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Table of Contents for this page:

  • Current Issue
  • Advanced Online Publications Articles

  • Current Issue of Nature

    Nature - Issue - nature.com science feeds

  • Pillars of reform

  • The Chinese government’s planned overhaul of its core research-funding system is vital if the country is to achieve its potential on the global scientific stage.

  • Call to action

  • Time to ramp up science’s contribution to controlling the Ebola outbreak.

  • Code share

  • Papers in Nature journals should make computer code accessible where possible.

  • Developed nations must not fear sending Ebola help

  • The anxiety and stigma associated with Ebola are hampering Australia's willingness and ability to help with the control efforts in Africa, argues Tim Inglis.

  • Evolution: Lizards adapt quickly to invaders

  • Lizards in Florida have rapidly evolved traits that make them better tree-climbers, probably in response to an invasive competitor.Cuban brown anole lizards (Anolis sagrei) have spread over the past few decades across the southeastern United States, where they compete for territory and

  • Planetary science: Mercury's ice is a recent arrival

  • Ice at Mercury's poles is a relatively new arrival— a finding that could help to resolve a debate about whether ice may have survived for billions of years on the planet closest to the Sun.Using data from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft, Nancy Chabot of

  • Mycology: Teamwork helps yeast to infect

  • Immune responses that should combat a disease caused by yeast instead make the fungus grow, potentially worsening the infection.Robin May at the University of Birmingham, UK, and his co-workers studied strains of Cryptoccocus gattii, which can cause meningitis and other problems.They found

  • Astronomy: Mysterious signals may be from Earth

  • Radio pulses that look like they came from deep space could actually have earthly origins.A team led by Pascal Saint-Hilaire at the University of California, Berkeley, detected five short but intense radio bursts at the Bleien Radio Observatory in Switzerland. This is only the

  • Cancer: Tumours linked to cellular rubbish

  • Discarded rubbish from tumours could trigger nearby healthy cells to become malignant.Many cells shed exosomes: membrane-bound packages of proteins, DNA and RNA that are thought to be a waste-management system. Raghu Kalluri at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and

  • Chemistry: Molecular sponges store oxygen

  • An oxygen cylinder could hold even more gas if it were filled with sponge-like powders, chemists report.The powders are a type of metal–organic framework (MOF): sponge-like materials in which metal atoms are connected by organic groups, creating a porous network with many promising applications

  • Glaciology: Channels hint at glacier hardiness

  • Ancient channels preserved beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet suggest that part of the glacier prevailed during warm periods more than two million years ago.By combining radio-echo soundings of the landscape underneath the glacier with satellite images of the ice surface, Kathryn Rose of

  • Biotechnology: Paper-based gene tools

  • Functional biological circuits can be printed on paper, reports a team led by James Collins at Boston University in Massachusetts.The team synthesized cell-free gene networks from off-the-shelf parts and freeze-dried them on to paper. When later rehydrated, the networks worked as programmable in vitro

  • Materials: Sunshine drives graphene machines

  • Machines that move by bending in response to moisture can be made by exposing thin sheets of graphene oxide to sunlight.A team led by Hong-Bo Sun at Jilin University in Changchun, China, focused sunlight on one side of graphene oxide paper. The ultraviolet radiation

  • Rules for reproducibility win support

  • Nearly a decade after writing a scathing critique of biomedical research, 'Why Most Published Research Findings Are False', Stanford University scientist John Ioannidis has published a follow-up. The health-policy researcher suggests a blueprint for making scientific results more reliable, including increasing the statistical certainty of

  • Seven days: 24–30 October 2014

  • The week in science: China launches its first round-trip lunar mission; skydiver leaps from record heights; and EU leaders agree on landmark climate deal.

  • Gas-spewing Icelandic volcano stuns scientists

  • Sulphur-rich eruption defies preparations for an ashy blast.

  • ‘Forgotten’ NIH smallpox virus languishes on death row

  • World Health Organization lacks resources to witness destruction of stocks.

  • Coastal havoc boosts jellies

  • Five-year Chinese study suggests that human activity made gelatinous outbreaks worse.

  • Pet dogs set to test anti-ageing drug

  • Trials would study extension of lifespan in domestic setting.

  • China opens translational medicine centre in Shanghai

  • First of five linked institutes aims to capitalize on basic-research investments.

  • Geneticists tap human knockouts

  • Sequenced genomes reveal mutations that disable single genes and can point to new drugs.

  • The top 100 papers

  • Nature explores the most-cited research of all time.

  • The Ebola questions

  • Scientists know a lot about the virus that causes Ebola— but there are many puzzles that they have yet to solve.

  • Human spaceflight: Find asteroids to get to Mars

  • Asteroid retrieval is a distraction, says Richard P. Binzel. Better steps to interplanetary travel abound.

