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Nature is the international weekly journal of science: a magazine style journal that publishes full-length research papers in all disciplines of science, as well as News and Views, reviews, news, features, commentaries, web focuses and more, covering all



 



Biochemistry: A wine-induced breakdown

2017-03-22

A polysaccharide called rhamnogalacturonan II is a major component of some fruits, but humans rely on their gut microbiota to digest it. The microbes and processes responsible for this digestion have now been revealed.



Structural biology: Receptors grease the metabolic wheels

2017-03-22

Structural insights into adiponectin receptors provide evidence that these proteins have an inherent enzymatic activity, which gives them the ability to propagate signalling by their ligand, the hormone adiponectin.



Materials science: Chain mail reverses the Hall effect

2017-03-22

The sign of a material's charge carriers is usually reflected in the sign of the 'Hall voltage'. But for a structure inspired by chain mail, altering its geometry inverts the Hall voltage, even if the charge carriers are unchanged.



Marine conservation: How to heal an ocean

2017-03-22

Marine protected areas are being implemented at an accelerating pace, and hold promise for restoring damaged ecosystems. But glaring shortfalls in staffing and funding often lead to suboptimal outcomes.



Capacity shortfalls hinder the performance of marine protected areas globally

2017-03-22

Although 71% of marine protected areas are benefiting fish populations, their effects are highly variable, with staff capacity proving to be the most important explanatory variable.



Neural ensemble dynamics underlying a long-term associative memory

2017-03-22

Use of a head-mounted miniature microscope in awake, behaving mice reveals that neural ensembles in the basal and lateral amygdala encode associations between conditioned and unconditioned stimuli in a way that matches models of supervised learning.



LACTB is a tumour suppressor that modulates lipid metabolism and cell state

2017-03-22

LACTB modulates mitochondrial lipid metabolism and changes the differentiation state of breast cancer cells, thereby negatively affecting the growth of various tumorigenic, but not non-tumorigenic, cells both in vitro and in vivo.



Complex pectin metabolism by gut bacteria reveals novel catalytic functions

2017-03-22

The hierarchical deconstruction of the complex pectic glycan rhamnogalacturonan-II by the human gut bacterium Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron reveals seven new families of glycoside hydrolases and three catalytic functions not previously observed.



Functional materials discovery using energy–structure–function maps

2017-03-22

Energy–structure–function maps that describe the possible structures and properties of molecular crystals are developed, and these maps are used to guide the experimental discovery of porous materials with specific functions.



Somatic mutations reveal asymmetric cellular dynamics in the early human embryo

2017-03-22

Somatic cells acquire mutations throughout the course of an individual’s life. Mutations occurring early in embryogenesis are often present in a substantial proportion of, but not all, cells in postnatal humans and thus have particular characteristics and effects. Depending on their location in the genome and the proportion of cells they are present in, these mosaic mutations can cause a wide range of genetic disease syndromes and predispose carriers to cancer. They have a high chance of being transmitted to offspring as de novo germline mutations and, in principle, can provide insights into early human embryonic cell lineages and their contributions to adult tissues. Although it is known that gross chromosomal abnormalities are remarkably common in early human embryos, our understanding of early embryonic somatic mutations is very limited. Here we use whole-genome sequences of normal blood from 241 adults to identify 163 early embryonic mutations. We estimate that approximately three base substitution mutations occur per cell per cell-doubling event in early human embryogenesis and these are mainly attributable to two known mutational signatures. We used the mutations to reconstruct developmental lineages of adult cells and demonstrate that the two daughter cells of many early embryonic cell-doubling events contribute asymmetrically to adult blood at an approximately 2:1 ratio. This study therefore provides insights into the mutation rates, mutational processes and developmental outcomes of cell dynamics that operate during early human embryogenesis.



