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Volume 586 Issue 7831, 29 October 2020

African diversity

Although Africa is regarded as the cradle of modern humans, only a fraction of the genetic diversity among African individuals has been surveyed. In this week’s issue, Zané Lombard, Adebowale Adeyemo, Neil Hanchard and their colleagues from the H3Africa Consortium help to redress this imbalance by presenting whole-genome sequence analyses of 426 individuals covering 50 ethnolinguistic groups. The researchers uncovered more than three million new variants, mostly among newly sampled groups, and identified 62 previously unreported genes associated with viral immunity, DNA repair and metabolism. They also observed complex patterns of ancestral mixing within and between populations, and found evidence that Zambia was a likely intermediate site along the routes of expansion for Bantu-speaking populations. The findings help to refine understanding of migration across the African continent and identify gene flow and response to disease as strong drivers of genome-level population variation. The cover shows a subset of the genetic data collected in the study translated into hand-loomed beaded necklaces by the Marigold beadwork cooperative in Zimbabwe.

Cover image: Beadwork by Nothando Bhebhe/Marigold beadwork cooperative in collaboration with Joni Brenner; Photography by Liz Whitter.

This Week

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  • News & Views

    • The Philae spacecraft was meant to anchor itself to the surface of the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, but instead bounced into a hidden grotto. The telltale markings of its passage reveal details of the comet’s fragile boulders.

      • Erik Asphaug
      News & Views
    • Homologous recombination is a mechanism for DNA repair that enables the exchange of genetic information between DNA molecules. Structural analysis reveals how the protein RecA orchestrates this process.

      • Upasana Roy
      • Eric C. Greene
      News & Views
    • Targets for ecosystem restoration are usually specified in terms of the total area to be restored. A global analysis reveals that the benefits and costs of achieving such targets depend greatly on where this restoration occurs.

      • Simon Ferrier
      News & Views
  • Perspective

  • Articles

    • A combination of spectroscopy, microscopy and theoretical calculations shows that the reactivity of titanium silicalite-1 as an epoxidation catalyst is due to the presence of dinuclear titanium sites.

      • Christopher P. Gordon
      • Hauke Engler
      • Christophe Copéret
    • Metal-free borylation of C(sp3)–H bonds by violet-light-induced hydrogen atom transfer is reported, demonstrating high selectivity for the substitution of methyl C–H bonds over other weaker C–H bonds.

      • Chao Shu
      • Adam Noble
      • Varinder K. Aggarwal
    • Multicriteria optimization identifies global priority areas for ecosystem restoration and estimates their benefits for biodiversity and climate, providing cost–benefit analyses that highlight the importance of optimizing spatial planning and incorporating several biomes in restoration strategies.

      • Bernardo B. N. Strassburg
      • Alvaro Iribarrem
      • Piero Visconti
    • Whole-genome sequencing analyses of African populations provide insights into continental migration, gene flow and the response to human disease, highlighting the importance of including diverse populations in genomic analyses to understand human ancestry and improve health.

      • Ananyo Choudhury
      • Shaun Aron
      • Neil A. Hanchard


    • Analysis of 97,691 high-coverage human blood DNA-derived whole-genome sequences enabled simultaneous identification of germline and somatic mutations that predispose individuals to clonal expansion of haematopoietic stem cells, indicating that both inherited and acquired mutations are linked to age-related cancers and coronary heart disease.

      • Alexander G. Bick
      • Joshua S. Weinstock
      • Pradeep Natarajan
    • Two out of 15 dogs from households with confirmed human cases of COVID-19 were asymptomatically infected with SARS-CoV-2 and showed antibody responses to the virus.

      • Thomas H. C. Sit
      • Christopher J. Brackman
      • Malik Peiris
    • Single-cell analysis of blood vessels in the alveolus, the site of chronic disease and virus-induced lung injury, reveals two intermingled endothelial cell types with specialized gas exchange and stem cell functions.

      • Astrid Gillich
      • Fan Zhang
      • Ross J. Metzger
    • In xenograft tumour models in mice, modulation of dietary serine, serine palmitoyltransferase or phosphoglycerate dehydrogenase activity enables control of the endogenous synthesis of deoxysphingolipids, sensitizing the tumours to metabolic stress and slowing their progression.

      • Thangaselvam Muthusamy
      • Thekla Cordes
      • Christian M. Metallo
    • In-cell structural studies in Saccharomyces cerevisiae reveal that the configuration of the Nup159 complex is a key determinant of the mRNA export function of the nuclear pore complex, and suggest a model in which nuclear pore complexes are degraded via the autophagy machinery.

      • Matteo Allegretti
      • Christian E. Zimmerli
      • Martin Beck
    • Cryo-electron microscopy structures of the bacterial recombination protein RecA with DNA, and of RecA–D-loop complexes, provide insights into the double-stranded DNA opening, homology search and strand-exchange processes of homologous recombination.

      • Haijuan Yang
      • Chun Zhou
      • Nikola P. Pavletich
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