of our study and of the most recent reinterpretation of the lithics. Nevertheless, this research suggests that the notion that Aurignacian groups were present in Sicily should now be revised. Another outcome of our study is that we found that three specimens, attributed on grounds both of morphological and ZooMS identifications to Cervus elaphus, had δ13C values significantly higher than any available for such species in Europe.

RevDate: 2019-04-05
CmpDate: 2019-04-05

Feldman M, Fernández-Domínguez E, Reynolds L, et al (2019)

Late Pleistocene human genome suggests a local origin for the first farmers of central Anatolia.

Nature communications, 10(1):1218 pii:10.1038/s41467-019-09209-7.

Anatolia was home to some of the earliest farming communities. It has been long debated whether a migration of farming groups introduced agriculture to central Anatolia. Here, we report the first genome-wide data from a 15,000-year-old Anatolian hunter-gatherer and from seven Anatolian and Levantine early farmers. We find high genetic continuity (~80-90%) between the hunter-gatherers and early farmers of Anatolia and detect two distinct incoming ancestries: an early Iranian/Caucasus related one and a later one linked to the ancient Levant. Finally, we observe a genetic link between southern Europe and the Near East predating 15,000 years ago. Our results suggest a limited role of human migration in the emergence of agriculture in central Anatolia.

RevDate: 2019-04-29

Weyrich LS, Farrer AG, Eisenhofer R, et al (2019)

Laboratory contamination over time during low-biomass sample analysis.

Molecular ecology resources [Epub ahead of print].

Bacteria are not only ubiquitous on earth but can also be incredibly diverse within clean laboratories and reagents. The presence of both living and dead bacteria in laboratory environments and reagents is especially problematic when examining samples with low endogenous content (e.g., skin swabs, tissue biopsies, ice, water, degraded forensic samples or ancient material), where contaminants can outnumber endogenous microorganisms within samples. The contribution of contaminants within high-throughput studies remains poorly understood because of the relatively low number of contaminant surveys. Here, we examined 144 negative control samples (extraction blank and no-template amplification controls) collected in both typical molecular laboratories and an ultraclean ancient DNA laboratory over 5 years to characterize long-term contaminant diversity. We additionally compared the contaminant content within a home-made silica-based extraction method, commonly used to analyse low endogenous content samples, with a widely used commercial DNA extraction kit. The contaminant taxonomic profile of the ultraclean ancient DNA laboratory was unique compared to modern molecular biology laboratories, and changed over time according to researcher, month and season. The commercial kit also contained higher microbial diversity and several human-associated taxa in comparison to the home-made silica extraction protocol. We recommend a minimum of two strategies to reduce the impacts of laboratory contaminants within low-biomass metagenomic studies: (a) extraction blank controls should be included and sequenced with every batch of extractions and (b) the contributions of laboratory contamination should be assessed and reported in each high-throughput metagenomic study.

RevDate: 2019-03-29

Eisenhofer R, LS Weyrich (2019)

Assessing alignment-based taxonomic classification of ancient microbial DNA.

PeerJ, 7:e6594 pii:6594.

The field of palaeomicrobiology-the study of ancient microorganisms-is rapidly growing due to recent methodological and technological advancements. It is now possible to obtain vast quantities of DNA data from ancient specimens in a high-throughput manner and use this information to investigate the dynamics and evolution of past microbial communities. However, we still know very little about how the characteristics of ancient DNA influence our ability to accurately assign microbial taxonomies (i.e. identify species) within ancient metagenomic samples. Here, we use both simulated and published metagenomic data sets to investigate how ancient DNA characteristics affect alignment-based taxonomic classification. We find that nucleotide-to-nucleotide, rather than nucleotide-to-protein, alignments are preferable when assigning taxonomies to short DNA fragment lengths routinely identified within ancient specimens (<60 bp). We determine that deamination (a form of ancient DNA damage) and random sequence substitutions corresponding to ∼100,000 years of genomic divergence minimally impact alignment-based classification. We also test four different reference databases and find that database choice can significantly bias the results of alignment-based taxonomic classification in ancient metagenomic studies. Finally, we perform a reanalysis of previously published ancient dental calculus data, increasing the number of microbial DNA sequences assigned taxonomically by an average of 64.2-fold and identifying microbial species previously unidentified in the original study. Overall, this study enhances our understanding of how ancient DNA characteristics influence alignment-based taxonomic classification of ancient microorganisms and provides recommendations for future palaeomicrobiological studies.

RevDate: 2019-04-28

Abondio P, Sazzini M, Garagnani P, et al (2019)

The Genetic Variability of APOE in Different Human Populations and Its Implications for Longevity.

Genes, 10(3): pii:genes10030222.

