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Nature AOP



Nature is a weekly international journal publishing the finest peer-reviewed research in all fields of science and technology on the basis of its originality, importance, interdisciplinary interest, timeliness, accessibility, elegance and surprising concl



 



Biogeochemistry: Food for early animal evolution

2017-08-16

A revised timeline for when algae became ecologically important among plankton in the ancient oceans reveals a link between chemical changes in those waters and the emergence of animals in marine ecosystems.



Biochemistry: A toxin that fuels metabolism

2017-08-16

Formaldehyde, a DNA-damaging agent formed in cells, has now been shown to support metabolic processes that involve molecular units containing a single carbon atom — linking metabolism to a DNA-protection mechanism.



Global health: Probiotic prevents infections in newborns

2017-08-16

A major cause of death and disease in babies is the failure of their developing immune systems to block life-threatening infections. A clinical trial reports that the use of a probiotic can help to prevent such infections.



Mammals divert endogenous genotoxic formaldehyde into one-carbon metabolism

2017-08-16

The mechanism by which formaldehyde, a potent DNA and protein crosslinking agent, is generated from folate is described, with implications for the treatment of certain cancers.



A randomized synbiotic trial to prevent sepsis among infants in rural India

2017-08-16

A synbiotic preparation of Lactobacillus plantarum and fructooligosaccharide was found to significantly reduce sepsis and infections of the lower respiratory tract in a trial involving rural Indian newborns.



The primed SNARE–complexin–synaptotagmin complex for neuronal exocytosis

2017-08-16

An atomic model of the primed pre-fusion SNARE–complexin–synaptotagmin-1 complex in neuronal exocytosis accounting for vesicle priming and cooperation in synchronizing and activating evoked release on the sub-millisecond timescale.



The rise of algae in Cryogenian oceans and the emergence of animals

2017-08-16

The transition from dominant bacterial to eukaryotic marine primary productivity was one of the most profound ecological revolutions in the Earth’s history, reorganizing the distribution of carbon and nutrients in the water column and increasing energy flow to higher trophic levels. But the causes and geological timing of this transition, as well as possible links with rising atmospheric oxygen levels and the evolution of animals, remain obscure. Here we present a molecular fossil record of eukaryotic steroids demonstrating that bacteria were the only notable primary producers in the oceans before the Cryogenian period (720–635 million years ago). Increasing steroid diversity and abundance marks the rapid rise of marine planktonic algae (Archaeplastida) in the narrow time interval between the Sturtian and Marinoan ‘snowball Earth’ glaciations, 659–645 million years ago. We propose that the incumbency of cyanobacteria was broken by a surge of nutrients supplied by the Sturtian deglaciation. The ‘Rise of Algae’ created food webs with more efficient nutrient and energy transfers, driving ecosystems towards larger and increasingly complex organisms. This effect is recorded by the concomitant appearance of biomarkers for sponges and predatory rhizarians, and the subsequent radiation of eumetazoans in the Ediacaran period.



CMTM6 maintains the expression of PD-L1 and regulates anti-tumour immunity

2017-08-16

Cancer cells exploit the expression of the programmed death-1 (PD-1) ligand 1 (PD-L1) to subvert T-cell-mediated immunosurveillance. The success of therapies that disrupt PD-L1-mediated tumour tolerance has highlighted the need to understand the molecular regulation of PD-L1 expression. Here we identify the uncharacterized protein CMTM6 as a critical regulator of PD-L1 in a broad range of cancer cells, by using a genome-wide CRISPR–Cas9 screen. CMTM6 is a ubiquitously expressed protein that binds PD-L1 and maintains its cell surface expression. CMTM6 is not required for PD-L1 maturation but co-localizes with PD-L1 at the plasma membrane and in recycling endosomes, where it prevents PD-L1 from being targeted for lysosome-mediated degradation. Using a quantitative approach to profile the entire plasma membrane proteome, we find that CMTM6 displays specificity for PD-L1. Notably, CMTM6 depletion decreases PD-L1 without compromising cell surface expression of MHC class I. CMTM6 depletion, via the reduction of PD-L1, significantly alleviates the suppression of tumour-specific T cell activity in vitro and in vivo. These findings provide insights into the biology of PD-L1 regulation, identify a previously unrecognized master regulator of this critical immune checkpoint and highlight a potential therapeutic target to overcome immune evasion by tumour cells.



CDK4/6 inhibition triggers anti-tumour immunity

2017-08-16

Cyclin-dependent kinases 4 and 6 (CDK4/6) are fundamental drivers of the cell cycle and are required for the initiation and progression of various malignancies. Pharmacological inhibitors of CDK4/6 have shown significant activity against several solid tumours. Their primary mechanism of action is thought to be the inhibition of phosphorylation of the retinoblastoma tumour suppressor, inducing G1 cell cycle arrest in tumour cells. Here we use mouse models of breast carcinoma and other solid tumours to show that selective CDK4/6 inhibitors not only induce tumour cell cycle arrest, but also promote anti-tumour immunity. We confirm this phenomenon through transcriptomic analysis of serial biopsies from a clinical trial of CDK4/6 inhibitor treatment for breast cancer. The enhanced anti-tumour immune response has two underpinnings. First, CDK4/6 inhibitors activate tumour cell expression of endogenous retroviral elements, thus increasing intracellular levels of double-stranded RNA. This in turn stimulates production of type III interferons and hence enhances tumour antigen presentation. Second, CDK4/6 inhibitors markedly suppress the proliferation of regulatory T cells. Mechanistically, the effects of CDK4/6 inhibitors both on tumour cells and on regulatory T cells are associated with reduced activity of the E2F target, DNA methyltransferase 1. Ultimately, these events promote cytotoxic T-cell-mediated clearance of tumour cells, which is further enhanced by the addition of immune checkpoint blockade. Our findings indicate that CDK4/6 inhibitors increase tumour immunogenicity and provide a rationale for new combination regimens comprising CDK4/6 inhibitors and immunotherapies as anti-cancer treatment.



