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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


Mechanism of tandem duplication formation in BRCA1-mutant cells


BRCA1, but not BRCA2, suppresses the formation of tandem duplications at stalled replication forks in primary mammalian cells.

Measurement of the multi-TeV neutrino interaction cross-section with IceCube using Earth absorption


Neutrinos interact only very weakly, so they are extremely penetrating. The theoretical neutrino–nucleon interaction cross-section, however, increases with increasing neutrino energy, and neutrinos with energies above 40 teraelectronvolts (TeV) are expected to be absorbed as they pass through the Earth. Experimentally, the cross-section has been determined only at the relatively low energies (below 0.4 TeV) that are available at neutrino beams from accelerators. Here we report a measurement of neutrino absorption by the Earth using a sample of 10,784 energetic upward-going neutrino-induced muons. The flux of high-energy neutrinos transiting long paths through the Earth is attenuated compared to a reference sample that follows shorter trajectories. Using a fit to the two-dimensional distribution of muon energy and zenith angle, we determine the neutrino–nucleon interaction cross-section for neutrino energies 6.3–980 TeV, more than an order of magnitude higher than previous measurements. The measured cross-section is about 1.3 times the prediction of the standard model, consistent with the expectations for charged- and neutral-current interactions. We do not observe a large increase in the cross-section with neutrino energy, in contrast with the predictions of some theoretical models, including those invoking more compact spatial dimensions or the production of leptoquarks. This cross-section measurement can be used to set limits on the existence of some hypothesized beyond-standard-model particles, including leptoquarks.

NFS1 undergoes positive selection in lung tumours and protects cells from ferroptosis


Environmental nutrient levels impact cancer cell metabolism, resulting in context-dependent gene essentiality. Here, using loss-of-function screening based on RNA interference, we show that environmental oxygen levels are a major driver of differential essentiality between in vitro model systems and in vivo tumours. Above the 3–8% oxygen concentration typical of most tissues, we find that cancer cells depend on high levels of the iron–sulfur cluster biosynthetic enzyme NFS1. Mammary or subcutaneous tumours grow despite suppression of NFS1, whereas metastatic or primary lung tumours do not. Consistent with a role in surviving the high oxygen environment of incipient lung tumours, NFS1 lies in a region of genomic amplification present in lung adenocarcinoma and is most highly expressed in well-differentiated adenocarcinomas. NFS1 activity is particularly important for maintaining the iron–sulfur co-factors present in multiple cell-essential proteins upon exposure to oxygen compared to other forms of oxidative damage. Furthermore, insufficient iron–sulfur cluster maintenance robustly activates the iron-starvation response and, in combination with inhibition of glutathione biosynthesis, triggers ferroptosis, a non-apoptotic form of cell death. Suppression of NFS1 cooperates with inhibition of cysteine transport to trigger ferroptosis in vitro and slow tumour growth. Therefore, lung adenocarcinomas select for expression of a pathway that confers resistance to high oxygen tension and protects cells from undergoing ferroptosis in response to oxidative damage.

A lysosomal switch triggers proteostasis renewal in the immortal C. elegans germ lineage


Although individuals age and die with time, an animal species can continue indefinitely, because of its immortal germ-cell lineage. How the germline avoids transmitting damage from one generation to the next remains a fundamental question in biology. Here we identify a lysosomal switch that enhances germline proteostasis before fertilization. We find that Caenorhabditis elegans oocytes whose maturation is arrested by the absence of sperm exhibit hallmarks of proteostasis collapse, including protein aggregation. Remarkably, sperm-secreted hormones re-establish oocyte proteostasis once fertilization becomes imminent. Key to this restoration is activation of the vacuolar H+-ATPase (V-ATPase), a proton pump that acidifies lysosomes. Sperm stimulate V-ATPase activity in oocytes by signalling the degradation of GLD-1, a translational repressor that blocks V-ATPase synthesis. Activated lysosomes, in turn, promote a metabolic shift that mobilizes protein aggregates for degradation, and reset proteostasis by enveloping and clearing the aggregates. Lysosome acidification also occurs during Xenopus oocyte maturation; thus, a lysosomal switch that enhances oocyte proteostasis in anticipation of fertilization may be conserved in other species.

A gut bacterial pathway metabolizes aromatic amino acids into nine circulating metabolites


The human gut microbiota produces dozens of metabolites that accumulate in the bloodstream, where they can have systemic effects on the host. Although these small molecules commonly reach concentrations similar to those achieved by pharmaceutical agents, remarkably little is known about the microbial metabolic pathways that produce them. Here we use a combination of genetics and metabolic profiling to characterize a pathway from the gut symbiont Clostridium sporogenes that generates aromatic amino acid metabolites. Our results reveal that this pathway produces twelve compounds, nine of which are known to accumulate in host serum. All three aromatic amino acids (tryptophan, phenylalanine and tyrosine) serve as substrates for the pathway, and it involves branching and alternative reductases for specific intermediates. By genetically manipulating C. sporogenes, we modulate serum levels of these metabolites in gnotobiotic mice, and show that in turn this affects intestinal permeability and systemic immunity. This work has the potential to provide the basis of a systematic effort to engineer the molecular output of the gut bacterial community.