Human longevity is a complex phenotype resulting from the combinations of context-dependent gene-environment interactions that require analysis as a dynamic process in a cohesive ecological and evolutionary framework. Genome-wide association (GWAS) and whole-genome sequencing (WGS) studies on centenarians pointed toward the inclusion of the apolipoprotein E (APOE) polymorphisms ε2 and ε4, as implicated in the attainment of extreme longevity, which refers to their effect in age-related Alzheimer's disease (AD) and cardiovascular disease (CVD). In this case, the available literature on APOE and its involvement in longevity is described according to an anthropological and population genetics perspective. This aims to highlight the evolutionary history of this gene, how its participation in several biological pathways relates to human longevity, and which evolutionary dynamics may have shaped the distribution of APOE haplotypes across the globe. Its potential adaptive role will be described along with implications for the study of longevity in different human groups. This review also presents an updated overview of the worldwide distribution of APOE alleles based on modern day data from public databases and ancient DNA samples retrieved from literature in the attempt to understand the spatial and temporal frame in which present-day patterns of APOE variation evolved.

RevDate: 2019-04-02

Villalba-Mouco V, van de Loosdrecht MS, Posth C, et al (2019)

Survival of Late Pleistocene Hunter-Gatherer Ancestry in the Iberian Peninsula.

Current biology : CB, 29(7):1169-1177.e7.

The Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe represents an important test case for the study of human population movements during prehistoric periods. During the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), the peninsula formed a periglacial refugium [1] for hunter-gatherers (HGs) and thus served as a potential source for the re-peopling of northern latitudes [2]. The post-LGM genetic signature was previously described as a cline from Western HG (WHG) to Eastern HG (EHG), further shaped by later Holocene expansions from the Near East and the North Pontic steppes [3-9]. Western and central Europe were dominated by ancestry associated with the ∼14,000-year-old individual from Villabruna, Italy, which had largely replaced earlier genetic ancestry, represented by 19,000-15,000-year-old individuals associated with the Magdalenian culture [2]. However, little is known about the genetic diversity in southern European refugia, the presence of distinct genetic clusters, and correspondence with geography. Here, we report new genome-wide data from 11 HGs and Neolithic individuals that highlight the late survival of Paleolithic ancestry in Iberia, reported previously in Magdalenian-associated individuals. We show that all Iberian HGs, including the oldest, a ∼19,000-year-old individual from El Mirón in Spain, carry dual ancestry from both Villabruna and the Magdalenian-related individuals. Thus, our results suggest an early connection between two potential refugia, resulting in a genetic ancestry that survived in later Iberian HGs. Our new genomic data from Iberian Early and Middle Neolithic individuals show that the dual Iberian HG genomic legacy pertains in the peninsula, suggesting that expanding farmers mixed with local HGs. VIDEO ABSTRACT.

RevDate: 2019-04-12

Hahn C (2019)

Assembly of Ancient Mitochondrial Genomes Without a Closely Related Reference Sequence.

Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.), 1963:195-213.

Recent methodological advances have transformed the field of ancient DNA (aDNA). Basic bioinformatics skills are becoming essential requirements to process and analyze the sheer amounts of data generated by current aDNA studies and in biomedical research in general. This chapter is intended as a practical guide to the assembly of ancient mitochondrial genomes, directly from genomic DNA-derived next-generation sequencing (NGS) data, specifically in the absence of closely related reference genomes. In a hands-on tutorial suitable for readers with little to no prior bioinformatics experience, we reconstruct the mitochondrial genome of a woolly mammoth deposited ~45,000 years ago. We introduce key software tools and outline general strategies for mitogenome assembly, including the critical quality assessment of assembly results without a reference genome.

RevDate: 2019-04-12

Renaud G, Schubert M, Sawyer S, et al (2019)

Authentication and Assessment of Contamination in Ancient DNA.

Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.), 1963:163-194.

Contamination from both present-day humans and postmortem microbial sources is a common challenge in ancient DNA studies. Here we present a suite of tools to assist in the assessment of contamination in ancient DNA data sets. These tools perform standard tests of authenticity of ancient DNA data including detecting the presence of postmortem damage signatures in sequence alignments and quantifying the amount of present-day human contamination.

RevDate: 2019-04-12

Nichols RV, Curd E, Heintzman PD, et al (2019)

Targeted Amplification and Sequencing of Ancient Environmental and Sedimentary DNA.

Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.), 1963:149-161.