Mechanism of intracellular allosteric β2AR antagonist revealed by X-ray crystal structure

2017-08-16

G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) pose challenges for drug discovery efforts because of the high degree of structural homology in the orthosteric pocket, particularly for GPCRs within a single subfamily, such as the nine adrenergic receptors. Allosteric ligands may bind to less-conserved regions of these receptors and therefore are more likely to be selective. Unlike orthosteric ligands, which tonically activate or inhibit signalling, allosteric ligands modulate physiologic responses to hormones and neurotransmitters, and may therefore have fewer adverse effects. The majority of GPCR crystal structures published to date were obtained with receptors bound to orthosteric antagonists, and only a few structures bound to allosteric ligands have been reported. Compound 15 (Cmpd-15) is an allosteric modulator of the β2 adrenergic receptor (β2AR) that was recently isolated from a DNA-encoded small-molecule library. Orthosteric β-adrenergic receptor antagonists, known as beta-blockers, are amongst the most prescribed drugs in the world and Cmpd-15 is the first allosteric beta-blocker. Cmpd-15 exhibits negative cooperativity with agonists and positive cooperativity with inverse agonists. Here we present the structure of the β2AR bound to a polyethylene glycol-carboxylic acid derivative (Cmpd-15PA) of this modulator. Cmpd-15PA binds to a pocket formed primarily by the cytoplasmic ends of transmembrane segments 1, 2, 6 and 7 as well as intracellular loop 1 and helix 8. A comparison of this structure with inactive- and active-state structures of the β2AR reveals the mechanism by which Cmpd-15 modulates agonist binding affinity and signalling.



Identification of CMTM6 and CMTM4 as PD-L1 protein regulators

2017-08-16

The clinical benefit for patients with diverse types of metastatic cancers that has been observed upon blockade of the interaction between PD-1 and PD-L1 has highlighted the importance of this inhibitory axis in the suppression of tumour-specific T-cell responses. Notwithstanding the key role of PD-L1 expression by cells within the tumour micro-environment, our understanding of the regulation of the PD-L1 protein is limited. Here we identify, using a haploid genetic screen, CMTM6, a type-3 transmembrane protein of previously unknown function, as a regulator of the PD-L1 protein. Interference with CMTM6 expression results in impaired PD-L1 protein expression in all human tumour cell types tested and in primary human dendritic cells. Furthermore, through both a haploid genetic modifier screen in CMTM6-deficient cells and genetic complementation experiments, we demonstrate that this function is shared by its closest family member, CMTM4, but not by any of the other CMTM members tested. Notably, CMTM6 increases the PD-L1 protein pool without affecting PD-L1 (also known as CD274) transcription levels. Rather, we demonstrate that CMTM6 is present at the cell surface, associates with the PD-L1 protein, reduces its ubiquitination and increases PD-L1 protein half-life. Consistent with its role in PD-L1 protein regulation, CMTM6 enhances the ability of PD-L1-expressing tumour cells to inhibit T cells. Collectively, our data reveal that PD-L1 relies on CMTM6/4 to efficiently carry out its inhibitory function, and suggest potential new avenues to block this pathway.



Polylox barcoding reveals haematopoietic stem cell fates realized in vivo

2017-08-16

Developmental deconvolution of complex organs and tissues at the level of individual cells remains challenging. Non-invasive genetic fate mapping has been widely used, but the low number of distinct fluorescent marker proteins limits its resolution. Much higher numbers of cell markers have been generated using viral integration sites, viral barcodes, and strategies based on transposons and CRISPR–Cas9 genome editing; however, temporal and tissue-specific induction of barcodes in situ has not been achieved. Here we report the development of an artificial DNA recombination locus (termed Polylox) that enables broadly applicable endogenous barcoding based on the Cre–loxP recombination system. Polylox recombination in situ reaches a practical diversity of several hundred thousand barcodes, allowing tagging of single cells. We have used this experimental system, combined with fate mapping, to assess haematopoietic stem cell (HSC) fates in vivo. Classical models of haematopoietic lineage specification assume a tree with few major branches. More recently, driven in part by the development of more efficient single-cell assays and improved transplantation efficiencies, different models have been proposed, in which unilineage priming may occur in mice and humans at the level of HSCs. We have introduced barcodes into HSC progenitors in embryonic mice, and found that the adult HSC compartment is a mosaic of embryo-derived HSC clones, some of which are unexpectedly large. Most HSC clones gave rise to multilineage or oligolineage fates, arguing against unilineage priming, and suggesting coherent usage of the potential of cells in a clone. The spreading of barcodes, both after induction in embryos and in adult mice, revealed a basic split between common myeloid–erythroid development and common lymphocyte development, supporting the long-held but contested view of a tree-like haematopoietic structure.



Stromal R-spondin orchestrates gastric epithelial stem cells and gland homeostasis

2017-08-16

The constant regeneration of stomach epithelium is driven by long-lived stem cells, but the mechanism that regulates their turnover is not well understood. We have recently found that the gastric pathogen Helicobacter pylori can activate gastric stem cells and increase epithelial turnover, while Wnt signalling is known to be important for stem cell identity and epithelial regeneration in several tissues. Here we find that antral Wnt signalling, marked by the classic Wnt target gene Axin2, is limited to the base and lower isthmus of gastric glands, where the stem cells reside. Axin2 is expressed by Lgr5+ cells, as well as adjacent, highly proliferative Lgr5− cells that are able to repopulate entire glands, including the base, upon depletion of the Lgr5+ population. Expression of both Axin2 and Lgr5 requires stroma-derived R-spondin 3 produced by gastric myofibroblasts proximal to the stem cell compartment. Exogenous R-spondin administration expands and accelerates proliferation of Axin2+/Lgr5− but not Lgr5+ cells. Consistent with these observations, H. pylori infection increases stromal R-spondin 3 expression and expands the Axin2+ cell pool to cause hyperproliferation and gland hyperplasia. The ability of stromal niche cells to control and adapt epithelial stem cell dynamics constitutes a sophisticated mechanism that orchestrates epithelial regeneration and maintenance of tissue integrity.



Vaccine-driven pharmacodynamic dissection and mitigation of fenethylline psychoactivity

2017-08-16

Fenethylline, also known by the trade name Captagon, is a synthetic psychoactive stimulant that has recently been linked to a substance-use disorder and ‘pharmacoterrorism’ in the Middle East. Although fenethylline shares a common phenethylamine core with other amphetamine-type stimulants, it also incorporates a covalently linked xanthine moiety into its parent structure. These independently active pharmacophores are liberated during metabolism, resulting in the release of a structurally diverse chemical mixture into the central nervous system. Although the psychoactive properties of fenethylline have been reported to differ from those of other synthetic stimulants, the in vivo chemical complexity it manifests upon ingestion has impeded efforts to unambiguously identify the specific species responsible for these effects. Here we develop a ‘dissection through vaccination’ approach, called DISSECTIV, to mitigate the psychoactive effects of fenethylline and show that its rapid-onset and distinct psychoactive properties are facilitated by functional synergy between theophylline and amphetamine. Our results demonstrate that incremental vaccination against a single chemical species within a multi-component mixture can be used to uncover emergent properties arising from polypharmacological activity. We anticipate that DISSECTIV will be used to expose unidentified active chemical species and resolve pharmacodynamic interactions within other chemically complex systems, such as those found in counterfeit or illegal drug preparations, post-metabolic tissue samples and natural product extracts.



