News & AnalysisEpigenetics

Ancient DNA Holds Clues to Gene Activity in Extinct Humans

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Science  18 Apr 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6181, pp. 245-246
DOI: 10.1126/science.344.6181.245

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Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity in these long-gone species by computationally mapping where a chemical modification called methylation occurred in the DNA during the lifetime of the individual. The method takes advantage of how DNA degrades through time. When compared with methylation in modern humans, these methylation maps revealed a possible explanation for the skeletal differences between Neandertals and modern humans. Many more ancient methylomes must be mapped to determine which methylome is representative of these species, and more work needs to be done to show that methylation really does underlie these skeletal differences.