All organisms release their DNA into the environment through processes such as excretion and the senescence of tissues and limbs. This DNA, often referred to as environmental DNA (eDNA) or sedimentary ancient DNA (sedaDNA), can be recovered from both present-day and ancient soils, fecal samples, bodies of water and lake cores, and even air. While eDNA is a potentially useful record of past and present biodiversity, several challenges complicate data generation and interpretation of results. Most importantly, eDNA samples tend to be highly taxonomically mixed, and the target organism or group of organisms may be present at very low abundance within this mixture. To overcome this challenge, enrichment approaches are often used to target specific taxa of interest. Here, we describe a protocol to amplify metabarcodes or short, variable loci that identify lineages within broad taxonomic groups (e.g., plants, mammals), using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) with established generic "barcode" primers. We also provide a catalog of animal and plant barcode primers that, because they target relatively short fragments of DNA, are potentially suitable for use with degraded DNA.

RevDate: 2019-04-12

Wutke S, A Ludwig (2019)

Targeted PCR Amplification and Multiplex Sequencing of Ancient DNA for SNP Analysis.

Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.), 1963:141-147.

The analysis of single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) has proven to be advantageous for addressing variation within samples of highly degraded or low-quality DNA samples. This is because only short fragments need to be amplified to analyze SNPs, and this can be achieved by multiplex PCR. Here, we present a sensitive method for the targeted sequencing of SNP loci that requires only small amounts of template DNA. The approach combines multiplex amplification of very short fragments covering SNP positions followed by sample barcoding and next-generation sequencing. This method allows generation of data from large sample sets of poorly preserved specimens, such as fossil remains, forensic samples, and museum specimens. The approach is cost-effective, rapid, and applicable to forensics, population genetics, and phylogenetic research questions.

RevDate: 2019-04-12

Paijmans JLA, González Fortes G, DW Förster (2019)

Application of Solid-State Capture for the Retrieval of Small-to-Medium Sized Target Loci from Ancient DNA.

Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.), 1963:129-139.

Genetic studies that include ancient samples are often hampered by the low amount of endogenous DNA that ancient samples often contain, relative to co-extracted "contaminant" DNA from other organisms. One approach to mitigate this challenge is to perform hybridization-based capture of target genomic regions using DNA or RNA baits. Such baits are designed to have high sequence similarity to the target genomic regions and can reduce the off-target fraction in DNA sequencing libraries. Here, we present a protocol to use Agilent SureSelect microarrays to enrich ancient DNA libraries for small-to-medium-sized target loci, such as mitochondrial genomes, from ancient DNA extracts. The protocol that we present builds on previously published work by introducing improvements that improve recovery of short DNA fragments while minimizing the cost and duration of the experiment.

RevDate: 2019-04-12

Soares AER (2019)

Hybridization Capture of Ancient DNA Using RNA Baits.

Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.), 1963:121-128.

The majority of DNA recovered from ancient remains is derived from organisms that colonize the remains post-mortem, such as soil microbes, or from contaminants, such as DNA from living humans. Additionally, some ancient DNA research projects aim to target specific genomic regions, such as mitochondrial genomes or variable single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). To overcome the challenge of targeting specific fragments of DNA from within a complex DNA extract, methods have been developed to enrich ancient DNA extracts for target DNA relative to nontarget DNA. This chapter describes a method for target DNA enrichment that uses hybridization to biotinylated RNA baits to capture and amplify specific ancient DNA fragments from within the pool of extracted fragments.

RevDate: 2019-04-12

Snyder-Mackler N, Voyles T, J Tung (2019)

Generating RNA Baits for Capture-Based Enrichment.

Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.), 1963:107-120.

Capture-based enrichment techniques have revolutionized genomic analysis of species and populations for which only low-quality or contaminated DNA samples (e.g., ancient DNA, noninvasively collected DNA, environmental DNA) are available. This chapter outlines an optimized laboratory protocol for generating RNA "baits" for genome-wide capture of target DNA from a larger pool of DNA. This method relies on the in vitro transcription of biotinylated RNA baits, which has the dual benefit of eliminating the high cost of synthesizing custom baits and producing a bait set that targets the majority of regions genome-wide. We provide a detailed protocol for the three main steps involved in bait library construction: (1) making a DNA library from a high-quality DNA sample for the organism of interest or a closely related species; (2) using duplex-specific nuclease digestion to reduce the representation of repetitive regions in the DNA library; and (3) performing in vitro transcription of the repetitive region-depleted DNA library to generate biotinylated RNA baits. Where applicable, we include notes and recommendations based on our own experiences.

RevDate: 2019-04-12

González Fortes G, JLA Paijmans (2019)

Whole-Genome Capture of Ancient DNA Using Homemade Baits.

Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.), 1963:93-105.

For many archaeological and paleontological samples, the relative content of endogenous compared to contaminant DNA is low. In such cases, enriching sequencing libraries for endogenous DNA, prior to sequencing can make the final research project more cost-effective. Here, we present an in-solution enrichment protocol based on homemade baits that can be applied to recover complete nuclear genomes from ancient remains. The approach is based on the preparation of DNA baits by biotinylated adapter ligation. The procedure has been developed for use with human remains but can be adapted to other species or target regions by choosing the appropriate template DNA from which to build the capture baits. By using homemade rather than commercially acquired baits, this protocol may offer increased flexibility and cost efficiency.