Large turbulent reservoirs of cold molecular gas around high-redshift starburst galaxies

2017-08-14

Starburst galaxies at the peak of cosmic star formation are among the most extreme star-forming engines in the Universe, producing stars over about 100 million years (ref. 2). The star-formation rates of these galaxies, which exceed 100 solar masses per year, require large reservoirs of cold molecular gas to be delivered to their cores, despite strong feedback from stars or active galactic nuclei. Consequently, starburst galaxies are ideal for studying the interplay between this feedback and the growth of a galaxy. The methylidyne cation, CH+, is a most useful molecule for such studies because it cannot form in cold gas without suprathermal energy input, so its presence indicates dissipation of mechanical energy or strong ultraviolet irradiation. Here we report the detection of CH+ (J = 1–0) emission and absorption lines in the spectra of six lensed starburst galaxies at redshifts near 2.5. This line has such a high critical density for excitation that it is emitted only in very dense gas, and is absorbed in low-density gas. We find that the CH+ emission lines, which are broader than 1,000 kilometres per second, originate in dense shock waves powered by hot galactic winds. The CH+ absorption lines reveal highly turbulent reservoirs of cool (about 100 kelvin), low-density gas, extending far (more than 10 kiloparsecs) outside the starburst galaxies (which have radii of less than 1 kiloparsec). We show that the galactic winds sustain turbulence in the 10-kiloparsec-scale environments of the galaxies, processing these environments into multiphase, gravitationally bound reservoirs. However, the mass outflow rates are found to be insufficient to balance the star-formation rates. Another mass input is therefore required for these reservoirs, which could be provided by ongoing mergers or cold-stream accretion. Our results suggest that galactic feedback, coupled jointly to turbulence and gravity, extends the starburst phase of a galaxy instead of quenching it.



Genome-scale activation screen identifies a lncRNA locus regulating a gene neighbourhood

2017-08-11

Mammalian genomes contain thousands of loci that transcribe long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs), some of which are known to carry out critical roles in diverse cellular processes through a variety of mechanisms. Although some lncRNA loci encode RNAs that act non-locally (in trans), there is emerging evidence that many lncRNA loci act locally (in cis) to regulate the expression of nearby genes—for example, through functions of the lncRNA promoter, transcription, or transcript itself. Despite their potentially important roles, it remains challenging to identify functional lncRNA loci and distinguish among these and other mechanisms. Here, to address these challenges, we developed a genome-scale CRISPR–Cas9 activation screen that targets more than 10,000 lncRNA transcriptional start sites to identify noncoding loci that influence a phenotype of interest. We found 11 lncRNA loci that, upon recruitment of an activator, mediate resistance to BRAF inhibitors in human melanoma cells. Most candidate loci appear to regulate nearby genes. Detailed analysis of one candidate, termed EMICERI, revealed that its transcriptional activation resulted in dosage-dependent activation of four neighbouring protein-coding genes, one of which confers the resistance phenotype. Our screening and characterization approach provides a CRISPR toolkit with which to systematically discover the functions of noncoding loci and elucidate their diverse roles in gene regulation and cellular function.



Genetics: Role of mutation in fly-wing evolution

2017-08-09

Analysis of wing variation within and between fly species reveals an unexpectedly slow evolutionary rate. Variations due to mutation and interspecific differences are similar, perhaps as a result of complex genetic interactions.



Neurobiology: A bitter–sweet symphony

2017-08-09

Information about taste sensations, such as bitter or sweet, is relayed from the mouse tongue to the brain through taste-specific pathways. It emerges that semaphorin proteins guide the wiring of these pathways.



Climate science: Origins of Atlantic decadal swings

2017-08-09

Temperature variability in the North Atlantic Ocean is the result of many competing physical processes, but the relative roles of these processes is a source of contention. Here, scientists present two perspectives on the debate.



New gliding mammaliaforms from the Jurassic

2017-08-09

Maiopatagium, a haramiyid from the Jurassic Tiaojishan Formation (around 160 million years ago) of China was specialised for gliding with a patagium (wing membrane) and a fused wishbone, reminiscent of that of birds.



Mutation predicts 40 million years of fly wing evolution

2017-08-09

Mutation enables evolution, but the idea that adaptation is also shaped by mutational variation is controversial. Simple evolutionary hypotheses predict such a relationship if the supply of mutations constrains evolution, but it is not clear that constraints exist, and, even if they do, they may be overcome by long-term natural selection. Quantification of the relationship between mutation and phenotypic divergence among species will help to resolve these issues. Here we use precise data on over 50,000 Drosophilid fly wings to demonstrate unexpectedly strong positive relationships between variation produced by mutation, standing genetic variation, and the rate of evolution over the last 40 million years. Our results are inconsistent with simple constraint hypotheses because the rate of evolution is very low relative to what both mutational and standing variation could allow. In principle, the constraint hypothesis could be rescued if the vast majority of mutations are so deleterious that they cannot contribute to evolution, but this also requires the implausible assumption that deleterious mutations have the same pattern of effects as potentially advantageous ones. Our evidence for a strong relationship between mutation and divergence in a slowly evolving structure challenges the existing models of mutation in evolution.



Chaotic dynamics in nanoscale NbO2 Mott memristors for analogue computing

2017-08-09

At present, machine learning systems use simplified neuron models that lack the rich nonlinear phenomena observed in biological systems, which display spatio-temporal cooperative dynamics. There is evidence that neurons operate in a regime called the edge of chaos that may be central to complexity, learning efficiency, adaptability and analogue (non-Boolean) computation in brains. Neural networks have exhibited enhanced computational complexity when operated at the edge of chaos, and networks of chaotic elements have been proposed for solving combinatorial or global optimization problems. Thus, a source of controllable chaotic behaviour that can be incorporated into a neural-inspired circuit may be an essential component of future computational systems. Such chaotic elements have been simulated using elaborate transistor circuits that simulate known equations of chaos, but an experimental realization of chaotic dynamics from a single scalable electronic device has been lacking. Here we describe niobium dioxide (NbO2) Mott memristors each less than 100 nanometres across that exhibit both a nonlinear-transport-driven current-controlled negative differential resistance and a Mott-transition-driven temperature-controlled negative differential resistance. Mott materials have a temperature-dependent metal–insulator transition that acts as an electronic switch, which introduces a history-dependent resistance into the device. We incorporate these memristors into a relaxation oscillator and observe a tunable range of periodic and chaotic self-oscillations. We show that the nonlinear current transport coupled with thermal fluctuations at the nanoscale generates chaotic oscillations. Such memristors could be useful in certain types of neural-inspired computation by introducing a pseudo-random signal that prevents global synchronization and could also assist in finding a global minimum during a constrained search. We specifically demonstrate that incorporating such memristors into the hardware of a Hopfield computing network can greatly improve the efficiency and accuracy of converging to a solution for computationally difficult problems.