Orthogonal muscle fibres have different instructive roles in planarian regeneration


The ability to regenerate missing body parts exists throughout the animal kingdom. Positional information is crucial for regeneration, but how it is harboured and used by differentiated tissues is poorly understood. In planarians, positional information has been identified from study of phenotypes caused by RNA interference in which the wrong tissues are regenerated. For example, inhibition of the Wnt signalling pathway leads to regeneration of heads in place of tails. Characterization of these phenotypes has led to the identification of position control genes (PCGs)—genes that are expressed in a constitutive and regional manner and are associated with patterning. Most PCGs are expressed within planarian muscle; however, how muscle is specified and how different muscle subsets affect regeneration is unknown. Here we show that different muscle fibres have distinct regulatory roles during regeneration in the planarian Schmidtea mediterranea. myoD is required for formation of a specific muscle cell subset: the longitudinal fibres, oriented along the anterior–posterior axis. Loss of longitudinal fibres led to complete regeneration failure because of defects in regeneration initiation. A different transcription factor-encoding gene, nkx1-1, is required for the formation of circular fibres, oriented along the medial–lateral axis. Loss of circular fibres led to a bifurcated anterior–posterior axis with fused heads forming in single anterior blastemas. Whereas muscle is often viewed as a strictly contractile tissue, these findings reveal that different muscle types have distinct and specific regulatory roles in wound signalling and patterning to enable regeneration.

Structural basis for the initiation of eukaryotic transcription-coupled DNA repair


Eukaryotic transcription-coupled repair (TCR) is an important and well-conserved sub-pathway of nucleotide excision repair that preferentially removes DNA lesions from the template strand that block translocation of RNA polymerase II (Pol II). Cockayne syndrome group B (CSB, also known as ERCC6) protein in humans (or its yeast orthologues, Rad26 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Rhp26 in Schizosaccharomyces pombe) is among the first proteins to be recruited to the lesion-arrested Pol II during the initiation of eukaryotic TCR. Mutations in CSB are associated with the autosomal-recessive neurological disorder Cockayne syndrome, which is characterized by progeriod features, growth failure and photosensitivity. The molecular mechanism of eukaryotic TCR initiation remains unclear, with several long-standing unanswered questions. How cells distinguish DNA lesion-arrested Pol II from other forms of arrested Pol II, the role of CSB in TCR initiation, and how CSB interacts with the arrested Pol II complex are all unknown. The lack of structures of CSB or the Pol II–CSB complex has hindered our ability to address these questions. Here we report the structure of the S. cerevisiae Pol II–Rad26 complex solved by cryo-electron microscopy. The structure reveals that Rad26 binds to the DNA upstream of Pol II, where it markedly alters its path. Our structural and functional data suggest that the conserved Swi2/Snf2-family core ATPase domain promotes the forward movement of Pol II, and elucidate key roles for Rad26 in both TCR and transcription elongation.

Site-selective and stereoselective functionalization of non-activated tertiary C–H bonds


The synthesis of complex organic compounds usually relies on controlling the reactions of the functional groups. In recent years, it has become possible to carry out reactions directly on the C–H bonds, previously considered to be unreactive. One of the major challenges is to control the site-selectivity because most organic compounds have many similar C–H bonds. The most well developed procedures so far rely on the use of substrate control, in which the substrate has one inherently more reactive C–H bond or contains a directing group or the reaction is conducted intramolecularly so that a specific C–H bond is favoured. A more versatile but more challenging approach is to use catalysts to control which site in the substrate is functionalized. p450 enzymes exhibit C–H oxidation site-selectivity, in which the enzyme scaffold causes a specific C–H bond to be functionalized by placing it close to the iron–oxo haem complex. Several studies have aimed to emulate this enzymatic site-selectivity with designed transition-metal catalysts but it is difficult to achieve exceptionally high levels of site-selectivity. Recently, we reported a dirhodium catalyst for the site-selective functionalization of the most accessible non-activated (that is, not next to a functional group) secondary C–H bonds by means of rhodium-carbene-induced C–H insertion. Here we describe another dirhodium catalyst that has a very different reactivity profile. Instead of the secondary C–H bond, the new catalyst is capable of precise site-selectivity at the most accessible tertiary C–H bonds. Using this catalyst, we modify several natural products, including steroids and a vitamin E derivative, indicating the applicability of this method of synthesis to the late-stage functionalization of complex molecules. These studies show it is possible to achieve site-selectivity at different positions within a substrate simply by selecting the appropriate catalyst. We hope that this work will inspire the design of even more sophisticated catalysts, such that catalyst-controlled C–H functionalization becomes a broadly applied strategy for the synthesis of complex molecules.

Archaeology: Inequality has deep roots in Eurasia


A study of 64 archaeological sites across four continents shows that the growth of agricultural and political systems provoked economic disparities, more so in Eurasia than in North America.

Cancer immunotherapy: The dark side of PD-1 receptor inhibition


Inhibiting the protein PD-1 can activate T cells that trigger immune responses against tumour cells. But it emerges that, in mice, this immunotherapy exacerbates a cancer that involves the T cells themselves.

Microbiota: A high-pressure situation for bacteria


Analyses in mice suggest that dietary salt increases blood pressure partly by affecting some of the microbes that inhabit the gut. The implications of this work for hypertension warrant further study in humans.

Visualization of chemical modifications in the human 80S ribosome structure


A high-resolution structure of the human ribosome determined by cryo-electron microscopy visualizes numerous RNA modifications that are concentrated at functional sites with an extended shell, and suggests the possibility of designing more specific ribosome-targeting drugs.

