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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


A neural circuit architecture for angular integration in Drosophila


A neural circuit in Drosophila reveals how the fly’s internal sense of heading rotates when it turns.

The sunflower genome provides insights into oil metabolism, flowering and Asterid evolution


The domesticated sunflower, Helianthus annuus L., is a global oil crop that has promise for climate change adaptation, because it can maintain stable yields across a wide variety of environmental conditions, including drought. Even greater resilience is achievable through the mining of resistance alleles from compatible wild sunflower relatives, including numerous extremophile species. Here we report a high-quality reference for the sunflower genome (3.6 gigabases), together with extensive transcriptomic data from vegetative and floral organs. The genome mostly consists of highly similar, related sequences and required single-molecule real-time sequencing technologies for successful assembly. Genome analyses enabled the reconstruction of the evolutionary history of the Asterids, further establishing the existence of a whole-genome triplication at the base of the Asterids II clade and a sunflower-specific whole-genome duplication around 29 million years ago. An integrative approach combining quantitative genetics, expression and diversity data permitted development of comprehensive gene networks for two major breeding traits, flowering time and oil metabolism, and revealed new candidate genes in these networks. We found that the genomic architecture of flowering time has been shaped by the most recent whole-genome duplication, which suggests that ancient paralogues can remain in the same regulatory networks for dozens of millions of years. This genome represents a cornerstone for future research programs aiming to exploit genetic diversity to improve biotic and abiotic stress resistance and oil production, while also considering agricultural constraints and human nutritional needs.

Plant biology: An immunity boost combats crop disease


Plants precisely express some immune regulators by controlling the translation of messenger RNA into protein. This insight enabled a disease-resistant rice to be engineered without compromised productivity.

Blood: Education for stem cells


Haematopoietic stem cells give rise to all lineages of blood cell, and their production in vitro has been a long-sought goal of stem-cell biology. Two groups now achieve this feat through different means.

Conversion of adult endothelium to immunocompetent haematopoietic stem cells


The authors reprogram in vitro endothelial cells from adult mice into engraftable haematopoietic stem cells that display single-cell and multilineage properties, are capable of long-term self-renewal and can reconstitute T cell adaptive immune function.

Chromatin states define tumour-specific T cell dysfunction and reprogramming


Epigenetic programming of T cells in solid tumours from a functional to a dysfunctional state occurs in two phases, and only the first phase is reversible.

Haematopoietic stem and progenitor cells from human pluripotent stem cells


Haematopoietic stem and progenitor cell conversion of human pluripotent stem cell-derived haemogenic endothelium.

Structure of the full-length glucagon class B G-protein-coupled receptor


The crystal structure of the full-length human glucagon receptor reveals the essential role of the 12-residue ‘stalk’ segment and an extracellular loop in the regulation of ligand binding and receptor activation.

Identification of preoptic sleep neurons using retrograde labelling and gene profiling


In humans and other mammalian species, lesions in the preoptic area of the hypothalamus cause profound sleep impairment, indicating a crucial role of the preoptic area in sleep generation. However, the underlying circuit mechanism remains poorly understood. Electrophysiological recordings and c-Fos immunohistochemistry have shown the existence of sleep-active neurons in the preoptic area, especially in the ventrolateral preoptic area and median preoptic nucleus. Pharmacogenetic activation of c-Fos-labelled sleep-active neurons has been shown to induce sleep. However, the sleep-active neurons are spatially intermingled with wake-active neurons, making it difficult to target the sleep neurons specifically for circuit analysis. Here we identify a population of preoptic area sleep neurons on the basis of their projection target and discover their molecular markers. Using a lentivirus expressing channelrhodopsin-2 or a light-activated chloride channel for retrograde labelling, bidirectional optogenetic manipulation, and optrode recording, we show that the preoptic area GABAergic neurons projecting to the tuberomammillary nucleus are both sleep active and sleep promoting. Furthermore, translating ribosome affinity purification and single-cell RNA sequencing identify candidate markers for these neurons, and optogenetic and pharmacogenetic manipulations demonstrate that several peptide markers (cholecystokinin, corticotropin-releasing hormone, and tachykinin 1) label sleep-promoting neurons. Together, these findings provide easy genetic access to sleep-promoting preoptic area neurons and a valuable entry point for dissecting the sleep control circuit.