Rewiring the taste system

2017-08-09

In mammals, taste buds typically contain 50–100 tightly packed taste-receptor cells (TRCs), representing all five basic qualities: sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami. Notably, mature taste cells have life spans of only 5–20 days and, consequently, are constantly replenished by differentiation of taste stem cells. Given the importance of establishing and maintaining appropriate connectivity between TRCs and their partner ganglion neurons (that is, ensuring that a labelled line from sweet TRCs connects to sweet neurons, bitter TRCs to bitter neurons, sour to sour, and so on), we examined how new connections are specified to retain fidelity of signal transmission. Here we show that bitter and sweet TRCs provide instructive signals to bitter and sweet target neurons via different guidance molecules (SEMA3A and SEMA7A). We demonstrate that targeted expression of SEMA3A or SEMA7A in different classes of TRCs produces peripheral taste systems with miswired sweet or bitter cells. Indeed, we engineered mice with bitter neurons that now responded to sweet tastants, sweet neurons that responded to bitter or sweet neurons responding to sour stimuli. Together, these results uncover the basic logic of the wiring of the taste system at the periphery, and illustrate how a labelled-line sensory circuit preserves signalling integrity despite rapid and stochastic turnover of receptor cells.



m6A mRNA methylation controls T cell homeostasis by targeting the IL-7/STAT5/SOCS pathways

2017-08-09

N6-methyladenosine (m6A) is the most common and abundant messenger RNA modification, modulated by ‘writers’, ‘erasers’ and ‘readers’ of this mark. In vitro data have shown that m6A influences all fundamental aspects of mRNA metabolism, mainly mRNA stability, to determine stem cell fates. However, its in vivo physiological function in mammals and adult mammalian cells is still unknown. Here we show that the deletion of m6A ‘writer’ protein METTL3 in mouse T cells disrupts T cell homeostasis and differentiation. In a lymphopaenic mouse adoptive transfer model, naive Mettl3-deficient T cells failed to undergo homeostatic expansion and remained in the naive state for up to 12 weeks, thereby preventing colitis. Consistent with these observations, the mRNAs of SOCS family genes encoding the STAT signalling inhibitory proteins SOCS1, SOCS3 and CISH were marked by m6A, exhibited slower mRNA decay and showed increased mRNAs and levels of protein expression in Mettl3-deficient naive T cells. This increased SOCS family activity consequently inhibited IL-7-mediated STAT5 activation and T cell homeostatic proliferation and differentiation. We also found that m6A has important roles for inducible degradation of Socs mRNAs in response to IL-7 signalling in order to reprogram naive T cells for proliferation and differentiation. Our study elucidates for the first time, to our knowledge, the in vivo biological role of m6A modification in T-cell-mediated pathogenesis and reveals a novel mechanism of T cell homeostasis and signal-dependent induction of mRNA degradation.



New evidence for mammaliaform ear evolution and feeding adaptation in a Jurassic ecosystem

2017-08-09

Stem mammaliaforms are forerunners to modern mammals, and they achieved considerable ecomorphological diversity in their own right. Recent discoveries suggest that eleutherodontids, a subclade of Haramiyida, were more species-rich during the Jurassic period in Asia than previously recognized. Here we report a new Jurassic eleutherodontid mammaliaform with an unusual mosaic of highly specialized characteristics, and the results of phylogenetic analyses that support the hypothesis that haramiyidans are stem mammaliaforms. The new fossil shows fossilized skin membranes that are interpreted to be for gliding and a mandibular middle ear with a unique character combination previously unknown in mammaliaforms. Incisor replacement is prolonged until well after molars are fully erupted, a timing pattern unique to most other mammaliaforms. In situ molar occlusion and a functional analysis reveal a new mode of dental occlusion: dual mortar–pestle occlusion of opposing upper and lower molars, probably for dual crushing and grinding. This suggests that eleutherodontids are herbivorous, and probably specialized for granivory or feeding on soft plant tissues. The inferred dietary adaptation of eleutherodontid gliders represents a remarkable evolutionary convergence with herbivorous gliders in Theria. These Jurassic fossils represent volant, herbivorous stem mammaliaforms associated with pre-angiosperm plants that appear long before the later, iterative associations between angiosperm plants and volant herbivores in various therian clades.



mRNA 3′ uridylation and poly(A) tail length sculpt the mammalian maternal transcriptome

2017-08-09

A fundamental principle in biology is that the program for early development is established during oogenesis in the form of the maternal transcriptome. How the maternal transcriptome acquires the appropriate content and dosage of transcripts is not fully understood. Here we show that 3′ terminal uridylation of mRNA mediated by TUT4 and TUT7 sculpts the mouse maternal transcriptome by eliminating transcripts during oocyte growth. Uridylation mediated by TUT4 and TUT7 is essential for both oocyte maturation and fertility. In comparison to somatic cells, the oocyte transcriptome has a shorter poly(A) tail and a higher relative proportion of terminal oligo-uridylation. Deletion of TUT4 and TUT7 leads to the accumulation of a cohort of transcripts with a high frequency of very short poly(A) tails, and a loss of 3′ oligo-uridylation. By contrast, deficiency of TUT4 and TUT7 does not alter gene expression in a variety of somatic cells. In summary, we show that poly(A) tail length and 3′ terminal uridylation have essential and specific functions in shaping a functional maternal transcriptome.