Salt-responsive gut commensal modulates TH17 axis and disease


High salt intake changed the gut microbiome and increased TH17 cell numbers in mice, and reduced intestinal survival of Lactobacillus species, increased the number of TH17 cells and increased blood pressure in humans.

Greater post-Neolithic wealth disparities in Eurasia than in North America and Mesoamerica


How wealth is distributed among households provides insight into the fundamental characters of societies and the opportunities they afford for social mobility. However, economic inequality has been hard to study in ancient societies for which we do not have written records, which adds to the challenge of placing current wealth disparities into a long-term perspective. Although various archaeological proxies for wealth, such as burial goods or exotic or expensive-to-manufacture goods in household assemblages, have been proposed, the first is not clearly connected with households, and the second is confounded by abandonment mode and other factors. As a result, numerous questions remain concerning the growth of wealth disparities, including their connection to the development of domesticated plants and animals and to increases in sociopolitical scale. Here we show that wealth disparities generally increased with the domestication of plants and animals and with increased sociopolitical scale, using Gini coefficients computed over the single consistent proxy of house-size distributions. However, unexpected differences in the responses of societies to these factors in North America and Mesoamerica, and in Eurasia, became evident after the end of the Neolithic period. We argue that the generally higher wealth disparities identified in post-Neolithic Eurasia were initially due to the greater availability of large mammals that could be domesticated, because they allowed more profitable agricultural extensification, and also eventually led to the development of a mounted warrior elite able to expand polities (political units that cohere via identity, ability to mobilize resources, or governance) to sizes that were not possible in North America and Mesoamerica before the arrival of Europeans. We anticipate that this analysis will stimulate other work to enlarge this sample to include societies in South America, Africa, South Asia and Oceania that were under-sampled or not included in this study.

Genome sequence of the progenitor of the wheat D genome Aegilops tauschii


Aegilops tauschii is the diploid progenitor of the D genome of hexaploid wheat (Triticum aestivum, genomes AABBDD) and an important genetic resource for wheat. The large size and highly repetitive nature of the Ae. tauschii genome has until now precluded the development of a reference-quality genome sequence. Here we use an array of advanced technologies, including ordered-clone genome sequencing, whole-genome shotgun sequencing, and BioNano optical genome mapping, to generate a reference-quality genome sequence for Ae. tauschii ssp. strangulata accession AL8/78, which is closely related to the wheat D genome. We show that compared to other sequenced plant genomes, including a much larger conifer genome, the Ae. tauschii genome contains unprecedented amounts of very similar repeated sequences. Our genome comparisons reveal that the Ae. tauschii genome has a greater number of dispersed duplicated genes than other sequenced genomes and its chromosomes have been structurally evolving an order of magnitude faster than those of other grass genomes. The decay of colinearity with other grass genomes correlates with recombination rates along chromosomes. We propose that the vast amounts of very similar repeated sequences cause frequent errors in recombination and lead to gene duplications and structural chromosome changes that drive fast genome evolution.

Structural basis of nucleotide sugar transport across the Golgi membrane


Glycosylation is a fundamental cellular process that, in eukaryotes, occurs in the lumen of both the Golgi apparatus and the endoplasmic reticulum. Nucleotide sugar transporters (NSTs) are an essential component of the glycosylation pathway, providing the diverse range of substrates required for the glycosyltransferases. NSTs are linked to several developmental and immune disorders in humans, and in pathogenic microbes they have an important role in virulence. How NSTs recognize and transport activated monosaccharides, however, is currently unclear. Here we present the crystal structure of an NST, the GDP–mannose transporter Vrg4, in both the substrate-free and the bound states. A hitherto unobserved requirement of short-chain lipids in activating the transporter supports a model for regulation within the highly dynamic membranes of the Golgi apparatus. Our results provide a structural basis for understanding nucleotide sugar recognition, and provide insights into the transport and regulatory mechanism of this family of intracellular transporters.

Quantitative microbiome profiling links gut community variation to microbial load


Current sequencing-based analyses of faecal microbiota quantify microbial taxa and metabolic pathways as fractions of the sample sequence library generated by each analysis. Although these relative approaches permit detection of disease-associated microbiome variation, they are limited in their ability to reveal the interplay between microbiota and host health. Comparative analyses of relative microbiome data cannot provide information about the extent or directionality of changes in taxa abundance or metabolic potential. If microbial load varies substantially between samples, relative profiling will hamper attempts to link microbiome features to quantitative data such as physiological parameters or metabolite concentrations. Saliently, relative approaches ignore the possibility that altered overall microbiota abundance itself could be a key identifier of a disease-associated ecosystem configuration. To enable genuine characterization of host–microbiota interactions, microbiome research must exchange ratios for counts. Here we build a workflow for the quantitative microbiome profiling of faecal material, through parallelization of amplicon sequencing and flow cytometric enumeration of microbial cells. We observe up to tenfold differences in the microbial loads of healthy individuals and relate this variation to enterotype differentiation. We show how microbial abundances underpin both microbiota variation between individuals and covariation with host phenotype. Quantitative profiling bypasses compositionality effects in the reconstruction of gut microbiota interaction networks and reveals that the taxonomic trade-off between Bacteroides and Prevotella is an artefact of relative microbiome analyses. Finally, we identify microbial load as a key driver of observed microbiota alterations in a cohort of patients with Crohn’s disease, here associated with a low-cell-count Bacteroides enterotype (as defined through relative profiling).