RevDate: 2019-04-12

Gansauge MT, M Meyer (2019)

A Method for Single-Stranded Ancient DNA Library Preparation.

Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.), 1963:75-83.

Genomic library preparation from highly degraded DNA is more efficient when library molecules are prepared separately from the complementary strands of DNA fragments. We describe a protocol in which libraries are constructed from single DNA strands in a three-step procedure: single-stranded ligation of the first adapter with T4 DNA ligase in the presence of a splinter oligonucleotide, copying of the DNA strand with a proofreading polymerase, and blunt-end ligation of the second double-stranded adapter with T4 DNA ligase.

RevDate: 2019-04-12

Henneberger K, Barlow A, JLA Paijmans (2019)

Double-Stranded Library Preparation for Ancient and Other Degraded Samples.

Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.), 1963:65-73.

High-throughput sequencing (HTS) allows fast and cost-efficient sequencing of ancient DNA (aDNA) without prior information about what sequences should be targeted. One necessary step for HTS is the preparation of a sequencing library. Commercial kits are available for this purpose, but many of these are not suitable for aDNA or other types of damaged DNA. Here, we outline a protocol for HTS library preparation that is optimized for ancient DNA. We report the library conversion rate for a range of input template and adapter concentrations. Our results show that the protocol performs at a high efficiency.

RevDate: 2019-04-12

Campos PF, MTP Gilbert (2019)

DNA Extraction from Keratin and Chitin.

Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.), 1963:57-63.

DNA extracted from keratinous and chitinous materials can be a useful source of genetic information. To effectively liberate the DNA from these materials, buffers containing relatively high levels of DTT, proteinase K, and detergent are recommended, followed by purification using either silica column or organic methods.

RevDate: 2019-04-12

Wales N, L Kistler (2019)

Extraction of Ancient DNA from Plant Remains.

Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.), 1963:45-55.

Ancient plant remains from archaeological sites, paleoenvironmental contexts, and herbaria provide excellent opportunities for interrogating plant genetics over Quaternary timescales using ancient DNA (aDNA)-based analyses. A variety of plant tissues, preserved primarily by desiccation and anaerobic waterlogging, have proven to be viable sources of aDNA. Plant tissues are anatomically and chemically diverse and therefore require optimized DNA extraction approaches. Here, we describe a plant DNA isolation protocol that performs well in most contexts. We include recommendations for optimization to retain the very short DNA fragments that are expected to be preserved in degraded tissues.

RevDate: 2019-04-12

Epp LS, Zimmermann HH, KR Stoof-Leichsenring (2019)

Sampling and Extraction of Ancient DNA from Sediments.

Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.), 1963:31-44.

Environmental DNA preserved in sediments is rapidly gaining importance as a tool in paleoecology. Sampling procedures for sedimentary ancient DNA (sedaDNA) have to be well planned to ensure clean subsampling of the inside of sediment cores and avoid introducing contamination. Additionally, ancient DNA extraction protocols may need to be optimized for the recovery of DNA from sediments, which may contain inhibitors. Here we describe procedures for subsampling both nonfrozen and frozen sediment cores, and we describe an efficient method for ancient DNA extraction from such samples.

RevDate: 2019-04-12

Dabney J, M Meyer (2019)

Extraction of Highly Degraded DNA from Ancient Bones and Teeth.

Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.), 1963:25-29.

We provide a DNA extraction protocol optimized for the recovery of highly fragmented molecules preserved within bones and teeth. In this method, the hard tissue matrix is degraded using an EDTA/Proteinase K lysis buffer, and the DNA is purified using spin columns with silica membranes. This method efficiently recovers molecules as short as 35 base-pairs long.

RevDate: 2019-04-12

Schroeder H, de Barros Damgaard P, ME Allentoft (2019)

Pretreatment: Improving Endogenous Ancient DNA Yields Using a Simple Enzymatic Predigestion Step.

Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.), 1963:21-24.

Ancient DNA samples generally contain a mixture of both endogenous and exogenous (contaminant) DNA. The authentic endogenous DNA content varies widely between samples and substrates but usually constitutes only a small fraction of the total DNA, while the remainder comprises contamination deriving from bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms and in some cases also modern human DNA. Recently, several protocols have been developed to improve access to the endogenous DNA fraction by decreasing the exogenous fraction prior to extraction. The most common of these involve pretreatment with single or multiple washes with weak sodium phosphate or sodium hypochlorite (bleach) solutions, as described in Chapter 2 . Here, we present an alternative, less aggressive pretreatment protocol that uses a brief predigestion step in an EDTA-based lysis buffer to increase the endogenous fraction prior to extraction.