Antigen presentation profiling reveals recognition of lymphoma immunoglobulin neoantigens

2017-03-22

Cancer somatic mutations can generate neoantigens that distinguish malignant from normal cells. However, the personalized identification and validation of neoantigens remains a major challenge. Here we discover neoantigens in human mantle-cell lymphomas by using an integrated genomic and proteomic strategy that interrogates tumour antigen peptides presented by major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I and class II molecules. We applied this approach to systematically characterize MHC ligands from 17 patients. Remarkably, all discovered neoantigenic peptides were exclusively derived from the lymphoma immunoglobulin heavy- or light-chain variable regions. Although we identified MHC presentation of private polymorphic germline alleles, no mutated peptides were recovered from non-immunoglobulin somatically mutated genes. Somatic mutations within the immunoglobulin variable region were almost exclusively presented by MHC class II. We isolated circulating CD4+ T cells specific for immunoglobulin-derived neoantigens and found these cells could mediate killing of autologous lymphoma cells. These results demonstrate that an integrative approach combining MHC isolation, peptide identification, and exome sequencing is an effective platform to uncover tumour neoantigens. Application of this strategy to human lymphoma implicates immunoglobulin neoantigens as targets for lymphoma immunotherapy.



The lung is a site of platelet biogenesis and a reservoir for haematopoietic progenitors

2017-03-22

Platelets are critical for haemostasis, thrombosis, and inflammatory responses, but the events that lead to mature platelet production remain incompletely understood. The bone marrow has been proposed to be a major site of platelet production, although there is indirect evidence that the lungs might also contribute to platelet biogenesis. Here, by directly imaging the lung microcirculation in mice, we show that a large number of megakaryocytes circulate through the lungs, where they dynamically release platelets. Megakaryocytes that release platelets in the lungs originate from extrapulmonary sites such as the bone marrow; we observed large megakaryocytes migrating out of the bone marrow space. The contribution of the lungs to platelet biogenesis is substantial, accounting for approximately 50% of total platelet production or 10 million platelets per hour. Furthermore, we identified populations of mature and immature megakaryocytes along with haematopoietic progenitors in the extravascular spaces of the lungs. Under conditions of thrombocytopenia and relative stem cell deficiency in the bone marrow, these progenitors can migrate out of the lungs, repopulate the bone marrow, completely reconstitute blood platelet counts, and contribute to multiple haematopoietic lineages. These results identify the lungs as a primary site of terminal platelet production and an organ with considerable haematopoietic potential.



Low-temperature hydrogen production from water and methanol using Pt/α-MoC catalysts

2017-03-22

Polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) running on hydrogen are attractive alternative power supplies for a range of applications, with in situ release of the required hydrogen from a stable liquid offering one way of ensuring its safe storage and transportation before use. The use of methanol is particularly interesting in this regard, because it is inexpensive and can reform itself with water to release hydrogen with a high gravimetric density of 18.8 per cent by weight. But traditional reforming of methanol steam operates at relatively high temperatures (200–350 degrees Celsius), so the focus for vehicle and portable PEMFC applications has been on aqueous-phase reforming of methanol (APRM). This method requires less energy, and the simpler and more compact device design allows direct integration into PEMFC stacks. There remains, however, the need for an efficient APRM catalyst. Here we report that platinum (Pt) atomically dispersed on α-molybdenum carbide (α-MoC) enables low-temperature (150–190 degrees Celsius), base-free hydrogen production through APRM, with an average turnover frequency reaching 18,046 moles of hydrogen per mole of platinum per hour. We attribute this exceptional hydrogen production—which far exceeds that of previously reported low-temperature APRM catalysts—to the outstanding ability of α-MoC to induce water dissociation, and to the fact that platinum and α-MoC act in synergy to activate methanol and then to reform it.