PD-1 is a haploinsufficient suppressor of T cell lymphomagenesis


T cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas are a heterogeneous group of highly aggressive malignancies with poor clinical outcomes. T cell lymphomas originate from peripheral T cells and are frequently characterized by genetic gain-of-function variants in T cell receptor (TCR) signalling molecules. Although these oncogenic alterations are thought to drive TCR pathways to induce chronic proliferation and cell survival programmes, it remains unclear whether T cells contain tumour suppressors that can counteract these events. Here we show that the acute enforcement of oncogenic TCR signalling in lymphocytes in a mouse model of human T cell lymphoma drives the strong expansion of these cells in vivo. However, this response is short-lived and robustly counteracted by cell-intrinsic mechanisms. A subsequent genome-wide in vivo screen using T cell-specific transposon mutagenesis identified PDCD1, which encodes the inhibitory receptor programmed death-1 (PD-1), as a master gene that suppresses oncogenic T cell signalling. Mono- and bi-allelic deletions of PDCD1 are also recurrently observed in human T cell lymphomas with frequencies that can exceed 30%, indicating high clinical relevance. Mechanistically, the activity of PD-1 enhances levels of the tumour suppressor PTEN and attenuates signalling by the kinases AKT and PKC in pre-malignant cells. By contrast, a homo- or heterozygous deletion of PD-1 allows unrestricted T cell growth after an oncogenic insult and leads to the rapid development of highly aggressive lymphomas in vivo that are readily transplantable to recipients. Thus, the inhibitory PD-1 receptor is a potent haploinsufficient tumour suppressor in T cell lymphomas that is frequently altered in human disease. These findings extend the known physiological functions of PD-1 beyond the prevention of immunopathology after antigen-induced T cell activation, and have implications for T cell lymphoma therapies and for current strategies that target PD-1 in the broader context of immuno-oncology.

A Jurassic gliding euharamiyidan mammal with an ear of five auditory bones


The fossil of a gliding mammal from the Jurassic period sheds light on both the evolution of gliding and the development of the middle ear, as it has a previously unseen five-ossicle auditory system.

Solar abundance ratios of the iron-peak elements in the Perseus cluster


The metal abundance of the hot plasma that permeates galaxy clusters represents the accumulation of heavy elements produced by billions of supernovae. Therefore, X-ray spectroscopy of the intracluster medium provides an opportunity to investigate the nature of supernova explosions integrated over cosmic time. In particular, the abundance of the iron-peak elements (chromium, manganese, iron and nickel) is key to understanding how the progenitors of typical type Ia supernovae evolve and explode. Recent X-ray studies of the intracluster medium found that the abundance ratios of these elements differ substantially from those seen in the Sun, suggesting differences between the nature of type Ia supernovae in the clusters and in the Milky Way. However, because the K-shell transition lines of chromium and manganese are weak and those of iron and nickel are very close in photon energy, high-resolution spectroscopy is required for an accurate determination of the abundances of these elements. Here we report observations of the Perseus cluster, with statistically significant detections of the resonance emission from chromium, manganese and nickel. Our measurements, combined with the latest atomic models, reveal that these elements have near-solar abundance ratios with respect to iron, in contrast to previous claims. Comparison between our results and modern nucleosynthesis calculations disfavours the hypothesis that type Ia supernova progenitors are exclusively white dwarfs with masses well below the Chandrasekhar limit (about 1.4 times the mass of the Sun). The observed abundance pattern of the iron-peak elements can be explained by taking into account a combination of near- and sub-Chandrasekhar-mass type Ia supernova systems, adding to the mounting evidence that both progenitor types make a substantial contribution to cosmic chemical enrichment.

Gene therapy: Transgenic stem cells replace skin


The treatment of a patient affected by an incurable genetic skin disease demonstrates the efficacy, feasibility and safety of replacing almost the whole skin using genetically corrected stem cells.

Identification of unique neoantigen qualities in long-term survivors of pancreatic cancer


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma is a lethal cancer with fewer than 7% of patients surviving past 5 years. T-cell immunity has been linked to the exceptional outcome of the few long-term survivors, yet the relevant antigens remain unknown. Here we use genetic, immunohistochemical and transcriptional immunoprofiling, computational biophysics, and functional assays to identify T-cell antigens in long-term survivors of pancreatic cancer. Using whole-exome sequencing and in silico neoantigen prediction, we found that tumours with both the highest neoantigen number and the most abundant CD8+ T-cell infiltrates, but neither alone, stratified patients with the longest survival. Investigating the specific neoantigen qualities promoting T-cell activation in long-term survivors, we discovered that these individuals were enriched in neoantigen qualities defined by a fitness model, and neoantigens in the tumour antigen MUC16 (also known as CA125). A neoantigen quality fitness model conferring greater immunogenicity to neoantigens with differential presentation and homology to infectious disease-derived peptides identified long-term survivors in two independent datasets, whereas a neoantigen quantity model ascribing greater immunogenicity to increasing neoantigen number alone did not. We detected intratumoural and lasting circulating T-cell reactivity to both high-quality and MUC16 neoantigens in long-term survivors of pancreatic cancer, including clones with specificity to both high-quality neoantigens and predicted cross-reactive microbial epitopes, consistent with neoantigen molecular mimicry. Notably, we observed selective loss of high-quality and MUC16 neoantigenic clones on metastatic progression, suggesting neoantigen immunoediting. Our results identify neoantigens with unique qualities as T-cell targets in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. More broadly, we identify neoantigen quality as a biomarker for immunogenic tumours that may guide the application of immunotherapies.