Isotopic evidence of multiple controls on atmospheric oxidants over climate transitions


The abundance of tropospheric oxidants, such as ozone (O3) and hydroxyl (OH) and peroxy radicals (HO2 + RO2), determines the lifetimes of reduced trace gases such as methane and the production of particulate matter important for climate and human health. The response of tropospheric oxidants to climate change is poorly constrained owing to large uncertainties in the degree to which processes that influence oxidants may change with climate and owing to a lack of palaeo-records with which to constrain levels of atmospheric oxidants during past climate transitions. At present, it is thought that temperature-dependent emissions of tropospheric O3 precursors and water vapour abundance determine the climate response of oxidants, resulting in lower tropospheric O3 in cold climates while HOx (= OH + HO2 + RO2) remains relatively buffered. Here we report observations of oxygen-17 excess of nitrate (a proxy for the relative abundance of atmospheric O3 and HOx) from a Greenland ice core over the most recent glacial–interglacial cycle and for two Dansgaard–Oeschger events. We find that tropospheric oxidants are sensitive to climate change with an increase in the O3/HOx ratio in cold climates, the opposite of current expectations. We hypothesize that the observed increase in O3/HOx in cold climates is driven by enhanced stratosphere-to-troposphere transport of O3, and that reactive halogen chemistry is also enhanced in cold climates. Reactive halogens influence the oxidative capacity of the troposphere directly as oxidants themselves and indirectly via their influence on O3 and HOx. The strength of stratosphere-to-troposphere transport is largely controlled by the Brewer–Dobson circulation, which may be enhanced in colder climates owing to a stronger meridional gradient of sea surface temperatures, with implications for the response of tropospheric oxidants and stratospheric thermal and mass balance. These two processes may represent important, yet relatively unexplored, climate feedback mechanisms during major climate transitions.

PD-1 expression by tumour-associated macrophages inhibits phagocytosis and tumour immunity


Programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) is an immune checkpoint receptor that is upregulated on activated T cells for the induction of immune tolerance. Tumour cells frequently overexpress the ligand for PD-1, programmed cell death ligand 1 (PD-L1), facilitating their escape from the immune system. Monoclonal antibodies that block the interaction between PD-1 and PD-L1, by binding to either the ligand or receptor, have shown notable clinical efficacy in patients with a variety of cancers, including melanoma, colorectal cancer, non-small-cell lung cancer and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Although it is well established that PD-1–PD-L1 blockade activates T cells, little is known about the role that this pathway may have in tumour-associated macrophages (TAMs). Here we show that both mouse and human TAMs express PD-1. TAM PD-1 expression increases over time in mouse models of cancer and with increasing disease stage in primary human cancers. TAM PD-1 expression correlates negatively with phagocytic potency against tumour cells, and blockade of PD-1–PD-L1 in vivo increases macrophage phagocytosis, reduces tumour growth and lengthens the survival of mice in mouse models of cancer in a macrophage-dependent fashion. This suggests that PD-1–PD-L1 therapies may also function through a direct effect on macrophages, with substantial implications for the treatment of cancer with these agents.

Cancer progression by reprogrammed BCAA metabolism in myeloid leukaemia


Reprogrammed cellular metabolism is a common characteristic observed in various cancers. However, whether metabolic changes directly regulate cancer development and progression remains poorly understood. Here we show that BCAT1, a cytosolic aminotransferase for branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), is aberrantly activated and functionally required for chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) in humans and in mouse models of CML. BCAT1 is upregulated during progression of CML and promotes BCAA production in leukaemia cells by aminating the branched-chain keto acids. Blocking BCAT1 gene expression or enzymatic activity induces cellular differentiation and impairs the propagation of blast crisis CML both in vitro and in vivo. Stable-isotope tracer experiments combined with nuclear magnetic resonance-based metabolic analysis demonstrate the intracellular production of BCAAs by BCAT1. Direct supplementation with BCAAs ameliorates the defects caused by BCAT1 knockdown, indicating that BCAT1 exerts its oncogenic function through BCAA production in blast crisis CML cells. Importantly, BCAT1 expression not only is activated in human blast crisis CML and de novo acute myeloid leukaemia, but also predicts disease outcome in patients. As an upstream regulator of BCAT1 expression, we identified Musashi2 (MSI2), an oncogenic RNA binding protein that is required for blast crisis CML. MSI2 is physically associated with the BCAT1 transcript and positively regulates its protein expression in leukaemia. Taken together, this work reveals that altered BCAA metabolism activated through the MSI2–BCAT1 axis drives cancer progression in myeloid leukaemia.