Structural insights into ligand recognition by the lysophosphatidic acid receptor LPA6

2017-08-09

Lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) is a bioactive lipid composed of a phosphate group, a glycerol backbone, and a single acyl chain that varies in length and saturation. LPA activates six class A G-protein-coupled receptors to provoke various cellular reactions. Because LPA signalling has been implicated in cancer and fibrosis, the LPA receptors are regarded as promising drug targets. The six LPA receptors are subdivided into the endothelial differentiation gene (EDG) family (LPA1–LPA3) and the phylogenetically distant non-EDG family (LPA4–LPA6). The structure of LPA1 has enhanced our understanding of the EDG family of LPA receptors. By contrast, the functional and pharmacological characteristics of the non-EDG family of LPA receptors have remained unknown, owing to the lack of structural information. Although the non-EDG LPA receptors share sequence similarity with the P2Y family of nucleotide receptors, the LPA recognition mechanism cannot be deduced from the P2Y1 and P2Y12 structures because of the large differences in the chemical structures of their ligands. Here we determine the 3.2 Å crystal structure of LPA6, the gene deletion of which is responsible for congenital hair loss, to clarify the ligand recognition mechanism of the non-EDG family of LPA receptors. Notably, the ligand-binding pocket of LPA6 is laterally open towards the membrane, and the acyl chain of the lipid used for the crystallization is bound within this pocket, indicating the binding mode of the LPA acyl chain. Docking and mutagenesis analyses also indicated that the conserved positively charged residues within the central cavity recognize the phosphate head group of LPA by inducing an inward shift of transmembrane helices 6 and 7, suggesting that the receptor activation is triggered by this conformational rearrangement.



An early modern human presence in Sumatra 73,000–63,000 years ago

2017-08-09

Genetic evidence for anatomically modern humans (AMH) out of Africa before 75 thousand years ago (ka) and in island southeast Asia (ISEA) before 60 ka (93–61 ka) predates accepted archaeological records of occupation in the region. Claims that AMH arrived in ISEA before 60 ka (ref. 4) have been supported only by equivocal or non-skeletal evidence. AMH evidence from this period is rare and lacks robust chronologies owing to a lack of direct dating applications, poor preservation and/or excavation strategies and questionable taxonomic identifications. Lida Ajer is a Sumatran Pleistocene cave with a rich rainforest fauna associated with fossil human teeth. The importance of the site is unclear owing to unsupported taxonomic identification of these fossils and uncertainties regarding the age of the deposit, therefore it is rarely considered in models of human dispersal. Here we reinvestigate Lida Ajer to identify the teeth confidently and establish a robust chronology using an integrated dating approach. Using enamel–dentine junction morphology, enamel thickness and comparative morphology, we show that the teeth are unequivocally AMH. Luminescence and uranium-series techniques applied to bone-bearing sediments and speleothems, and coupled uranium-series and electron spin resonance dating of mammalian teeth, place modern humans in Sumatra between 73 and 63 ka. This age is consistent with biostratigraphic estimations, palaeoclimate and sea-level reconstructions, and genetic evidence for a pre-60 ka arrival of AMH into ISEA. Lida Ajer represents, to our knowledge, the earliest evidence of rainforest occupation by AMH, and underscores the importance of reassessing the timing and environmental context of the dispersal of modern humans out of Africa.



Identification of essential genes for cancer immunotherapy

2017-08-07

The authors describe a two-cell-type CRISPR screen to identify tumour-intrinsic genes that regulate the sensitivity of cancer cells to effector T cell function.



Electronic in-plane symmetry breaking at field-tuned quantum criticality in CeRhIn5

2017-08-07

Electronic nematic materials are characterized by a lowered symmetry of the electronic system compared to the underlying lattice, in analogy to the directional alignment without translational order in nematic liquid crystals. Such nematic phases appear in the copper- and iron-based high-temperature superconductors, and their role in establishing superconductivity remains an open question. Nematicity may take an active part, cooperating or competing with superconductivity, or may appear accidentally in such systems. Here we present experimental evidence for a phase of fluctuating nematic character in a heavy-fermion superconductor, CeRhIn5 (ref. 5). We observe a magnetic-field-induced state in the vicinity of a field-tuned antiferromagnetic quantum critical point at Hc ≈ 50 tesla. This phase appears above an out-of-plane critical field H* ≈ 28 tesla and is characterized by a substantial in-plane resistivity anisotropy in the presence of a small in-plane field component. The in-plane symmetry breaking has little apparent connection to the underlying lattice, as evidenced by the small magnitude of the magnetostriction anomaly at H*. Furthermore, no anomalies appear in the magnetic torque, suggesting the absence of metamagnetism in this field range. The appearance of nematic behaviour in a prototypical heavy-fermion superconductor highlights the interrelation of nematicity and unconventional superconductivity, suggesting nematicity to be common among correlated materials.



Cancer genomics: Human metastases under scrutiny

2017-08-02

Sequences of the DNA and RNA of 500 human cancers that have spread from their primary site in the body take us a step closer to the convergence of basic science and patient benefit.



Cell biology: Healthy skin rejects cancer

2017-08-02

Live imaging shows that healthy skin cells surround and expel neighbours that have cancer-promoting mutations, revealing that tissues can recognize and eliminate mutant cells to prevent tumour initiation.



Microbiology: The case of the mysterious messenger

2017-08-02

Bacteria and archaea use an innate immune system called CRISPR–Cas to combat viral infection. The identification of a family of molecules that play a key part in this system deepens our understanding of such immunity.



Biotechnology: At the heart of gene edits in human embryos

2017-08-02

The gene-editing technology CRISPR–Cas has been used in human embryos grown in vitro to correct a disease-associated mutation. The introduction of editing components at fertilization aided repair efficiency.



Correction of a pathogenic gene mutation in human embryos

2017-08-02

CRISPR–Cas9 genome editing is used to induce a DNA repair response and correct a disease-causing heterozygous mutation in human embryos with reduced mosaicism and preferential repair using the wild-type copy of the gene.



Integrative clinical genomics of metastatic cancer

2017-08-02

Clinical exome and transcriptome sequencing of 500 adult patients with metastatic solid tumours of diverse lineage and biopsy site, as part of the Michigan Oncology Sequencing (MI-ONCOSEQ) Program.



Correction of aberrant growth preserves tissue homeostasis

2017-08-02

Cells in healthy tissues acquire mutations with surprising frequency. Many of these mutations are associated with abnormal cellular behaviours such as differentiation defects and hyperproliferation, yet fail to produce macroscopically detectable phenotypes. It is currently unclear how the tissue remains phenotypically normal, despite the presence of these mutant cells. Here we use intravital imaging to track the fate of mouse skin epithelium burdened with varying numbers of activated Wnt/β-catenin stem cells. We show that all resulting growths that deform the skin tissue architecture regress, irrespective of their size. Wild-type cells are required for the active elimination of mutant cells from the tissue, while utilizing both endogenous and ectopic cellular behaviours to dismantle the aberrant structures. After regression, the remaining structures are either completely eliminated or converted into functional skin appendages in a niche-dependent manner. Furthermore, tissue aberrancies generated from oncogenic Hras, and even mutation-independent deformations to the tissue, can also be corrected, indicating that this tolerance phenomenon reflects a conserved principle in the skin. This study reveals an unanticipated plasticity of the adult skin epithelium when faced with mutational and non-mutational insult, and elucidates the dynamic cellular behaviours used for its return to a homeostatic state.