  • Bibliometrics: Is your most cited work your best?

  • John P. A. Ioannidis and colleagues asked the most highly cited biomedical scientists to score their top-ten papers in six ways.

  • Autoimmunity: When the body betrays

  • Tilli Tansey surveys a magisterial, historically rich biography of autoimmunity.

  • Books in brief

  • Barbara Kiser reviews five of the week's best science picks.

  • Mathematics: Constructor of a marvellous canon

  • George Szpiro weighs up a life of John Napier, who gifted science with logarithms.

  • Lab animals: Can GM marmoset use be justified?

  • We question the premise that genetically modified (GM) marmosets are essential to Japan's brain-mapping project for studying disorders such as schizophrenia and depression (Nature514, 151–152;10.1038/514151a2014). It runs counter to efforts in fields such as toxicology to

  • Sustainability: Call to coordinate actions

  • The first step in implementing the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs; see M.Stafford-SmithNature513, 281;10.1038/513281a2014) will be to identify critical nodes at which issues such as water, energy and food need to be addressed simultaneously and that

  • Emissions: Exempt green tech from trade rules

  • Next year in Paris, parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change have the task of developing a global agreement to reduce carbon emissions— a successor to the failed Kyoto Protocol. They should strike a grand bargain with the World Trade Organization (WTO)

  • Medical research: Engage more cohort patients in research

  • Input from patients and the public is a requirement for funding by the UK National Institute of Health Research (NIHR), but is met by scepticism from some academics.We analysed 70 birth cohort studies to evaluate the basis of this scepticism (P. J.Lucas

  • Climate policy: Translating public action into policy

  • Last month, millions took to the streets in climate rallies organized by some 1,500 organizations in 158 countries. Their message: that world leaders at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York must tackle the challenges of global warming head on. However, it is by

  • Development hubs: Rust no more

  • Ohio's investments into research are ushering the state from a manufacturing past into a knowledge-economy future.

  • Dumpster diving

  • The silent treatment.

  • Rice

  • Rice by the numbers: A good grain

  • Millions of people around the world rely on rice as the bulk of their daily diet. This snapshot of the crop's production, consumption and trade shows an overall surplus, but population growth in future decades may affect the situation, writes Emily Elert.

  • Agribiotechnology: Blue-sky rice

  • Rice is a staple food, but production is not keeping pace with the rise in global population. So scientists are dreaming big and aiming high to change the future for this crucial grain.

  • Biotechnology: Against the grain

  • Golden rice could help to end a nutritional crisis— but only if researchers can overcome some daunting technical and political hurdles.

  • Domestication: The birth of rice

  • From a wild Asian grass to a refined crop that is the staple diet of half the world's population, the domestication of Oryza sativa spans centuries, but the grain's ancestry is hotly contested.

  • Yield: The search for the rice of the future

  • Scientists are hoping to make the world's most successful crop even better.

  • Contamination: The toxic side of rice

  • Around the world, researchers are looking for ways to rid rice of a troublesome companion.

  • Agriculture: The next frontier

  • Africa's newfound taste for an old grain has experienced problems— drought, low yields and costly imports. But new projects are driving the continent towards self-sufficiency.

  • Perspective: Time to unleash rice

  • Corporate inefficiency and government meddling are curbing production of the vital crop in the countries that need it most, says Robert Zeigler.

  • Correction

  • The News Feature‘The ethics squad’ (Nature514, 418–420; 2014) misspelled Susan Kornetsky’s name.

  • Evolutionary developmental biology: Ghost locus appears

  • The sequences of two sponge genomes provide evidence that the ParaHox developmental genes are older than previously thought. This has implications for animal taxonomy and for developmental and evolutionary biology. See Letter p.620

  • Astrophysics: Secret ingredient exposed

  • Astronomers have suspected for some time that magnetic fields are a key ingredient in the accretion of material that surrounds young stars. New observations have just begun to reveal these fields in action. See Letter p.597

  • Structural biology: Enzyme–chromatin complex visualized

  • The structure of an enzyme that is bound to a nucleosome— a protein complex around which DNA is wrapped — reveals how contacts between the two orient the enzyme so that it can modify a specific amino-acid residue. See Article p.591

  • Materials science: Radicals promote magnetic gel assembly

  • Engineering complex tissues requires high-throughput, three-dimensional patterning of materials and cells. A method to assemble small gel components using magnetic forces from encapsulated free radicals could be just the ticket.