Architecture of the human interactome defines protein communities and disease networks


The physiology of a cell can be viewed as the product of thousands of proteins acting in concert to shape the cellular response. Coordination is achieved in part through networks of protein–protein interactions that assemble functionally related proteins into complexes, organelles, and signal transduction pathways. Understanding the architecture of the human proteome has the potential to inform cellular, structural, and evolutionary mechanisms and is critical to elucidating how genome variation contributes to disease. Here we present BioPlex 2.0 (Biophysical Interactions of ORFeome-derived complexes), which uses robust affinity purification–mass spectrometry methodology to elucidate protein interaction networks and co-complexes nucleated by more than 25% of protein-coding genes from the human genome, and constitutes, to our knowledge, the largest such network so far. With more than 56,000 candidate interactions, BioPlex 2.0 contains more than 29,000 previously unknown co-associations and provides functional insights into hundreds of poorly characterized proteins while enhancing network-based analyses of domain associations, subcellular localization, and co-complex formation. Unsupervised Markov clustering of interacting proteins identified more than 1,300 protein communities representing diverse cellular activities. Genes essential for cell fitness are enriched within 53 communities representing central cellular functions. Moreover, we identified 442 communities associated with more than 2,000 disease annotations, placing numerous candidate disease genes into a cellular framework. BioPlex 2.0 exceeds previous experimentally derived interaction networks in depth and breadth, and will be a valuable resource for exploring the biology of incompletely characterized proteins and for elucidating larger-scale patterns of proteome organization.

Evolutionary enhancement of Zika virus infectivity in Aedes aegypti mosquitoes


Zika virus (ZIKV) remained obscure until the recent explosive outbreaks in French Polynesia (2013–2014) and South America (2015–2016). Phylogenetic studies have shown that ZIKV has evolved into African and Asian lineages. The Asian lineage of ZIKV was responsible for the recent epidemics in the Americas. However, the underlying mechanisms through which ZIKV rapidly and explosively spread from Asia to the Americas are unclear. Non-structural protein 1 (NS1) facilitates flavivirus acquisition by mosquitoes from an infected mammalian host and subsequently enhances viral prevalence in mosquitoes. Here we show that NS1 antigenaemia determines ZIKV infectivity in its mosquito vector Aedes aegypti, which acquires ZIKV via a blood meal. Clinical isolates from the most recent outbreak in the Americas were much more infectious in mosquitoes than the FSS13025 strain, which was isolated in Cambodia in 2010. Further analyses showed that these epidemic strains have higher NS1 antigenaemia than the FSS13025 strain because of an alanine-to-valine amino acid substitution at residue 188 in NS1. ZIKV infectivity was enhanced by this amino acid substitution in the ZIKV FSS13025 strain in mosquitoes that acquired ZIKV from a viraemic C57BL/6 mouse deficient in type I and II interferon (IFN) receptors (AG6 mouse). Our results reveal that ZIKV evolved to acquire a spontaneous mutation in its NS1 protein, resulting in increased NS1 antigenaemia. Enhancement of NS1 antigenaemia in infected hosts promotes ZIKV infectivity and prevalence in mosquitoes, which could have facilitated transmission during recent ZIKV epidemics.

Human GLP-1 receptor transmembrane domain structure in complex with allosteric modulators


The glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor (GLP-1R) and the glucagon receptor (GCGR) are members of the secretin-like class B family of G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) and have opposing physiological roles in insulin release and glucose homeostasis. The treatment of type 2 diabetes requires positive modulation of GLP-1R to inhibit glucagon secretion and stimulate insulin secretion in a glucose-dependent manner. Here we report crystal structures of the human GLP-1R transmembrane domain in complex with two different negative allosteric modulators, PF-06372222 and NNC0640, at 2.7 and 3.0 Å resolution, respectively. The structures reveal a common binding pocket for negative allosteric modulators, present in both GLP-1R and GCGR and located outside helices V–VII near the intracellular half of the receptor. The receptor is in an inactive conformation with compounds that restrict movement of the intracellular tip of helix VI, a movement that is generally associated with activation mechanisms in class A GPCRs. Molecular modelling and mutagenesis studies indicate that agonist positive allosteric modulators target the same general region, but in a distinct sub-pocket at the interface between helices V and VI, which may facilitate the formation of an intracellular binding site that enhances G-protein coupling.