Structural insights into adiponectin receptors suggest ceramidase activity

2017-03-22

Adiponectin receptors (ADIPORs) are integral membrane proteins that control glucose and lipid metabolism by mediating, at least in part, a cellular ceramidase activity that catalyses the hydrolysis of ceramide to produce sphingosine and a free fatty acid (FFA). The crystal structures of the two receptor subtypes, ADIPOR1 and ADIPOR2, show a similar overall seven-transmembrane-domain architecture with large unoccupied cavities and a zinc binding site within the seven transmembrane domain. However, the molecular mechanisms by which ADIPORs function are not known. Here we describe the crystal structure of ADIPOR2 bound to a FFA molecule and show that ADIPOR2 possesses intrinsic basal ceramidase activity that is enhanced by adiponectin. We also identify a ceramide binding pose and propose a possible mechanism for the hydrolytic activity of ADIPOR2 using computational approaches. In molecular dynamics simulations, the side chains of residues coordinating the zinc rearrange quickly to promote the nucleophilic attack of a zinc-bound hydroxide ion onto the ceramide amide carbonyl. Furthermore, we present a revised ADIPOR1 crystal structure exhibiting a seven-transmembrane-domain architecture that is clearly distinct from that of ADIPOR2. In this structure, no FFA is observed and the ceramide binding pocket and putative zinc catalytic site are exposed to the inner membrane leaflet. ADIPOR1 also possesses intrinsic ceramidase activity, so we suspect that the two distinct structures may represent key steps in the enzymatic activity of ADIPORs. The ceramidase activity is low, however, and further studies will be required to characterize fully the enzymatic parameters and substrate specificity of ADIPORs. These insights into ADIPOR function will enable the structure-based design of potent modulators of these clinically relevant enzymes.



The allosteric inhibitor ABL001 enables dual targeting of BCR–ABL1

2017-03-22

Chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) is driven by the activity of the BCR–ABL1 fusion oncoprotein. ABL1 kinase inhibitors have improved the clinical outcomes for patients with CML, with over 80% of patients treated with imatinib surviving for more than 10 years. Second-generation ABL1 kinase inhibitors induce more potent molecular responses in both previously untreated and imatinib-resistant patients with CML. Studies in patients with chronic-phase CML have shown that around 50% of patients who achieve and maintain undetectable BCR–ABL1 transcript levels for at least 2 years remain disease-free after the withdrawal of treatment. Here we characterize ABL001 (asciminib), a potent and selective allosteric ABL1 inhibitor that is undergoing clinical development testing in patients with CML and Philadelphia chromosome-positive (Ph+) acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. In contrast to catalytic-site ABL1 kinase inhibitors, ABL001 binds to the myristoyl pocket of ABL1 and induces the formation of an inactive kinase conformation. ABL001 and second-generation catalytic inhibitors have similar cellular potencies but distinct patterns of resistance mutations, with genetic barcoding studies revealing pre-existing clonal populations with no shared resistance between ABL001 and the catalytic inhibitor nilotinib. Consistent with this profile, acquired resistance was observed with single-agent therapy in mice; however, the combination of ABL001 and nilotinib led to complete disease control and eradicated CML xenograft tumours without recurrence after the cessation of treatment.












Continuous-wave lasing in colloidal quantum dot solids enabled by facet-selective epitaxy

2017-03-20

Colloidal quantum dots (CQDs) feature a low degeneracy of electronic states at the band edges compared with the corresponding bulk material, as well as a narrow emission linewidth. Unfortunately for potential laser applications, this degeneracy is incompletely lifted in the valence band, spreading the hole population among several states at room temperature. This leads to increased optical gain thresholds, demanding high photoexcitation levels to achieve population inversion (more electrons in excited states than in ground states—the condition for optical gain). This, in turn, increases Auger recombination losses, limiting the gain lifetime to sub-nanoseconds and preventing steady laser action. State degeneracy also broadens the photoluminescence linewidth at the single-particle level. Here we demonstrate a way to decrease the band-edge degeneracy and single-dot photoluminescence linewidth in CQDs by means of uniform biaxial strain. We have developed a synthetic strategy that we term facet-selective epitaxy: we first switch off, and then switch on, shell growth on the (0001) facet of wurtzite CdSe cores, producing asymmetric compressive shells that create built-in biaxial strain, while still maintaining excellent surface passivation (preventing defect formation, which otherwise would cause non-radiative recombination losses). Our synthesis spreads the excitonic fine structure uniformly and sufficiently broadly that it prevents valence-band-edge states from being thermally depopulated. We thereby reduce the optical gain threshold and demonstrate continuous-wave lasing from CQD solids, expanding the library of solution-processed materials that may be capable of continuous-wave lasing. The individual CQDs exhibit an ultra-narrow single-dot linewidth, and we successfully propagate this into the ensemble of CQDs.