A neoantigen fitness model predicts tumour response to checkpoint blockade immunotherapy


Checkpoint blockade immunotherapies enable the host immune system to recognize and destroy tumour cells. Their clinical activity has been correlated with activated T-cell recognition of neoantigens, which are tumour-specific, mutated peptides presented on the surface of cancer cells. Here we present a fitness model for tumours based on immune interactions of neoantigens that predicts response to immunotherapy. Two main factors determine neoantigen fitness: the likelihood of neoantigen presentation by the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) and subsequent recognition by T cells. We estimate these components using the relative MHC binding affinity of each neoantigen to its wild type and a nonlinear dependence on sequence similarity of neoantigens to known antigens. To describe the evolution of a heterogeneous tumour, we evaluate its fitness as a weighted effect of dominant neoantigens in the subclones of the tumour. Our model predicts survival in anti-CTLA-4-treated patients with melanoma and anti-PD-1-treated patients with lung cancer. Importantly, low-fitness neoantigens identified by our method may be leveraged for developing novel immunotherapies. By using an immune fitness model to study immunotherapy, we reveal broad similarities between the evolution of tumours and rapidly evolving pathogens.

Structure of the human MHC-I peptide-loading complex


The peptide-loading complex (PLC) is a transient, multisubunit membrane complex in the endoplasmic reticulum that is essential for establishing a hierarchical immune response. The PLC coordinates peptide translocation into the endoplasmic reticulum with loading and editing of major histocompatibility complex class I (MHC-I) molecules. After final proofreading in the PLC, stable peptide–MHC-I complexes are released to the cell surface to evoke a T-cell response against infected or malignant cells. Sampling of different MHC-I allomorphs requires the precise coordination of seven different subunits in a single macromolecular assembly, including the transporter associated with antigen processing (TAP1 and TAP2, jointly referred to as TAP), the oxidoreductase ERp57, the MHC-I heterodimer, and the chaperones tapasin and calreticulin. The molecular organization of and mechanistic events that take place in the PLC are unknown owing to the heterogeneous composition and intrinsically dynamic nature of the complex. Here, we isolate human PLC from Burkitt’s lymphoma cells using an engineered viral inhibitor as bait and determine the structure of native PLC by electron cryo-microscopy. Two endoplasmic reticulum-resident editing modules composed of tapasin, calreticulin, ERp57, and MHC-I are centred around TAP in a pseudo-symmetric orientation. A multivalent chaperone network within and across the editing modules establishes the proofreading function at two lateral binding platforms for MHC-I molecules. The lectin-like domain of calreticulin senses the MHC-I glycan, whereas the P domain reaches over the MHC-I peptide-binding pocket towards ERp57. This arrangement allows tapasin to facilitate peptide editing by clamping MHC-I. The translocation pathway of TAP opens out into a large endoplasmic reticulum lumenal cavity, confined by the membrane entry points of tapasin and MHC-I. Two lateral windows channel the antigenic peptides to MHC-I. Structures of PLC captured at distinct assembly states provide mechanistic insight into the recruitment and release of MHC-I. Our work defines the molecular symbiosis of an ABC transporter and an endoplasmic reticulum chaperone network in MHC-I assembly and provides insight into the onset of the adaptive immune response.

Microbiology: Crowdsourcing Earth's microbes


A large-scale study has been assessing microbial diversity by analysing DNA sequences from samples submitted by scientists around the globe. The initial results are now being used to create an open-access resource.

Chemical biology: Organic dyes for deep bioimaging


Small-molecule organic dyes that fluoresce in the short-wave infrared region of the spectrum could improve the resolution of in vivo bioimaging methods. Such dyes have now been made by adapting those that fluoresce visible light.

Cell biology: Bulky tether proteins aid membrane fusion


The energy source that drives vesicle fusion with a target organelle in vivo has been unclear. It emerges that proteins that tether fusing structures together also decrease the energy needed for the final fusion step.

Creation of forest edges has a global impact on forest vertebrates


Fragmentation of forest ecosystems produces forest edges, which affect the distribution of many analysed vertebrate species; smaller-bodied amphibians, larger reptiles and medium-sized mammals experience a larger reduction in suitable habitat than other forest-core species.

Structures of transcription pre-initiation complex with TFIIH and Mediator


Cryo-electron microscopy structures of the yeast pre-initiation complex (PIC) and its complex with core Mediator provide insights into the opening of promoter DNA and the initiation of transcription.

A communal catalogue reveals Earth’s multiscale microbial diversity


As phase 1 of the Earth Microbiome Project, analysis of 16S ribosomal RNA sequences from more than 27,000 environmental samples delivers a global picture of the basic structure and drivers of microbial distribution.