  • Cardiac biology: Cell plasticity helps hearts to repair

  • Fibroblast cells are known as key players in the repair of damaged heart structures. New findings show that injury also induces fibroblasts to become endothelial cells, helping to mend damaged blood vessels. See Article p.585

  • Immunology: Starve a fever, feed the microbiota

  • A study finds that the cells lining the gut are modified in response to systemic infection, increasing the host's tolerance to infection in a manner that is dependent on the microorganisms that inhabit the gut. See Letter p.638

  • Three new Jurassic euharamiyidan species reinforce early divergence of mammals

  • The phylogeny of Allotheria, including Multituberculata and Haramiyida, remains unsolved and has generated contentious views on the origin and earliest evolution of mammals. Here we report three new species of a new clade, Euharamiyida, based on six well-preserved fossils from the Jurassic period of China.

  • Mesenchymal–endothelial transition contributes to cardiac neovascularization

  • Endothelial cells contribute to a subset of cardiac fibroblasts by undergoing endothelial-to-mesenchymal transition, but whether cardiac fibroblasts can adopt an endothelial cell fate and directly contribute to neovascularization after cardiac injury is not known. Here, using genetic fate map techniques, we demonstrate that cardiac fibroblasts

  • Crystal structure of the PRC1 ubiquitylation module bound to the nucleosome

  • The Polycomb group of epigenetic enzymes represses expression of developmentally regulated genes in many eukaryotes. This group includes the Polycomb repressive complex 1 (PRC1), which ubiquitylates nucleosomal histone H2A Lys 119 using its E3 ubiquitin ligase subunits, Ring1B and Bmi1, together with an E2 ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme,

  • Spatially resolved magnetic field structure in the disk of a T Tauri star

  • Magnetic fields in accretion disks play a dominant part during the star formation process but have hitherto been observationally poorly constrained. Field strengths have been inferred on T Tauri stars and possibly in the innermost part of their accretion disks, but the strength and morphology of the field in the bulk of a disk have not been observed. Spatially unresolved measurements of polarized emission (arising from elongated dust grains aligned perpendicularly to the field) imply average fields aligned with the disks. Theoretically, the fields are expected to be largely toroidal, poloidal or a mixture of the two, which imply different mechanisms for transporting angular momentum in the disks of actively accreting young stars such as HL Tau (ref. 11). Here we report resolved measurements of the polarized 1.25-millimetre continuum emission from the disk of HL Tau. The magnetic field on a scale of 80 astronomical units is coincident with the major axis (about 210 astronomical units long) of the disk. From this we conclude that the magnetic field inside the disk at this scale cannot be dominated by a vertical component, though a purely toroidal field also does not fit the data well. The unexpected morphology suggests that the role of the magnetic field in the accretion of a T Tauri star is more complex than our current theoretical understanding.

  • Possible planet formation in the young, low-mass, multiple stellar system GG Tau A

  • The formation of planets around binary stars may be more difficult than around single stars. In a close binary star (with a separation of less than a hundred astronomical units), theory predicts the presence of circumstellar disks around each star, and an outer circumbinary disk surrounding a gravitationally cleared inner cavity around the stars. Given that the inner disks are depleted by accretion onto the stars on timescales of a few thousand years, any replenishing material must be transferred from the outer reservoir to fuel planet formation (which occurs on timescales of about one million years). Gas flowing through disk cavities has been detected in single star systems. A circumbinary disk was discovered around the young low-mass binary system GG Tau A (ref. 7), which has recently been shown to be a hierarchical triple system. It has one large inner disk around the single star, GG Tau Aa, and shows small amounts of shocked hydrogen gas residing within the central cavity, but other than a single weak detection, the distribution of cold gas in this cavity or in any other binary or multiple star system has not hitherto been determined. Here we report imaging of gas fragments emitting radiation characteristic of carbon monoxide within the GG Tau A cavity. From the kinematics we conclude that the flow appears capable of sustaining the inner disk (around GG Tau Aa) beyond the accretion lifetime, leaving time for planet formation to occur there. These results show the complexity of planet formation around multiple stars and confirm the general picture predicted by numerical simulations.

  • Quantum tomography of an electron

  • The complete knowledge of a quantum state allows the prediction of the probability of all possible measurement outcomes, a crucial step in quantum mechanics. It can be provided by tomographic methods which have been applied to atomic, molecular, spin and photonic states. For optical or microwave photons, standard tomography is obtained by mixing the unknown state with a large-amplitude coherent photon field. However, for fermions such as electrons in condensed matter, this approach is not applicable because fermionic fields are limited to small amplitudes (at most one particle per state), and so far no determination of an electron wavefunction has been made. Recent proposals involving quantum conductors suggest that the wavefunction can be obtained by measuring the time-dependent current of electronic wave interferometers or the current noise of electronic Hanbury-Brown/Twiss interferometers. Here we show that such measurements are possible despite the extreme noise sensitivity required, and present the reconstructed wavefunction quasi-probability, or Wigner distribution function, of single electrons injected into a ballistic conductor. Many identical electrons are prepared in well-controlled quantum states called levitons by repeatedly applying Lorentzian voltage pulses to a contact on the conductor. After passing through an electron beam splitter, the levitons are mixed with a weak-amplitude fermionic field formed by a coherent superposition of electron–hole pairs generated by a small alternating current with a frequency that is a multiple of the voltage pulse frequency. Antibunching of the electrons and holes with the levitons at the beam splitter changes the leviton partition statistics, and the noise variations provide the energy density matrix elements of the levitons. This demonstration of quantum tomography makes the developing field of electron quantum optics with ballistic conductors a new test-bed for quantum information with fermions. These results may find direct application in probing the entanglement of electron flying quantum bits, electron decoherence and electron interactions. They could also be applied to cold fermionic (or spin-1/2) atoms.

