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Volume 22 Issue 7, July 2021

Inspired by the Review on p415.

Cover design: Patrick Morgan.

Research Highlights

  • The Vertebrate Genomes Project, which aims to produce high-quality reference genomes for all 71,657 living and named vertebrate species, reports the generation of high-quality genome assemblies for the first 16 species and describes the biological findings that these genomes have informed.

    • Katharine H. Wrighton
    Research Highlight


  • Schep et al. show that non-homologous end joining is strongly favoured in euchromatin, whereas single-stranded template repair is moderately preferred in heterochromatin. Importantly, heterochromatin features that promote microhomology-mediated end joining also decrease Cas9 efficiency.

    • Caroline Barranco
    In Brief
  • Human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT) activity is tightly controlled. This report shows that hTERT is primarily regulated by alternative splicing; skipping of exon 2 triggers decay of TERT mRNA in differentiated cells and its retention promotes telomere maintenance in pluripotent cells.

    • Caroline Barranco
    In Brief
  • During development, cell competition causes apoptosis of cells with abnormal ribosomal protein profiles. Ji et al. show that this same mechanism also deletes aneuploid cells and that the deleted cell populations mainly have altered ribosomal protein gene dosages.

    • Caroline Barranco
    In Brief
  • Qifa Zhang describes how a 2008 publication in Nature Biotechnology on transgenic purple tomatoes inspired him to tackle food security by improving the nutrient and culinary value of black rice.

    • Qifa Zhang
    Journal Club
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  • Population-scale testing is an essential component of responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and is likely to become increasingly important in public health. Here, Mercer and Salit describe the roles of testing during the COVID-19 pandemic, including in genomic surveillance, contact tracing and environmental testing.

    • Tim R. Mercer
    • Marc Salit


    Review Article
  • This Review discusses strategies for the genetic engineering of adoptive T cell immunotherapies with a focus on approaches harnessing transgenic T cell receptors or chimeric antigen receptors to treat cancer. The authors also discuss the more complex levels of genetic regulation that will be needed to ensure both safety and efficacy.

    • Gavin I. Ellis
    • Neil C. Sheppard
    • James L. Riley

    Innovations In:

    Review Article
  • The authors review the evidence for a biological role of RNA as a form of cell–cell communication in mammals as well as proposed roles for extracellular RNAs in health and disease. Moreover, this Review emphasizes and provides guidance on the experimental rigor that is required to definitively show that extracellular RNAs are functional in recipient cells in vivo.

    • Hannah N. Gruner
    • Michael T. McManus
    Review Article
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  • In this Perspective, Teschendorff and Feinberg describe how single-cell analysis methods based on statistical mechanics can provide valuable insights into developmental phenomena, such as differentiation potency and lineage trajectories, as well as disruption of these processes in cancer.

    • Andrew E. Teschendorff
    • Andrew P. Feinberg
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