A tethering complex drives the terminal stage of SNARE-dependent membrane fusion


Membrane fusion in eukaryotic cells mediates the biogenesis of organelles, vesicular traffic between them, and exo- and endocytosis of important signalling molecules, such as hormones and neurotransmitters. Distinct tasks in intracellular membrane fusion have been assigned to conserved protein systems. Tethering proteins mediate the initial recognition and attachment of membranes, whereas SNARE (soluble N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive factor attachment protein receptor) protein complexes are considered as the core fusion engine. SNARE complexes provide mechanical energy to distort membranes and drive them through a hemifusion intermediate towards the formation of a fusion pore. This last step is highly energy-demanding. Here we combine the in vivo and in vitro fusion of yeast vacuoles with molecular simulations to show that tethering proteins are critical for overcoming the final energy barrier to fusion pore formation. SNAREs alone drive vacuoles only into the hemifused state. Tethering proteins greatly increase the volume of SNARE complexes and deform the site of hemifusion, which lowers the energy barrier for pore opening and provides the driving force. Thereby, tethering proteins assume a crucial mechanical role in the terminal stage of membrane fusion that is likely to be conserved at multiple steps of vesicular traffic. We therefore propose that SNAREs and tethering proteins should be considered as a single, non-dissociable device that drives fusion. The core fusion machinery may then be larger and more complex than previously thought.

Kctd13 deletion reduces synaptic transmission via increased RhoA


Copy-number variants of chromosome 16 region 16p11.2 are linked to neuropsychiatric disorders and are among the most prevalent in autism spectrum disorders. Of many 16p11.2 genes, Kctd13 has been implicated as a major driver of neurodevelopmental phenotypes. The function of KCTD13 in the mammalian brain, however, remains unknown. Here we delete the Kctd13 gene in mice and demonstrate reduced synaptic transmission. Reduced synaptic transmission correlates with increased levels of Ras homolog gene family, member A (RhoA), a KCTD13/CUL3 ubiquitin ligase substrate, and is reversed by RhoA inhibition, suggesting increased RhoA as an important mechanism. In contrast to a previous knockdown study, deletion of Kctd13 or kctd13 does not increase brain size or neurogenesis in mice or zebrafish, respectively. These findings implicate Kctd13 in the regulation of neuronal function relevant to neuropsychiatric disorders and clarify the role of Kctd13 in neurogenesis and brain size. Our data also reveal a potential role for RhoA as a therapeutic target in disorders associated with KCTD13 deletion.

Drug-tolerant persister cancer cells are vulnerable to GPX4 inhibition


Acquired drug resistance prevents cancer therapies from achieving stable and complete responses. Emerging evidence implicates a key role for non-mutational drug resistance mechanisms underlying the survival of residual cancer ‘persister’ cells. The persister cell pool constitutes a reservoir from which drug-resistant tumours may emerge. Targeting persister cells therefore presents a therapeutic opportunity to impede tumour relapse. We previously found that cancer cells in a high mesenchymal therapy-resistant cell state are dependent on the lipid hydroperoxidase GPX4 for survival. Here we show that a similar therapy-resistant cell state underlies the behaviour of persister cells derived from a wide range of cancers and drug treatments. Consequently, we demonstrate that persister cells acquire a dependency on GPX4. Loss of GPX4 function results in selective persister cell ferroptotic death in vitro and prevents tumour relapse in mice. These findings suggest that targeting of GPX4 may represent a therapeutic strategy to prevent acquired drug resistance.

Granular materials flow like complex fluids


Granular materials such as sand, powders and foams are ubiquitous in daily life and in industrial and geotechnical applications. These disordered systems form stable structures when unperturbed, but in the presence of external influences such as tapping or shear they ‘relax’, becoming fluid in nature. It is often assumed that the relaxation dynamics of granular systems is similar to that of thermal glass-forming systems. However, so far it has not been possible to determine experimentally the dynamic properties of three-dimensional granular systems at the particle level. This lack of experimental data, combined with the fact that the motion of granular particles involves friction (whereas the motion of particles in thermal glass-forming systems does not), means that an accurate description of the relaxation dynamics of granular materials is lacking. Here we use X-ray tomography to determine the microscale relaxation dynamics of hard granular ellipsoids subject to an oscillatory shear. We find that the distribution of the displacements of the ellipsoids is well described by a Gumbel law (which is similar to a Gaussian distribution for small displacements but has a heavier tail for larger displacements), with a shape parameter that is independent of the amplitude of the shear strain and of the time. Despite this universality, the mean squared displacement of an individual ellipsoid follows a power law as a function of time, with an exponent that does depend on the strain amplitude and time. We argue that these results are related to microscale relaxation mechanisms that involve friction and memory effects (whereby the motion of an ellipsoid at a given point in time depends on its previous motion). Our observations demonstrate that, at the particle level, the dynamic behaviour of granular systems is qualitatively different from that of thermal glass-forming systems, and is instead more similar to that of complex fluids. We conclude that granular materials can relax even when the driving strain is weak.

Detecting evolutionary forces in language change


Both language and genes evolve by transmission over generations with opportunity for differential replication of forms. The understanding that gene frequencies change at random by genetic drift, even in the absence of natural selection, was a seminal advance in evolutionary biology. Stochastic drift must also occur in language as a result of randomness in how linguistic forms are copied between speakers. Here we quantify the strength of selection relative to stochastic drift in language evolution. We use time series derived from large corpora of annotated texts dating from the 12th to 21st centuries to analyse three well-known grammatical changes in English: the regularization of past-tense verbs, the introduction of the periphrastic ‘do’, and variation in verbal negation. We reject stochastic drift in favour of selection in some cases but not in others. In particular, we infer selection towards the irregular forms of some past-tense verbs, which is likely driven by changing frequencies of rhyming patterns over time. We show that stochastic drift is stronger for rare words, which may explain why rare forms are more prone to replacement than common ones. This work provides a method for testing selective theories of language change against a null model and reveals an underappreciated role for stochasticity in language evolution.