Extreme hydrothermal conditions at an active plate-bounding fault


Temperature and fluid pressure conditions control rock deformation and mineralization on geological faults, and hence the distribution of earthquakes. Typical intraplate continental crust has hydrostatic fluid pressure and a near-surface thermal gradient of 31 ± 15 degrees Celsius per kilometre. At temperatures above 300–450 degrees Celsius, usually found at depths greater than 10–15 kilometres, the intra-crystalline plasticity of quartz and feldspar relieves stress by aseismic creep and earthquakes are infrequent. Hydrothermal conditions control the stability of mineral phases and hence frictional–mechanical processes associated with earthquake rupture cycles, but there are few temperature and fluid pressure data from active plate-bounding faults. Here we report results from a borehole drilled into the upper part of the Alpine Fault, which is late in its cycle of stress accumulation and expected to rupture in a magnitude 8 earthquake in the coming decades. The borehole (depth 893 metres) revealed a pore fluid pressure gradient exceeding 9 ± 1 per cent above hydrostatic levels and an average geothermal gradient of 125 ± 55 degrees Celsius per kilometre within the hanging wall of the fault. These extreme hydrothermal conditions result from rapid fault movement, which transports rock and heat from depth, and topographically driven fluid movement that concentrates heat into valleys. Shear heating may occur within the fault but is not required to explain our observations. Our data and models show that highly anomalous fluid pressure and temperature gradients in the upper part of the seismogenic zone can be created by positive feedbacks between processes of fault slip, rock fracturing and alteration, and landscape development at plate-bounding faults.

Global translational reprogramming is a fundamental layer of immune regulation in plants


In the absence of specialized immune cells, the need for plants to reprogram transcription to transition from growth-related activities to defence is well understood. However, little is known about translational changes that occur during immune induction. Using ribosome footprinting, here we perform global translatome profiling on Arabidopsis exposed to the microbe-associated molecular pattern elf18. We find that during this pattern-triggered immunity, translation is tightly regulated and poorly correlated with transcription. Identification of genes with altered translational efficiency leads to the discovery of novel regulators of this immune response. Further investigation of these genes shows that messenger RNA sequence features are major determinants of the observed translational efficiency changes. In the 5′ leader sequences of transcripts with increased translational efficiency, we find a highly enriched messenger RNA consensus sequence, R-motif, consisting of mostly purines. We show that R-motif regulates translation in response to pattern-triggered immunity induction through interaction with poly(A)-binding proteins. Therefore, this study provides not only strong evidence, but also a molecular mechanism, for global translational reprogramming during pattern-triggered immunity in plants.

uORF-mediated translation allows engineered plant disease resistance without fitness costs


Controlling plant disease has been a struggle for humankind since the advent of agriculture. Studies of plant immune mechanisms have led to strategies of engineering resistant crops through ectopic transcription of plants’ own defence genes, such as the master immune regulatory gene NPR1 (ref. 1). However, enhanced resistance obtained through such strategies is often associated with substantial penalties to fitness, making the resulting products undesirable for agricultural applications. To remedy this problem, we sought more stringent mechanisms of expressing defence proteins. On the basis of our latest finding that translation of key immune regulators, such as TBF1 (ref. 3), is rapidly and transiently induced upon pathogen challenge (see accompanying paper), we developed a ‘TBF1-cassette’ consisting of not only the immune-inducible promoter but also two pathogen-responsive upstream open reading frames (uORFsTBF1) of the TBF1 gene. Here we demonstrate that inclusion of uORFsTBF1-mediated translational control over the production of snc1-1 (an autoactivated immune receptor) in Arabidopsis thaliana and AtNPR1 in rice enables us to engineer broad-spectrum disease resistance without compromising plant fitness in the laboratory or in the field. This broadly applicable strategy may lead to decreased pesticide use and reduce the selective pressure for resistant pathogens.

Impacts and mitigation of excess diesel-related NOx emissions in 11 major vehicle markets


Vehicle emissions contribute to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and tropospheric ozone air pollution, affecting human health, crop yields and climate worldwide. On-road diesel vehicles produce approximately 20 per cent of global anthropogenic emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are key PM2.5 and ozone precursors. Regulated NOx emission limits in leading markets have been progressively tightened, but current diesel vehicles emit far more NOx under real-world operating conditions than during laboratory certification testing. Here we show that across 11 markets, representing approximately 80 per cent of global diesel vehicle sales, nearly one-third of on-road heavy-duty diesel vehicle emissions and over half of on-road light-duty diesel vehicle emissions are in excess of certification limits. These excess emissions (totalling 4.6 million tons) are associated with about 38,000 PM2.5- and ozone-related premature deaths globally in 2015, including about 10 per cent of all ozone-related premature deaths in the 28 European Union member states. Heavy-duty vehicles are the dominant contributor to excess diesel NOx emissions and associated health impacts in almost all regions. Adopting and enforcing next-generation standards (more stringent than Euro 6/VI) could nearly eliminate real-world diesel-related NOx emissions in these markets, avoiding approximately 174,000 global PM2.5- and ozone-related premature deaths in 2040. Most of these benefits can be achieved by implementing Euro VI standards where they have not yet been adopted for heavy-duty vehicles.