RevDate: 2019-04-12

Korlević P, M Meyer (2019)

Pretreatment: Removing DNA Contamination from Ancient Bones and Teeth Using Sodium Hypochlorite and Phosphate.

Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.), 1963:15-19.

DNA isolated from ancient bones and teeth comprises a mixture of microbial contamination and DNA from the organism under study. In addition, analyses of ancient human remains are often complicated by contamination with present-day human DNA, which can be introduced during excavation and subsequent handling of the specimens. In most cases, the relative abundance of contaminant DNA is much greater than that of the target organism. Here we present two techniques for reducing the proportion of contaminant DNA in bones and teeth. The first and most efficient technique uses a sodium hypochlorite (bleach) pretreatment to destroy contaminant DNA that may be bound or otherwise attached to the surface of bone/tooth powder. The second, less destructive pretreatment uses a phosphate buffer to release surface-bound DNA.

RevDate: 2019-04-12

Fulton TL, B Shapiro (2019)

Setting Up an Ancient DNA Laboratory.

Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.), 1963:1-13.

Entering into the world of ancient DNA research is nontrivial. Because the DNA in most ancient specimens is degraded to some extent, the potential is high for contamination of ancient samples, ancient DNA extracts, and genomic sequencing libraries prepared from these extracts with non-degraded DNA from the present-day environment. To minimize the risk of contamination in ancient DNA environments, experimental protocols specific to handling ancient specimens, including those that outline the design and layout of laboratory space, have been introduced. Here, we outline challenges associated with working with ancient samples, including providing guidelines for setting up a new ancient DNA laboratory. We also discuss steps that can be taken at the sample collection and preparation stage to minimize the potential for contamination of ancient DNA experiments with exogenous sources of DNA.

RevDate: 2019-03-29

Rey-Iglesia A, García-Vázquez A, Treadaway EC, et al (2019)

Evolutionary history and palaeoecology of brown bear in North-East Siberia re-examined using ancient DNA and stable isotopes from skeletal remains.

Scientific reports, 9(1):4462 pii:10.1038/s41598-019-40168-7.

Over 60% of the modern distribution range of brown bears falls within Russia, yet palaeoecological data from the region remain scarce. Complete modern Russian brown bear mitogenomes are abundant in the published literature, yet examples of their ancient counterparts are absent. Similarly, there is only limited stable isotopic data of prehistoric brown bears from the region. We used ancient DNA and stable carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) isotopes retrieved from five Pleistocene Yakutian brown bears (one Middle Pleistocene and four Late Pleistocene), to elucidate the evolutionary history and palaeoecology of the species in the region. We were able to reconstruct the complete mitogenome of one of the Late Pleistocene specimens, but we were unable to assign it to any of the previously published brown bear mitogenome clades. A subsequent analysis of published mtDNA control region sequences, which included sequences of extinct clades from other geographic regions, assigned the ancient Yakutian bear to the extinct clade 3c; a clade previously identified from Late Quaternary specimens from Eastern Beringia and Northern Spain. Our analyses of stable isotopes showed relatively high δ15N values in the Pleistocene Yakutian brown bears, suggesting a more carnivorous diet than contemporary brown bears from Eastern Beringia.

RevDate: 2019-04-28

Chyleński M, Ehler E, Somel M, et al (2019)

Ancient Mitochondrial Genomes Reveal the Absence of Maternal Kinship in the Burials of Çatalhöyük People and Their Genetic Affinities.

Genes, 10(3): pii:genes10030207.

Çatalhöyük is one of the most widely recognized and extensively researched Neolithic settlements. The site has been used to discuss a wide range of aspects associated with the spread of the Neolithic lifestyle and the social organization of Neolithic societies. Here, we address both topics using newly generated mitochondrial genomes, obtained by direct sequencing and capture-based enrichment of genomic libraries, for a group of individuals buried under a cluster of neighboring houses from the classical layer of the site's occupation. Our data suggests a lack of maternal kinship between individuals interred under the floors of Çatalhöyük buildings. The findings could potentially be explained either by a high variability of maternal lineages within a larger kin group, or alternatively, an intentional selection of individuals for burial based on factors other than biological kinship. Our population analyses shows that Neolithic Central Anatolian groups, including Çatalhöyük, share the closest affinity with the population from the Marmara Region and are, in contrast, set further apart from the Levantine populations. Our findings support the hypothesis about the emergence and the direction of spread of the Neolithic within Anatolian Peninsula and beyond, emphasizing a significant role of Central Anatolia in this process.