History-independent cyclic response of nanotwinned metals


Nearly 90 per cent of service failures of metallic components and structures are caused by fatigue at cyclic stress amplitudes much lower than the tensile strength of the materials involved. Metals typically suffer from large amounts of cumulative, irreversible damage to microstructure during cyclic deformation, leading to cyclic responses that are unstable (hardening or softening) and history-dependent. Existing rules for fatigue life prediction, such as the linear cumulative damage rule, cannot account for the effect of loading history, and engineering components are often loaded by complex cyclic stresses with variable amplitudes, mean values and frequencies, such as aircraft wings in turbulent air. It is therefore usually extremely challenging to predict cyclic behaviour and fatigue life under a realistic load spectrum. Here, through both atomistic simulations and variable-strain-amplitude cyclic loading experiments at stress amplitudes lower than the tensile strength of the metal, we report a history-independent and stable cyclic response in bulk copper samples that contain highly oriented nanoscale twins. We demonstrate that this unusual cyclic behaviour is governed by a type of correlated ‘necklace’ dislocation consisting of multiple short component dislocations in adjacent twins, connected like the links of a necklace. Such dislocations are formed in the highly oriented nanotwinned structure under cyclic loading and help to maintain the stability of twin boundaries and the reversible damage, provided that the nanotwins are tilted within about 15 degrees of the loading axis. This cyclic deformation mechanism is distinct from the conventional strain localizing mechanisms associated with irreversible microstructural damage in single-crystal, coarse-grained, ultrafine-grained and nanograined metals.

Synaptotagmin 7 confers frequency invariance onto specialized depressing synapses


At most synapses in the brain, short-term plasticity dynamically modulates synaptic strength. Rapid frequency-dependent changes in synaptic strength have key roles in sensory adaptation, gain control and many other neural computations. However, some auditory, vestibular and cerebellar synapses maintain constant strength over a wide range of firing frequencies, and as a result efficiently encode firing rates. Despite its apparent simplicity, frequency-invariant transmission is difficult to achieve because of inherent synaptic nonlinearities. Here we study frequency-invariant transmission at synapses from Purkinje cells to deep cerebellar nuclei and at vestibular synapses in mice. Prolonged activation of these synapses leads to initial depression, which is followed by steady-state responses that are frequency invariant for their physiological activity range. We find that synaptotagmin 7 (Syt7), a calcium sensor for short-term facilitation, is present at both synapses. It was unclear why a sensor for facilitation would be present at these and other depressing synapses. We find that at Purkinje cell and vestibular synapses, Syt7 supports facilitation that is normally masked by depression, which can be revealed in wild-type mice but is absent in Syt7 knockout mice. In wild-type mice, facilitation increases with firing frequency and counteracts depression to produce frequency-invariant transmission. In Syt7-knockout mice, Purkinje cell and vestibular synapses exhibit conventional use-dependent depression, weakening to a greater extent as the firing frequency is increased. Presynaptic rescue of Syt7 expression restores both facilitation and frequency-invariant transmission. Our results identify a function for Syt7 at synapses that exhibit overall depression, and demonstrate that facilitation has an unexpected and important function in producing frequency-invariant transmission.

The m1A landscape on cytosolic and mitochondrial mRNA at single-base resolution


Modifications on mRNA offer the potential of regulating mRNA fate post-transcriptionally. Recent studies suggested the widespread presence of N1-methyladenosine (m1A), which disrupts Watson–Crick base pairing, at internal sites of mRNAs. These studies lacked the resolution of identifying individual modified bases, and did not identify specific sequence motifs undergoing the modification or an enzymatic machinery catalysing them, rendering it challenging to validate and functionally characterize putative sites. Here we develop an approach that allows the transcriptome-wide mapping of m1A at single-nucleotide resolution. Within the cytosol, m1A is present in a low number of mRNAs, typically at low stoichiometries, and almost invariably in tRNA T-loop-like structures, where it is introduced by the TRMT6/TRMT61A complex. We identify a single m1A site in the mitochondrial ND5 mRNA, catalysed by TRMT10C, with methylation levels that are highly tissue specific and tightly developmentally controlled. m1A leads to translational repression, probably through a mechanism involving ribosomal scanning or translation. Our findings suggest that m1A on mRNA, probably because of its disruptive impact on base pairing, leads to translational repression, and is generally avoided by cells, while revealing one case in mitochondria where tight spatiotemporal control over m1A levels was adopted as a potential means of post-transcriptional regulation.

