Collaborating Authors

Establishment and lineage dynamics of the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic in the UK


The scale of genome-sequencing efforts for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is unprecedented. The United Kingdom has contributed more than 26,000 sequences to this effort. This volume of data allowed du Plessis et al. to develop a detailed picture of the influxes of virus reaching U.K. shores as the pandemic developed during the first months of 2020 (see the Perspective by Nelson). Before lockdown, high travel volumes and few restrictions on international travel allowed more than 1000 lineages to become established. This accelerated local epidemic growth and exceeded contact tracing capacity. The authors were able to quantify the abundance, size distribution, and spatial range of the lineages that were transmitted. Transmission was highly heterogeneous, favoring some lineages that became widespread and subsequently harder to eliminate. This dire history indicates that rapid or even preemptive responses should have been used as they were elsewhere where containment was successful. Science , this issue p. [708][1]; see also p. [680][2] The United Kingdom’s COVID-19 epidemic during early 2020 was one of world’s largest and was unusually well represented by virus genomic sampling. We determined the fine-scale genetic lineage structure of this epidemic through analysis of 50,887 severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) genomes, including 26,181 from the UK sampled throughout the country’s first wave of infection. Using large-scale phylogenetic analyses combined with epidemiological and travel data, we quantified the size, spatiotemporal origins, and persistence of genetically distinct UK transmission lineages. Rapid fluctuations in virus importation rates resulted in >1000 lineages; those introduced prior to national lockdown tended to be larger and more dispersed. Lineage importation and regional lineage diversity declined after lockdown, whereas lineage elimination was size-dependent. We discuss the implications of our genetic perspective on transmission dynamics for COVID-19 epidemiology and control. [1]: /lookup/doi/10.1126/science.abf2946 [2]: /lookup/doi/10.1126/science.abg2297

Early developmental asymmetries in cell lineage trees in living individuals


After fertilization, the human zygote divides into two cells. Fasching et al. used genomic analysis from cellular samples taken much later in development to back-calculate the cell division trees that went before. Although the first cell division in human development looks symmetrical from the outside, the fates followed by daughter cells from each of those first two blastomeres are anything but the same. As much as 90% of blood cells are derived from just one of the first two blastomeres. Science , this issue p. [1245][1] Mosaic mutations can be used to track cell lineages in humans. We used cell cloning to analyze embryonic cell lineages in two living individuals and a postmortem human specimen. Of 10 reconstructed postzygotic divisions, none resulted in balanced contributions of daughter lineages to tissues. In both living individuals, one of two lineages from the first cleavage was dominant across tissues, with 90% frequency in blood. We propose that the efficiency of DNA repair contributes to lineage imbalance. Allocation of lineages in postmortem brain correlated with anterior-posterior axis, associating lineage history with cell fate choices in embryos. We establish a minimally invasive framework for defining cell lineages in any living individual, which paves the way for studying their relevance in health and disease. [1]: /lookup/doi/10.1126/science.abe0981

High-resolution comparative analysis of great ape genomes


We sequenced and assembled two human, one chimpanzee, and one orangutan genome using high-coverage ( 65x) single-molecule, real-time (SMRT) long-read sequencing technology. We also sequenced more than 500,000 full-length complementary DNA samples from induced pluripotent stem cells to construct de novo gene models, increasing our knowledge of transcript diversity in each ape lineage. The new nonhuman ape genome assemblies improve gene annotation and genomic contiguity (by 30- to 500-fold), resulting in the identification of larger synteny blocks (by 22- to 74-fold) when compared to earlier assemblies. Including the latest gorilla genome, we now estimate that 83% of the ape genomes can be compared in a multiple sequence alignment. We observe a modest increase in single-nucleotide variant divergence compared to previous genome analyses and estimate that 36% of human autosomal DNA is subject to incomplete lineage sorting.

Fossils push back origin of key plant groups millions of years


About 250 million years ago, Earth underwent the worst mass extinction event in its history. Researchers have now unearthed fossils of three plant lineages from before this "great dying" at the end of the Permian period. The discovery, of conifers, seed ferns, and a group of cycadlike plants called Bennettitales, is unexpected and may lead to a revision of plant evolution, because all the lineages were thought to have arisen tens of millions of years later. Their uncovering near the Dead Sea also lends support to a 45-year-old idea about why the tropics tend to have more species than higher latitudes. Dry tropical environments may be "cradles" of evolution.

The evolutionary history of dogs in the Americas


Dogs have been present in North America for at least 9000 years. To better understand how present-day breeds and populations reflect their introduction to the New World, Ní Leathlobhair et al. sequenced the mitochondrial and nuclear genomes of ancient dogs (see the Perspective by Goodman and Karlsson). The earliest New World dogs were not domesticated from North American wolves but likely originated from a Siberian ancestor. Furthermore, these lineages date back to a common ancestor that coincides with the first human migrations across Beringia. This lineage appears to have been mostly replaced by dogs introduced by Europeans, with the primary extant lineage remaining as a canine transmissible venereal tumor.