Ancient evolutionary origin of vertebrate enteric neurons from trunk-derived neural crest

2017-03-20

The enteric nervous system of jawed vertebrates arises primarily from vagal neural crest cells that migrate to the foregut and subsequently colonize and innervate the entire gastrointestinal tract. Here we examine development of the enteric nervous system in the basal jawless vertebrate the sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) to gain insight into its evolutionary origin. Surprisingly, we find no evidence for the existence of a vagally derived enteric neural crest population in the lamprey. Rather, labelling with the lipophilic dye DiI shows that late-migrating cells, originating from the trunk neural tube and associated with nerve fibres, differentiate into neurons within the gut wall and typhlosole. We propose that these trunk-derived neural crest cells may be homologous to Schwann cell precursors, recently shown in mammalian embryos to populate post-embryonic parasympathetic ganglia, including enteric ganglia. Our results suggest that neural-crest-derived Schwann cell precursors made an important contribution to the ancient enteric nervous system of early jawless vertebrates, a role that was largely subsumed by vagal neural crest cells in early gnathostomes.



Effective combinatorial immunotherapy for castration-resistant prostate cancer

2017-03-20

A significant fraction of patients with advanced prostate cancer treated with androgen deprivation therapy experience relapse with relentless progression to lethal metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC). Immune checkpoint blockade using antibodies against cytotoxic-T-lymphocyte-associated protein 4 (CTLA4) or programmed cell death 1/programmed cell death 1 ligand 1 (PD1/PD-L1) generates durable therapeutic responses in a significant subset of patients across a variety of cancer types. However, mCRPC showed overwhelming de novo resistance to immune checkpoint blockade, motivating a search for targeted therapies that overcome this resistance. Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) are known to play important roles in tumour immune evasion. The abundance of circulating MDSCs correlates with prostate-specific antigen levels and metastasis in patients with prostate cancer. Mouse models of prostate cancer show that MDSCs (CD11b+Gr1+) promote tumour initiation and progression. These observations prompted us to hypothesize that robust immunotherapy responses in mCRPC may be elicited by the combined actions of immune checkpoint blockade agents together with targeted agents that neutralize MDSCs yet preserve T-cell function. Here we develop a novel chimaeric mouse model of mCRPC to efficiently test combination therapies in an autochthonous setting. Combination of anti-CTLA4 and anti-PD1 engendered only modest efficacy. Targeted therapy against mCRPC-infiltrating MDSCs, using multikinase inhibitors such as cabozantinib and BEZ235, also showed minimal anti-tumour activities. Strikingly, primary and metastatic CRPC showed robust synergistic responses when immune checkpoint blockade was combined with MDSC-targeted therapy. Mechanistically, combination therapy efficacy stemmed from the upregulation of interleukin-1 receptor antagonist and suppression of MDSC-promoting cytokines secreted by prostate cancer cells. These observations illuminate a clinical path hypothesis for combining immune checkpoint blockade with MDSC-targeted therapies in the treatment of mCRPC.