Locomotor speed control circuits in the caudal brainstem


Locomotion is a universal behaviour that provides animals with the ability to move between places. Classical experiments have used electrical microstimulation to identify brain regions that promote locomotion, but the identity of neurons that act as key intermediaries between higher motor planning centres and executive circuits in the spinal cord has remained controversial. Here we show that the mouse caudal brainstem encompasses functionally heterogeneous neuronal subpopulations that have differential effects on locomotion. These subpopulations are distinguishable by location, neurotransmitter identity and connectivity. Notably, glutamatergic neurons within the lateral paragigantocellular nucleus (LPGi), a small subregion in the caudal brainstem, are essential to support high-speed locomotion, and can positively tune locomotor speed through inputs from glutamatergic neurons of the upstream midbrain locomotor region. By contrast, glycinergic inhibitory neurons can induce different forms of behavioural arrest mapping onto distinct caudal brainstem regions. Anatomically, descending pathways of glutamatergic and glycinergic LPGi subpopulations communicate with distinct effector circuits in the spinal cord. Our results reveal that behaviourally opposing locomotor functions in the caudal brainstem were historically masked by the unexposed diversity of intermingled neuronal subpopulations. We demonstrate how specific brainstem neuron populations represent essential substrates to implement key parameters in the execution of motor programs.

Disorder in convergent floral nanostructures enhances signalling to bees


Disordered nanoscale striations on petals, tepals and bracts have evolved multiple times among flowering plants and provide a salient visual signal to foraging bumblebees (Bombus terrestris).

Inflammatory memory sensitizes skin epithelial stem cells to tissue damage


After acute inflammation, epithelial stem cells retain a memory that accelerates restoration of the skin barrier during subsequent tissue damage, and this enhancement is dependent on the AIM2 inflammasome and its downstream effectors.

Molecular basis of USP7 inhibition by selective small-molecule inhibitors


Small molecules are identified that inhibit the ubiquitin-specific protease USP7 with high affinity and specificity as explained by co-crystal structures, and are shown to reduce tumour growth in mice.

Indirect effects drive coevolution in mutualistic networks


Ecological interactions have been acknowledged to play a key role in shaping biodiversity. Yet a major challenge for evolutionary biology is to understand the role of ecological interactions in shaping trait evolution when progressing from pairs of interacting species to multispecies interaction networks. Here we introduce an approach that integrates coevolutionary dynamics and network structure. Our results show that non-interacting species can be as important as directly interacting species in shaping coevolution within mutualistic assemblages. The contribution of indirect effects differs among types of mutualism. Indirect effects are more likely to predominate in nested, species-rich networks formed by multiple-partner mutualisms, such as pollination or seed dispersal by animals, than in small and modular networks formed by intimate mutualisms, such as those between host plants and their protective ants. Coevolutionary pathways of indirect effects favour ongoing trait evolution by promoting slow but continuous reorganization of the adaptive landscape of mutualistic partners under changing environments. Our results show that coevolution can be a major process shaping species traits throughout ecological networks. These findings expand our understanding of how evolution driven by interactions occurs through the interplay of selection pressures moving along multiple direct and indirect pathways.

Single-molecule imaging reveals receptor–G protein interactions at cell surface hot spots


G-protein-coupled receptors mediate the biological effects of many hormones and neurotransmitters and are important pharmacological targets. They transmit their signals to the cell interior by interacting with G proteins. However, it is unclear how receptors and G proteins meet, interact and couple. Here we analyse the concerted motion of G-protein-coupled receptors and G proteins on the plasma membrane and provide a quantitative model that reveals the key factors that underlie the high spatiotemporal complexity of their interactions. Using two-colour, single-molecule imaging we visualize interactions between individual receptors and G proteins at the surface of living cells. Under basal conditions, receptors and G proteins form activity-dependent complexes that last for around one second. Agonists specifically regulate the kinetics of receptor–G protein interactions, mainly by increasing their association rate. We find hot spots on the plasma membrane, at least partially defined by the cytoskeleton and clathrin-coated pits, in which receptors and G proteins are confined and preferentially couple. Imaging with the nanobody Nb37 suggests that signalling by G-protein-coupled receptors occurs preferentially at these hot spots. These findings shed new light on the dynamic interactions that control G-protein-coupled receptor signalling.

Transitional basal cells at the squamous–columnar junction generate Barrett’s oesophagus


In several organ systems, the transitional zone between different types of epithelium is a hotspot for pre-neoplastic metaplasia and malignancy, but the cells of origin for these metaplastic epithelia and subsequent malignancies remain unknown. In the case of Barrett’s oesophagus, intestinal metaplasia occurs at the gastro-oesophageal junction, where stratified squamous epithelium transitions into simple columnar cells. On the basis of a number of experimental models, several alternative cell types have been proposed as the source of this metaplasia but in all cases the evidence is inconclusive: no model completely mimics Barrett’s oesophagus in terms of the presence of intestinal goblet cells. Here we describe a transitional columnar epithelium with distinct basal progenitor cells (p63+KRT5+KRT7+) at the squamous–columnar junction of the upper gastrointestinal tract in a mouse model. We use multiple models and lineage tracing strategies to show that this squamous–columnar junction basal cell population serves as a source of progenitors for the transitional epithelium. On ectopic expression of CDX2, these transitional basal progenitors differentiate into intestinal-like epithelium (including goblet cells) and thereby reproduce Barrett’s metaplasia. A similar transitional columnar epithelium is present at the transitional zones of other mouse tissues (including the anorectal junction) as well as in the gastro-oesophageal junction in the human gut. Acid reflux-induced oesophagitis and the multilayered epithelium (believed to be a precursor of Barrett’s oesophagus) are both characterized by the expansion of the transitional basal progenitor cells. Our findings reveal a previously unidentified transitional zone in the epithelium of the upper gastrointestinal tract and provide evidence that the p63+KRT5+KRT7+ basal cells in this zone are the cells of origin for multi-layered epithelium and Barrett’s oesophagus.