Structural biology: Signalling under the microscope


G-protein-coupled receptors are biological targets for drug discovery. Developments in cryo-electron microscopy have enabled the solution of the structure of a class B receptor in complex with its signalling protein. Two biologists and a microscopist explain the exciting implications of this work.

The concurrent emergence and causes of double volcanic hotspot tracks on the Pacific plate


Mantle plumes are buoyant upwellings of hot rock that transport heat from Earth’s core to its surface, generating anomalous regions of volcanism that are not directly associated with plate tectonic processes. The best-studied example is the Hawaiian–Emperor chain, but the emergence of two sub-parallel volcanic tracks along this chain, Loa and Kea, and the systematic geochemical differences between them have remained unexplained. Here we argue that the emergence of these tracks coincides with the appearance of other double volcanic tracks on the Pacific plate and a recent azimuthal change in the motion of the plate. We propose a three-part model that explains the evolution of Hawaiian double-track volcanism: first, mantle flow beneath the rapidly moving Pacific plate strongly tilts the Hawaiian plume and leads to lateral separation between high- and low-pressure melt source regions; second, the recent azimuthal change in Pacific plate motion exposes high- and low-pressure melt products as geographically distinct volcanoes, explaining the simultaneous emergence of double-track volcanism across the Pacific; and finally, secondary pyroxenite, which is formed as eclogite melt reacts with peridotite, dominates the low-pressure melt region beneath Loa-track volcanism, yielding the systematic geochemical differences observed between Loa- and Kea-type lavas. Our results imply that the formation of double-track volcanism is transitory and can be used to identify and place temporal bounds on plate-motion changes.

Discovery of intrinsic ferromagnetism in two-dimensional van der Waals crystals


The realization of long-range ferromagnetic order in two-dimensional van der Waals crystals, combined with their rich electronic and optical properties, could lead to new magnetic, magnetoelectric and magneto-optic applications. In two-dimensional systems, the long-range magnetic order is strongly suppressed by thermal fluctuations, according to the Mermin–Wagner theorem; however, these thermal fluctuations can be counteracted by magnetic anisotropy. Previous efforts, based on defect and composition engineering, or the proximity effect, introduced magnetic responses only locally or extrinsically. Here we report intrinsic long-range ferromagnetic order in pristine Cr2Ge2Te6 atomic layers, as revealed by scanning magneto-optic Kerr microscopy. In this magnetically soft, two-dimensional van der Waals ferromagnet, we achieve unprecedented control of the transition temperature (between ferromagnetic and paramagnetic states) using very small fields (smaller than 0.3 tesla). This result is in contrast to the insensitivity of the transition temperature to magnetic fields in the three-dimensional regime. We found that the small applied field leads to an effective anisotropy that is much greater than the near-zero magnetocrystalline anisotropy, opening up a large spin-wave excitation gap. We explain the observed phenomenon using renormalized spin-wave theory and conclude that the unusual field dependence of the transition temperature is a hallmark of soft, two-dimensional ferromagnetic van der Waals crystals. Cr2Ge2Te6 is a nearly ideal two-dimensional Heisenberg ferromagnet and so will be useful for studying fundamental spin behaviours, opening the door to exploring new applications such as ultra-compact spintronics.

Phase-plate cryo-EM structure of a class B GPCR–G-protein complex


Volta phase-plate cryo-electron microscopy reveals the structure of the full-length calcitonin receptor in complex with its peptide ligand and Gαsβγ.

The crown-of-thorns starfish genome as a guide for biocontrol of this coral reef pest


The crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS, the Acanthaster planci species group) is a highly fecund predator of reef-building corals throughout the Indo-Pacific region. COTS population outbreaks cause substantial loss of coral cover, diminishing the integrity and resilience of reef ecosystems. Here we sequenced genomes of COTS from the Great Barrier Reef, Australia and Okinawa, Japan to identify gene products that underlie species-specific communication and could potentially be used in biocontrol strategies. We focused on water-borne chemical plumes released from aggregating COTS, which make the normally sedentary starfish become highly active. Peptide sequences detected in these plumes by mass spectrometry are encoded in the COTS genome and expressed in external tissues. The exoproteome released by aggregating COTS consists largely of signalling factors and hydrolytic enzymes, and includes an expanded and rapidly evolving set of starfish-specific ependymin-related proteins. These secreted proteins may be detected by members of a large family of olfactory-receptor-like G-protein-coupled receptors that are expressed externally, sometimes in a sex-specific manner. This study provides insights into COTS-specific communication that may guide the generation of peptide mimetics for use on reefs with COTS outbreaks.

Particle physics: Search for neutrinoless double-β decay


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


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


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


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.