Cerebellar granule cells encode the expectation of reward

2017-03-20

The human brain contains approximately 60 billion cerebellar granule cells, which outnumber all other brain neurons combined. Classical theories posit that a large, diverse population of granule cells allows for highly detailed representations of sensorimotor context, enabling downstream Purkinje cells to sense fine contextual changes. Although evidence suggests a role for the cerebellum in cognition, granule cells are known to encode only sensory and motor context. Here, using two-photon calcium imaging in behaving mice, we show that granule cells convey information about the expectation of reward. Mice initiated voluntary forelimb movements for delayed sugar-water reward. Some granule cells responded preferentially to reward or reward omission, whereas others selectively encoded reward anticipation. Reward responses were not restricted to forelimb movement, as a Pavlovian task evoked similar responses. Compared to predictable rewards, unexpected rewards elicited markedly different granule cell activity despite identical stimuli and licking responses. In both tasks, reward signals were widespread throughout multiple cerebellar lobules. Tracking the same granule cells over several days of learning revealed that cells with reward-anticipating responses emerged from those that responded at the start of learning to reward delivery, whereas reward-omission responses grew stronger as learning progressed. The discovery of predictive, non-sensorimotor encoding in granule cells is a major departure from the current understanding of these neurons and markedly enriches the contextual information available to postsynaptic Purkinje cells, with important implications for cognitive processing in the cerebellum.



Ultra-selective high-flux membranes from directly synthesized zeolite nanosheets

2017-03-15

A zeolite with structure type MFI is an aluminosilicate or silicate material that has a three-dimensionally connected pore network, which enables molecular recognition in the size range 0.5–0.6 nm. These micropore dimensions are relevant for many valuable chemical intermediates, and therefore MFI-type zeolites are widely used in the chemical industry as selective catalysts or adsorbents. As with all zeolites, strategies to tailor them for specific applications include controlling their crystal size and shape. Nanometre-thick MFI crystals (nanosheets) have been introduced in pillared and self-pillared (intergrown) architectures, offering improved mass-transfer characteristics for certain adsorption and catalysis applications. Moreover, single (non-intergrown and non-layered) nanosheets have been used to prepare thin membranes that could be used to improve the energy efficiency of separation processes. However, until now, single MFI nanosheets have been prepared using a multi-step approach based on the exfoliation of layered MFI, followed by centrifugation to remove non-exfoliated particles. This top-down method is time-consuming, costly and low-yield and it produces fragmented nanosheets with submicrometre lateral dimensions. Alternatively, direct (bottom-up) synthesis could produce high-aspect-ratio zeolite nanosheets, with improved yield and at lower cost. Here we use a nanocrystal-seeded growth method triggered by a single rotational intergrowth to synthesize high-aspect-ratio MFI nanosheets with a thickness of 5 nanometres (2.5 unit cells). These high-aspect-ratio nanosheets allow the fabrication of thin and defect-free coatings that effectively cover porous substrates. These coatings can be intergrown to produce high-flux and ultra-selective MFI membranes that compare favourably with other MFI membranes prepared from existing MFI materials (such as exfoliated nanosheets or nanocrystals).



The true tempo of evolutionary radiation and decline revealed on the Hawaiian archipelago

2017-03-15

Establishing the relationship between rates of change in species richness and biotic and abiotic environmental change is a major goal of evolutionary biology. Although exquisite fossil and geological records provide insight in rare cases, most groups lack high-quality fossil records. Consequently, biologists typically rely on molecular phylogenies to study the diversity dynamics of clades, usually by correlating changes in diversification rate with environmental or trait shifts. However, inferences drawn from molecular phylogenies can be limited owing to the challenge of accounting for extinct species, making it difficult to accurately determine the underlying diversity dynamics that produce them. Here, using a geologically informed model of the relationship between changing island area and species richness for the Hawaiian archipelago, we infer the rates of species richness change for 14 endemic groups over their entire evolutionary histories without the need for fossil data, or molecular phylogenies. We find that these endemic clades underwent evolutionary radiations characterized by initially increasing rates of species accumulation, followed by slow-downs. In fact, for most groups on most islands, their time of evolutionary expansion has long past, and they are now undergoing previously unrecognized long-term evolutionary decline. Our results show how landscape dynamism can drive evolutionary dynamics over broad timescales, including driving species loss that is not readily detected using molecular phylogenies, or without a rich fossil record. We anticipate that examination of other clades where the relationship between environmental change and species richness change can be quantified will reveal that many other living groups have also experienced similarly complex evolutionary trajectories, including long-term and ongoing evolutionary decline.