RevDate: 2019-05-06

van der Valk T, Vezzi F, Ormestad M, et al (2019)

Index hopping on the Illumina HiseqX platform and its consequences for ancient DNA studies.

Molecular ecology resources [Epub ahead of print].

The high-throughput capacities of the Illumina sequencing platforms and the possibility to label samples individually have encouraged wide use of sample multiplexing. However, this practice results in read misassignment (usually <1%) across samples sequenced on the same lane. Alarmingly high rates of read misassignment of up to 10% were reported for lllumina sequencing machines with exclusion amplification chemistry. This may make use of these platforms prohibitive, particularly in studies that rely on low-quantity and low-quality samples, such as historical and archaeological specimens. Here, we use barcodes, short sequences that are ligated to both ends of the DNA insert, to directly quantify the rate of index hopping in 100-year old museum-preserved gorilla (Gorilla beringei) samples. Correcting for multiple sources of noise, we identify on average 0.470% of reads containing a hopped index. We show that sample-specific quantity of misassigned reads depends on the number of reads that any given sample contributes to the total sequencing pool, so that samples with few sequenced reads receive the greatest proportion of misassigned reads. This particularly affects ancient DNA samples, as these frequently differ in their DNA quantity and endogenous content. Through simulations we show that even low rates of index hopping, as reported here, can lead to biases in ancient DNA studies when multiplexing samples with vastly different quantities of endogenous material.

RevDate: 2019-04-16
CmpDate: 2019-04-16

Pinhasi R, Fernandes DM, Sirak K, et al (2019)

Isolating the human cochlea to generate bone powder for ancient DNA analysis.

Nature protocols, 14(4):1194-1205.

The cortical bone that forms the structure of the cochlea, part of the osseous labyrinth of the inner ear, is now one of the most frequently used skeletal elements in analyses of human ancient DNA. However, there is currently no published, standardized method for its sampling. This protocol describes the preparation of bone powder from the cochlea of fragmented skulls in which the petrous pyramid of the temporal bone is accessible. Using a systematic process of bone removal based on distinct anatomical landmarks and the identification of relevant morphological features, a petrous pyramid is cleaned with a sandblaster, and the cochlea is located, isolated, and reduced to a homogeneous bone powder. All steps are carried out in dedicated ancient DNA facilities, thus reducing the introduction of contamination. This protocol requires an understanding of ancient DNA clean-room procedures and basic knowledge of petrous pyramid anatomy. In 50-65 min, it results in bone powder with endogenous DNA yields that can exceed those from teeth and other bones by up to two orders of magnitude. Compared with drilling methods, this method facilitates a more precise targeting of the cochlea, allows the user to visually inspect the cochlea and remove any residual sediment before the generation of bone powder, and confines the damage to the inner ear region and surface of the petrous portion of fragmentary crania.

RevDate: 2019-06-10

Signore AV, Paijmans JLA, Hofreiter M, et al (2019)

Emergence of a Chimeric Globin Pseudogene and Increased Hemoglobin Oxygen Affinity Underlie the Evolution of Aquatic Specializations in Sirenia.

Molecular biology and evolution, 36(6):1134-1147.

As limits on O2 availability during submergence impose severe constraints on aerobic respiration, the oxygen binding globin proteins of marine mammals are expected to have evolved under strong evolutionary pressures during their land-to-sea transition. Here, we address this question for the order Sirenia by retrieving, annotating, and performing detailed selection analyses on the globin repertoire of the extinct Steller's sea cow (Hydrodamalis gigas), dugong (Dugong dugon), and Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) in relation to their closest living terrestrial relatives (elephants and hyraxes). These analyses indicate most loci experienced elevated nucleotide substitution rates during their transition to a fully aquatic lifestyle. While most of these genes evolved under neutrality or strong purifying selection, the rate of nonsynonymous/synonymous replacements increased in two genes (Hbz-T1 and Hba-T1) that encode the α-type chains of hemoglobin (Hb) during each stage of life. Notably, the relaxed evolution of Hba-T1 is temporally coupled with the emergence of a chimeric pseudogene (Hba-T2/Hbq-ps) that contributed to the tandemly linked Hba-T1 of stem sirenians via interparalog gene conversion. Functional tests on recombinant Hb proteins from extant and ancestral sirenians further revealed that the molecular remodeling of Hba-T1 coincided with increased Hb-O2 affinity in early sirenians. Available evidence suggests that this trait evolved to maximize O2 extraction from finite lung stores and suppress tissue O2 offloading, thereby facilitating the low metabolic intensities of extant sirenians. In contrast, the derived reduction in Hb-O2 affinity in (sub)Arctic Steller's sea cows is consistent with fueling increased thermogenesis by these once colossal marine herbivores.

RevDate: 2019-02-27

Ballard JWO, LAB Wilson (2019)

The Australian dingo: untamed or feral?.