Proteins evolve on the edge of supramolecular self-assembly

2017-08-02

The self-association of proteins into symmetric complexes is ubiquitous in all kingdoms of life. Symmetric complexes possess unique geometric and functional properties, but their internal symmetry can pose a risk. In sickle-cell disease, the symmetry of haemoglobin exacerbates the effect of a mutation, triggering assembly into harmful fibrils. Here we examine the universality of this mechanism and its relation to protein structure geometry. We introduced point mutations solely designed to increase surface hydrophobicity among 12 distinct symmetric complexes from Escherichia coli. Notably, all responded by forming supramolecular assemblies in vitro, as well as in vivo upon heterologous expression in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Remarkably, in four cases, micrometre-long fibrils formed in vivo in response to a single point mutation. Biophysical measurements and electron microscopy revealed that mutants self-assembled in their folded states and so were not amyloid-like. Structural examination of 73 mutants identified supramolecular assembly hot spots predictable by geometry. A subsequent structural analysis of 7,471 symmetric complexes showed that geometric hot spots were buffered chemically by hydrophilic residues, suggesting a mechanism preventing mis-assembly of these regions. Thus, point mutations can frequently trigger folded proteins to self-assemble into higher-order structures. This potential is counterbalanced by negative selection and can be exploited to design nanomaterials in living cells.



Artificial light at night as a new threat to pollination

2017-08-02

Pollinators are declining worldwide and this has raised concerns for a parallel decline in the essential pollination service they provide to both crops and wild plants. Anthropogenic drivers linked to this decline include habitat changes, intensive agriculture, pesticides, invasive alien species, spread of pathogens and climate change. Recently, the rapid global increase in artificial light at night has been proposed to be a new threat to terrestrial ecosystems; the consequences of this increase for ecosystem function are mostly unknown. Here we show that artificial light at night disrupts nocturnal pollination networks and has negative consequences for plant reproductive success. In artificially illuminated plant–pollinator communities, nocturnal visits to plants were reduced by 62% compared to dark areas. Notably, this resulted in an overall 13% reduction in fruit set of a focal plant even though the plant also received numerous visits by diurnal pollinators. Furthermore, by merging diurnal and nocturnal pollination sub-networks, we show that the structure of these combined networks tends to facilitate the spread of the negative consequences of disrupted nocturnal pollination to daytime pollinator communities. Our findings demonstrate that artificial light at night is a threat to pollination and that the negative effects of artificial light at night on nocturnal pollination are predicted to propagate to the diurnal community, thereby aggravating the decline of the diurnal community. We provide perspectives on the functioning of plant–pollinator communities, showing that nocturnal pollinators are not redundant to diurnal communities and increasing our understanding of the human-induced decline in pollinators and their ecosystem service.



Genetic origins of the Minoans and Mycenaeans

2017-08-02

The origins of the Bronze Age Minoan and Mycenaean cultures have puzzled archaeologists for more than a century. We have assembled genome-wide data from 19 ancient individuals, including Minoans from Crete, Mycenaeans from mainland Greece, and their eastern neighbours from southwestern Anatolia. Here we show that Minoans and Mycenaeans were genetically similar, having at least three-quarters of their ancestry from the first Neolithic farmers of western Anatolia and the Aegean, and most of the remainder from ancient populations related to those of the Caucasus and Iran. However, the Mycenaeans differed from Minoans in deriving additional ancestry from an ultimate source related to the hunter–gatherers of eastern Europe and Siberia, introduced via a proximal source related to the inhabitants of either the Eurasian steppe or Armenia. Modern Greeks resemble the Mycenaeans, but with some additional dilution of the Early Neolithic ancestry. Our results support the idea of continuity but not isolation in the history of populations of the Aegean, before and after the time of its earliest civilizations.



A Braf kinase-inactive mutant induces lung adenocarcinoma

2017-08-02

The initiating oncogenic event in almost half of human lung adenocarcinomas is still unknown, a fact that complicates the development of selective targeted therapies. Yet these tumours harbour a number of alterations without obvious oncogenic function including BRAF-inactivating mutations. Inactivating BRAF mutants in lung predominate over the activating V600E mutant that is frequently observed in other tumour types. Here we demonstrate that the expression of an endogenous Braf(D631A) kinase-inactive isoform in mice (corresponding to the human BRAF(D594A) mutation) triggers lung adenocarcinoma in vivo, indicating that BRAF-inactivating mutations are initiating events in lung oncogenesis. Moreover, inactivating BRAF mutations have also been identified in a subset of KRAS-driven human lung tumours. Co-expression of Kras(G12V) and Braf(D631A) in mouse lung cells markedly enhances tumour initiation, a phenomenon mediated by Craf kinase activity, and effectively accelerates tumour progression when activated in advanced lung adenocarcinomas. We also report a key role for the wild-type Braf kinase in sustaining Kras(G12V)/Braf(D631A)-driven tumours. Ablation of the wild-type Braf allele prevents the development of lung adenocarcinoma by inducing a further increase in MAPK signalling that results in oncogenic toxicity; this effect can be abolished by pharmacological inhibition of Mek to restore tumour growth. However, the loss of wild-type Braf also induces transdifferentiation of club cells, which leads to the rapid development of lethal intrabronchiolar lesions. These observations indicate that the signal intensity of the MAPK pathway is a critical determinant not only in tumour development, but also in dictating the nature of the cancer-initiating cell and ultimately the resulting tumour phenotype.



Metabolic control of TH17 and induced Treg cell balance by an epigenetic mechanism

2017-08-02

Metabolism has been shown to integrate with epigenetics and transcription to modulate cell fate and function. Beyond meeting the bioenergetic and biosynthetic demands of T-cell differentiation, whether metabolism might control T-cell fate by an epigenetic mechanism is unclear. Here, through the discovery and mechanistic characterization of a small molecule, (aminooxy)acetic acid, that reprograms the differentiation of T helper 17 (TH17) cells towards induced regulatory T (iTreg) cells, we show that increased transamination, mainly catalysed by GOT1, leads to increased levels of 2-hydroxyglutarate in differentiating TH17 cells. The accumulation of 2-hydroxyglutarate resulted in hypermethylation of the Foxp3 gene locus and inhibited Foxp3 transcription, which is essential for fate determination towards TH17 cells. Inhibition of the conversion of glutamate to α-ketoglutaric acid prevented the production of 2-hydroxyglutarate, reduced methylation of the Foxp3 gene locus, and increased Foxp3 expression. This consequently blocked the differentiation of TH17 cells by antagonizing the function of transcription factor RORγt and promoted polarization into iTreg cells. Selective inhibition of GOT1 with (aminooxy)acetic acid ameliorated experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis in a therapeutic mouse model by regulating the balance between TH17 and iTreg cells. Targeting a glutamate-dependent metabolic pathway thus represents a new strategy for developing therapeutic agents against TH17-mediated autoimmune diseases.