3D structures of individual mammalian genomes studied by single-cell Hi-C

2017-03-13

A chromosome conformation capture method in which single cells are first imaged and then processed enables intact genome folding to be studied at a scale of 100 kb, validated, and analysed to generate hypotheses about 3D genomic interactions and organisation.



Energy transduction and alternating access of the mammalian ABC transporter P-glycoprotein

2017-03-13

ATP binding cassette (ABC) transporters of the exporter class harness the energy of ATP hydrolysis in the nucleotide-binding domains (NBDs) to power the energetically uphill efflux of substrates by a dedicated transmembrane domain (TMD). Although numerous investigations have described the mechanism of ATP hydrolysis and defined the architecture of ABC exporters, a detailed structural dynamic understanding of the transduction of ATP energy to the work of substrate translocation remains elusive. Here we used double electron–electron resonance and molecular dynamics simulations to describe the ATP- and substrate-coupled conformational cycle of the mouse ABC efflux transporter P-glycoprotein (Pgp; also known as ABCB1), which has a central role in the clearance of xenobiotics and in cancer resistance to chemotherapy. Pairs of spin labels were introduced at residues selected to track the putative inward-facing to outward-facing transition. Our findings illuminate how ATP energy is harnessed in the NBDs in a two-stroke cycle and elucidate the consequent conformational motion that reconfigures the TMD, two critical aspects of Pgp transport mechanism. Along with a fully atomistic model of the outward-facing conformation in membranes, the insight into Pgp conformational dynamics harmonizes mechanistic and structural data into a novel perspective on ATP-coupled transport and reveals mechanistic divergence within the efflux class of ABC transporters.



Aboriginal mitogenomes reveal 50,000 years of regionalism in Australia

2017-03-08

Analysis of Aboriginal Australian mitochondrial genomes shows geographic patterns and deep splits across the major haplogroups that indicate a single, rapid migration along the coasts around 49–45 ka, followed by longstanding persistence in discrete geographic areas.



Neanderthal behaviour, diet, and disease inferred from ancient DNA in dental calculus

2017-03-08

Recent genomic data have revealed multiple interactions between Neanderthals and modern humans, but there is currently little genetic evidence regarding Neanderthal behaviour, diet, or disease. Here we describe the shotgun-sequencing of ancient DNA from five specimens of Neanderthal calcified dental plaque (calculus) and the characterization of regional differences in Neanderthal ecology. At Spy cave, Belgium, Neanderthal diet was heavily meat based and included woolly rhinoceros and wild sheep (mouflon), characteristic of a steppe environment. In contrast, no meat was detected in the diet of Neanderthals from El Sidrón cave, Spain, and dietary components of mushrooms, pine nuts, and moss reflected forest gathering. Differences in diet were also linked to an overall shift in the oral bacterial community (microbiota) and suggested that meat consumption contributed to substantial variation within Neanderthal microbiota. Evidence for self-medication was detected in an El Sidrón Neanderthal with a dental abscess and a chronic gastrointestinal pathogen (Enterocytozoon bieneusi). Metagenomic data from this individual also contained a nearly complete genome of the archaeal commensal Methanobrevibacter oralis (10.2× depth of coverage)—the oldest draft microbial genome generated to date, at around 48,000 years old. DNA preserved within dental calculus represents a notable source of information about the behaviour and health of ancient hominin specimens, as well as a unique system that is useful for the study of long-term microbial evolution.



Mediator structure and rearrangements required for holoenzyme formation

2017-03-01

Cryo-electron microscopy maps of the fission yeast Mediator complex and of a Mediator–RNA polymerase II holoenzyme reveal how changes in the Med14 subunit enable large-scale rearrangements of the Mediator structure that are essential for holoenzyme formation.



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