Frontiers in zoology, 16:2 pii:300.

Background: The Australian dingo continues to cause debate amongst Aboriginal people, pastoralists, scientists and the government in Australia. A lingering controversy is whether the dingo has been tamed and has now reverted to its ancestral wild state or whether its ancestors were domesticated and it now resides on the continent as a feral dog. The goal of this article is to place the discussion onto a theoretical framework, highlight what is currently known about dingo origins and taxonomy and then make a series of experimentally testable organismal, cellular and biochemical predictions that we propose can focus future research.

Discussion: We consider a canid that has been unconsciously selected as a tamed animal and the endpoint of methodical or what we now call artificial selection as a domesticated animal. We consider wild animals that were formerly tamed as untamed and those wild animals that were formerly domesticated as feralized. Untamed canids are predicted to be marked by a signature of unconscious selection whereas feral animals are hypothesized to be marked by signatures of both unconscious and artificial selection. First, we review the movement of dingo ancestors into Australia. We then discuss how differences between taming and domestication may influence the organismal traits of skull morphometrics, brain and size, seasonal breeding, and sociability. Finally, we consider cellular and molecular level traits including hypotheses concerning the phylogenetic position of dingoes, metabolic genes that appear to be under positive selection and the potential for micronutrient compensation by the gut microbiome.

Conclusions: Western Australian Government policy is currently being revised to allow the widespread killing of the Australian dingo. These policies are based on an incomplete understanding of the evolutionary history of the canid and assume the dingo is feralized. However, accumulated evidence does not definitively show that the dingo was ever domesticated and additional focused research is required. We suggest that incorporating ancient DNA data into the debate concerning dingo origins will be pivotal to understanding the evolutionary history of the canid. Further, we advocate that future morphological, behavioural and genetic studies should focus on including genetically pure Alpine and Desert dingoes and not dingo-dog hybrids. Finally, we propose that future studies critically examine genes under selection in the dingo and employ the genome from a wild canid for comparison.

RevDate: 2019-02-27

Dick JM, Yu M, Tan J, et al (2019)

Changes in Carbon Oxidation State of Metagenomes Along Geochemical Redox Gradients.

Frontiers in microbiology, 10:120.

There is widespread interest in how geochemistry affects the genomic makeup of microbial communities, but the possible impacts of oxidation-reduction (redox) conditions on the chemical composition of biomacromolecules remain largely unexplored. Here we document systematic changes in the carbon oxidation state, a metric derived from the chemical formulas of biomacromolecular sequences, using published metagenomic and metatranscriptomic datasets from 18 studies representing different marine and terrestrial environments. We find that the carbon oxidation states of DNA, as well as proteins inferred from coding sequences, follow geochemical redox gradients associated with mixing and cooling of hot spring fluids in Yellowstone National Park (USA) and submarine hydrothermal fluids. Thermodynamic calculations provide independent predictions for the environmental shaping of the gene and protein composition of microbial communities in these systems. On the other hand, the carbon oxidation state of DNA is negatively correlated with oxygen concentration in marine oxygen minimum zones. In this case, a thermodynamic model is not viable, but the low carbon oxidation state of DNA near the ocean surface reflects a low GC content, which can be attributed to genome reduction in organisms adapted to low-nutrient conditions. We also present evidence for a depth-dependent increase of oxidation state at the species level, which might be associated with alteration of DNA through horizontal gene transfer and/or selective degradation of relatively reduced (AT-rich) extracellular DNA by heterotrophic bacteria. Sediments exhibit even more complex behavior, where carbon oxidation state minimizes near the sulfate-methane transition zone and rises again at depth; markedly higher oxidation states are also associated with older freshwater-dominated sediments in the Baltic Sea that are enriched in iron oxides and have low organic carbon. This geobiochemical study of carbon oxidation state reveals a new aspect of environmental information in metagenomic sequences, and provides a reference frame for future studies that may use ancient DNA sequences as a paleoredox indicator.

RevDate: 2019-03-30

Mao Y, N Satoh (2019)

A Likely Ancient Genome Duplication in the Speciose Reef-Building Coral Genus, Acropora.

iScience, 13:20-32.

Whole-genome duplication (WGD) has been recognized as a significant evolutionary force in the origin and diversification of multiple organisms. Acropora, a speciose reef-building coral genus, is suspected to have originated by polyploidy. Yet, there is no genetic evidence to support this hypothesis. Using comprehensive phylogenomic and comparative genomic approaches, we analyzed six Acroporid genomes and found that a WGD event likely occurred ∼31 million years ago in the most recent common ancestor of Acropora, concurrent with a worldwide coral extinction. We found that duplicated genes were highly enriched in gene regulation functions, including those of stress responses. The functional clusters of duplicated genes are related to the divergence of gene expression patterns during development. Some proteinaceous toxins were generated by WGD in Acropora compared with other cnidarian species. Collectively, this study provides evidence for an ancient WGD event in corals, which helps explain the origin and diversification of Acropora.