Tumours with class 3 BRAF mutants are sensitive to the inhibition of activated RAS

2017-08-02

Approximately 200 BRAF mutant alleles have been identified in human tumours. Activating BRAF mutants cause feedback inhibition of GTP-bound RAS, are RAS-independent and signal either as active monomers (class 1) or constitutively active dimers (class 2). Here we characterize a third class of BRAF mutants—those that have impaired kinase activity or are kinase-dead. These mutants are sensitive to ERK-mediated feedback and their activation of signalling is RAS-dependent. The mutants bind more tightly than wild-type BRAF to RAS–GTP, and their binding to and activation of wild-type CRAF is enhanced, leading to increased ERK signalling. The model suggests that dysregulation of signalling by these mutants in tumours requires coexistent mechanisms for maintaining RAS activation despite ERK-dependent feedback. Consistent with this hypothesis, melanomas with these class 3 BRAF mutations also harbour RAS mutations or NF1 deletions. By contrast, in lung and colorectal cancers with class 3 BRAF mutants, RAS is typically activated by receptor tyrosine kinase signalling. These tumours are sensitive to the inhibition of RAS activation by inhibitors of receptor tyrosine kinases. We have thus defined three distinct functional classes of BRAF mutants in human tumours. The mutants activate ERK signalling by different mechanisms that dictate their sensitivity to therapeutic inhibitors of the pathway.



Mitotic progression following DNA damage enables pattern recognition within micronuclei

2017-07-31

Inflammatory gene expression following genotoxic cancer therapy is well documented, yet the events underlying its induction remain poorly understood. Inflammatory cytokines modify the tumour microenvironment by recruiting immune cells and are critical for both local and systemic (abscopal) tumour responses to radiotherapy. A poorly understood feature of these responses is the delayed onset (days), in contrast to the acute DNA-damage responses that occur in minutes to hours. Such dichotomous kinetics implicate additional rate-limiting steps that are essential for DNA-damage-induced inflammation. Here we show that cell cycle progression through mitosis following double-stranded DNA breaks leads to the formation of micronuclei, which precede activation of inflammatory signalling and are a repository for the pattern-recognition receptor cyclic GMP–AMP synthase (cGAS). Inhibiting progression through mitosis or loss of pattern recognition by stimulator of interferon genes (STING)–cGAS impaired interferon signalling. Moreover, STING loss prevented the regression of abscopal tumours in the context of ionizing radiation and immune checkpoint blockade in vivo. These findings implicate temporal modulation of the cell cycle as an important consideration in the context of therapeutic strategies that combine genotoxic agents with immune checkpoint blockade.



High-temperature crystallization of nanocrystals into three-dimensional superlattices

2017-07-31

Crystallization of colloidal nanocrystals into superlattices represents a practical bottom-up process with which to create ordered metamaterials with emergent functionalities. With precise control over the size, shape and composition of individual nanocrystals, various single- and multi-component nanocrystal superlattices have been produced, the lattice structures and chemical compositions of which can be accurately engineered. Nanocrystal superlattices are typically prepared by carefully controlling the assembly process through solvent evaporation or destabilization or through DNA-guided crystallization. Slow solvent evaporation or cooling of nanocrystal solutions (over hours or days) is the key element for successful crystallization processes. Here we report the rapid growth (seconds) of micrometre-sized, face-centred-cubic, three-dimensional nanocrystal superlattices during colloidal synthesis at high temperatures (more than 230 degrees Celsius). Using in situ small-angle X-ray scattering, we observe continuous growth of individual nanocrystals within the lattices, which results in simultaneous lattice expansion and fine nanocrystal size control due to the superlattice templates. Thermodynamic models demonstrate that balanced attractive and repulsive interparticle interactions dictated by the ligand coverage on nanocrystal surfaces and nanocrystal core size are responsible for the crystallization process. The interparticle interactions can also be controlled to form different superlattice structures, such as hexagonal close-packed lattices. The rational assembly of various nanocrystal systems into novel materials is thus facilitated for both fundamental research and for practical applications in the fields of magnetics, electronics and catalysis.



Ecology: Contests between species aid biodiversity

2017-07-26

A modelling approach used to investigate competition between different species provides insight into how contests that have multiple players can help to maintain biodiversity.



Stem cells: The cost of perpetual youth

2017-07-26

The ability to become nearly any cell type is restricted to eggs, sperm and primitive stem cells in very early embryos. Two studies reveal that maintaining this pluripotent state in vitro comes at a cost.



Prolonged Mek1/2 suppression impairs the developmental potential of embryonic stem cells

2017-07-26

Concomitant activation of the Wnt pathway and suppression of Mapk signalling by two small molecule inhibitors (2i) in the presence of leukaemia inhibitory factor (LIF) (hereafter termed 2i/L) induces a naive state in mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells that resembles the inner cell mass (ICM) of the pre-implantation embryo. Since the ICM exists only transiently in vivo, it remains unclear how sustained propagation of naive ES cells in vitro affects their stability and functionality. Here we show that prolonged culture of male mouse ES cells in 2i/L results in irreversible epigenetic and genomic changes that impair their developmental potential. Furthermore, we find that female ES cells cultured in conventional serum plus LIF medium phenocopy male ES cells cultured in 2i/L. Mechanistically, we demonstrate that the inhibition of Mek1/2 is predominantly responsible for these effects, in part through the downregulation of DNA methyltransferases and their cofactors. Finally, we show that replacement of the Mek1/2 inhibitor with a Src inhibitor preserves the epigenetic and genomic integrity as well as the developmental potential of ES cells. Taken together, our data suggest that, although short-term suppression of Mek1/2 in ES cells helps to maintain an ICM-like epigenetic state, prolonged suppression results in irreversible changes that compromise their developmental potential.