RevDate: 2019-05-13

Shaw JLA, Weyrich LS, Hallegraeff G, et al (2019)

Retrospective eDNA assessment of potentially harmful algae in historical ship ballast tank and marine port sediments.

Molecular ecology [Epub ahead of print].

Microalgal bloom events can cause major ecosystem disturbances, devastate local marine economies, and endanger public health. Therefore, detecting and monitoring harmful microalgal taxa is essential to ensure effective risk management in waterways used for fisheries, aquaculture, recreational activity, and shipping. To fully understand the current status and future direction of algal bloom distributions, we need to know how populations and ecosystems have changed over time. This baseline knowledge is critical for predicting ecosystem responses to future anthropogenic change and will assist in the future management of coastal ecosystems. We explore a NGS metabarcoding approach to rapidly identify potentially harmful microalgal taxa in 63 historic and modern Australian marine port and ballast tank sediment samples. The results provide a record of past microalgal distribution and important baseline data that can be used to assess the efficacy of shipping guidelines, nutrient pollution mitigation, and predict the impact of climate change. Critically, eDNA surveys of archived sediments were able to detect harmful algal taxa that do not produce microscopic fossils, such as Chattonella, Heterosigma, Karlodinium, and Noctiluca. Our data suggest a potential increase in Australian harmful microalgal taxa over the past 30 years, and confirm ship ballast tanks as key dispersal vectors. These molecular mapping tools will assist in the creation of policies aimed at reducing the global increase and spread of harmful algal taxa and help prevent economic and public-health problems caused by harmful algal blooms.


RJR Experience and Expertise


Robbins holds BS, MS, and PhD degrees in the life sciences. He served as a tenured faculty member in the Zoology and Biological Science departments at Michigan State University. He is currently exploring the intersection between genomics, microbial ecology, and biodiversity — an area that promises to transform our understanding of the biosphere.


Robbins has extensive experience in college-level education: At MSU he taught introductory biology, genetics, and population genetics. At JHU, he was an instructor for a special course on biological database design. At FHCRC, he team-taught a graduate-level course on the history of genetics. At Bellevue College he taught medical informatics.


Robbins has been involved in science administration at both the federal and the institutional levels. At NSF he was a program officer for database activities in the life sciences, at DOE he was a program officer for information infrastructure in the human genome project. At the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, he served as a vice president for fifteen years.


Robbins has been involved with information technology since writing his first Fortran program as a college student. At NSF he was the first program officer for database activities in the life sciences. At JHU he held an appointment in the CS department and served as director of the informatics core for the Genome Data Base. At the FHCRC he was VP for Information Technology.


While still at Michigan State, Robbins started his first publishing venture, founding a small company that addressed the short-run publishing needs of instructors in very large undergraduate classes. For more than 20 years, Robbins has been operating The Electronic Scholarly Publishing Project, a web site dedicated to the digital publishing of critical works in science, especially classical genetics.


Robbins is well-known for his speaking abilities and is often called upon to provide keynote or plenary addresses at international meetings. For example, in July, 2012, he gave a well-received keynote address at the Global Biodiversity Informatics Congress, sponsored by GBIF and held in Copenhagen. The slides from that talk can be seen HERE.


Robbins is a skilled meeting facilitator. He prefers a participatory approach, with part of the meeting involving dynamic breakout groups, created by the participants in real time: (1) individuals propose breakout groups; (2) everyone signs up for one (or more) groups; (3) the groups with the most interested parties then meet, with reports from each group presented and discussed in a subsequent plenary session.


Robbins has been engaged with photography and design since the 1960s, when he worked for a professional photography laboratory. He now prefers digital photography and tools for their precision and reproducibility. He designed his first web site more than 20 years ago and he personally designed and implemented this web site. He engages in graphic design as a hobby.

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E-mail: RJR8222@gmail.com

Collection of publications by R J Robbins

Reprints and preprints of publications, slide presentations, instructional materials, and data compilations written or prepared by Robert Robbins. Most papers deal with computational biology, genome informatics, using information technology to support biomedical research, and related matters.

Research Gate page for R J Robbins

ResearchGate is a social networking site for scientists and researchers to share papers, ask and answer questions, and find collaborators. According to a study by Nature and an article in Times Higher Education , it is the largest academic social network in terms of active users.

Curriculum Vitae for R J Robbins

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Curriculum Vitae for R J Robbins

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RJR Picks from Around the Web (updated 11 MAY 2018 )