Higher-order interactions stabilize dynamics in competitive network models

2017-07-26

Ecologists have long sought a way to explain how the remarkable biodiversity observed in nature is maintained. On the one hand, simple models of interacting competitors cannot produce the stable persistence of very large ecological communities. On the other hand, neutral models, in which species do not interact and diversity is maintained by immigration and speciation, yield unrealistically small fluctuations in population abundance, and a strong positive correlation between a species’ abundance and its age, contrary to empirical evidence. Models allowing for the robust persistence of large communities of interacting competitors are lacking. Here we show that very diverse communities could persist thanks to the stabilizing role of higher-order interactions, in which the presence of a species influences the interaction between other species. Although higher-order interactions have been studied for decades, their role in shaping ecological communities is still unclear. The inclusion of higher-order interactions in competitive network models stabilizes dynamics, making species coexistence robust to the perturbation of both population abundance and parameter values. We show that higher-order interactions have strong effects in models of closed ecological communities, as well as of open communities in which new species are constantly introduced. In our framework, higher-order interactions are completely defined by pairwise interactions, facilitating empirical parameterization and validation of our models.



Derivation of ground-state female ES cells maintaining gamete-derived DNA methylation

2017-07-26

Inhibitors of Mek1/2 and Gsk3β, known as 2i, enhance the derivation of embryonic stem (ES) cells and promote ground-state pluripotency in rodents. Here we show that the derivation of female mouse ES cells in the presence of 2i and leukaemia inhibitory factor (2i/L ES cells) results in a widespread loss of DNA methylation, including a massive erasure of genomic imprints. Despite this global loss of DNA methylation, early-passage 2i/L ES cells efficiently differentiate into somatic cells, and this process requires genome-wide de novo DNA methylation. However, the majority of imprinting control regions (ICRs) remain unmethylated in 2i/L-ES-cell-derived differentiated cells. Consistently, 2i/L ES cells exhibit impaired autonomous embryonic and placental development by tetraploid embryo complementation or nuclear transplantation. We identified the derivation conditions of female ES cells that display 2i/L-ES-cell-like transcriptional signatures while preserving gamete-derived DNA methylation and autonomous developmental potential. Upon prolonged culture, however, female ES cells exhibited ICR demethylation regardless of culture conditions. Our results provide insights into the derivation of female ES cells reminiscent of the inner cell mass of preimplantation embryos.



cGAS surveillance of micronuclei links genome instability to innate immunity

2017-07-24

DNA is strictly compartmentalized within the nucleus to prevent autoimmunity; despite this, cyclic GMP–AMP synthase (cGAS), a cytosolic sensor of double-stranded DNA, is activated in autoinflammatory disorders and by DNA damage. Precisely how cellular DNA gains access to the cytoplasm remains to be determined. Here, we report that cGAS localizes to micronuclei arising from genome instability in a mouse model of monogenic autoinflammation, after exogenous DNA damage and spontaneously in human cancer cells. Such micronuclei occur after mis-segregation of DNA during cell division and consist of chromatin surrounded by its own nuclear membrane. Breakdown of the micronuclear envelope, a process associated with chromothripsis, leads to rapid accumulation of cGAS, providing a mechanism by which self-DNA becomes exposed to the cytosol. cGAS is activated by chromatin, and consistent with a mitotic origin, micronuclei formation and the proinflammatory response following DNA damage are cell-cycle dependent. By combining live-cell laser microdissection with single cell transcriptomics, we establish that interferon-stimulated gene expression is induced in micronucleated cells. We therefore conclude that micronuclei represent an important source of immunostimulatory DNA. As micronuclei formed from lagging chromosomes also activate this pathway, recognition of micronuclei by cGAS may act as a cell-intrinsic immune surveillance mechanism that detects a range of neoplasia-inducing processes.



No large population of unbound or wide-orbit Jupiter-mass planets

2017-07-24

Planet formation theories predict that some planets may be ejected from their parent systems as result of dynamical interactions and other processes. Unbound planets can also be formed through gravitational collapse, in a way similar to that in which stars form. A handful of free-floating planetary-mass objects have been discovered by infrared surveys of young stellar clusters and star-forming regions as well as wide-field surveys, but these studies are incomplete for objects below five Jupiter masses. Gravitational microlensing is the only method capable of exploring the entire population of free-floating planets down to Mars-mass objects, because the microlensing signal does not depend on the brightness of the lensing object. A characteristic timescale of microlensing events depends on the mass of the lens: the less massive the lens, the shorter the microlensing event. A previous analysis of 474 microlensing events found an excess of ten very short events (1–2 days)—more than known stellar populations would suggest—indicating the existence of a large population of unbound or wide-orbit Jupiter-mass planets (reported to be almost twice as common as main-sequence stars). These results, however, do not match predictions of planet-formation theories and surveys of young clusters. Here we analyse a sample of microlensing events six times larger than that of ref. 11 discovered during the years 2010–15. Although our survey has very high sensitivity (detection efficiency) to short-timescale (1–2 days) microlensing events, we found no excess of events with timescales in this range, with a 95 per cent upper limit on the frequency of Jupiter-mass free-floating or wide-orbit planets of 0.25 planets per main-sequence star. We detected a few possible ultrashort-timescale events (with timescales of less than half a day), which may indicate the existence of Earth-mass and super-Earth-mass free-floating planets, as predicted by planet-formation theories.



Particle physics: No sign of asymmetry in the strong force

2017-06-14

The strong force binds the constituents of nuclei together. Differences between the force's fundamental interactions and their mirror images were thought to have been observed in heavy-ion collisions, but new data challenge this picture.



50 & 100 Years Ago

2017-06-21




Particle physics: Search for neutrinoless double-β decay

2016-09-21

Neutrinos are much lighter than the other constituents of matter. One explanation for this could be that neutrinos are their own antiparticles and belong to a new class of 'Majorana' particle. An experiment sets strong constraints on this scenario.



Human migration: Climate and the peopling of the world

2016-09-21

The human dispersal out of Africa that populated the world was probably paced by climate changes. This is the inference drawn from computer modelling of climate variability during the time of early human migration.



Cancer: Acidic shield puts a chink in p53's armour

2016-09-14

Underactivity of the transcription factor p53 can lead to tumour development. The discovery that the SET protein binds to and inhibits p53 points to a way to unleash the tumour suppressor's activity.



Evolutionary biology: To mimicry and back again

2016-05-25

Deadly coral snakes warn predators through striking red-black banding. New data confirm that many harmless snakes have evolved to resemble coral snakes, and suggest that the evolution of this Batesian mimicry is not always a one-way street.



Addendum

2015-06-17