  • Room-temperature magnetic order on zigzag edges of narrow graphene nanoribbons

  • The possibility that non-magnetic materials such as carbon could exhibit a novel type of s–p electron magnetism has attracted much attention over the years, not least because such magnetic order is predicted to be stable at high temperatures. It has been demonstrated that atomic-scale structural defects of graphene can host unpaired spins, but it remains unclear under what conditions long-range magnetic order can emerge from such defect-bound magnetic moments. Here we propose that, in contrast to random defect distributions, atomic-scale engineering of graphene edges with specific crystallographic orientation—comprising edge atoms from only one sub-lattice of the bipartite graphene lattice—can give rise to a robust magnetic order. We use a nanofabrication technique based on scanning tunnelling microscopy to define graphene nanoribbons with nanometre precision and well-defined crystallographic edge orientations. Although so-called ‘armchair’ ribbons display quantum confinement gaps, ribbons with the ‘zigzag’ edge structure that are narrower than 7 nanometres exhibit an electronic bandgap of about 0.2–0.3 electronvolts, which can be identified as a signature of interaction-induced spin ordering along their edges. Moreover, upon increasing the ribbon width, a semiconductor-to-metal transition is revealed, indicating the switching of the magnetic coupling between opposite ribbon edges from the antiferromagnetic to the ferromagnetic configuration. We found that the magnetic order on graphene edges of controlled zigzag orientation can be stable even at room temperature, raising hopes of graphene-based spintronic devices operating under ambient conditions.

  • Stochastic transport through carbon nanotubes in lipid bilayers and live cell membranes

  • There is much interest in developing synthetic analogues of biological membrane channels with high efficiency and exquisite selectivity for transporting ions and molecules. Bottom-up and top-down methods can produce nanopores of a size comparable to that of endogenous protein channels, but replicating their affinity and transport properties remains challenging. In principle, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) should be an ideal membrane channel platform: they exhibit excellent transport properties and their narrow hydrophobic inner pores mimic structural motifs typical of biological channels. Moreover, simulations predict that CNTs with a length comparable to the thickness of a lipid bilayer membrane can self-insert into the membrane. Functionalized CNTs have indeed been found to penetrate lipid membranes and cell walls, and short tubes have been forced into membranes to create sensors, yet membrane transport applications of short CNTs remain underexplored. Here we show that short CNTs spontaneously insert into lipid bilayers and live cell membranes to form channels that exhibit a unitary conductance of 70–100 picosiemens under physiological conditions. Despite their structural simplicity, these ‘CNT porins’ transport water, protons, small ions and DNA, stochastically switch between metastable conductance substates, and display characteristic macromolecule-induced ionic current blockades. We also show that local channel and membrane charges can control the conductance and ion selectivity of the CNT porins, thereby establishing these nanopores as a promising biomimetic platform for developing cell interfaces, studying transport in biological channels, and creating stochastic sensors.

  • Centennial-scale changes in the global carbon cycle during the last deglaciation

  • Global climate and the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) are correlated over recent glacial cycles. The combination of processes responsible for a rise in atmospheric CO2 at the last glacial termination (23,000 to 9,000 years ago), however, remains uncertain. Establishing the timing and rate of CO2 changes in the past provides critical insight into the mechanisms that influence the carbon cycle and helps put present and future anthropogenic emissions in context. Here we present CO2 and methane (CH4) records of the last deglaciation from a new high-accumulation West Antarctic ice core with unprecedented temporal resolution and precise chronology. We show that although low-frequency CO2 variations parallel changes in Antarctic temperature, abrupt CO2 changes occur that have a clear relationship with abrupt climate changes in the Northern Hemisphere. A significant proportion of the direct radiative forcing associated with the rise in atmospheric CO2 occurred in three sudden steps, each of 10 to 15 parts per million. Every step took place in less than two centuries and was followed by no notable change in atmospheric CO2 for about 1,000 to 1,500 years. Slow, millennial-scale ventilation of Southern Ocean CO2-rich, deep-ocean water masses is thought to have been fundamental to the rise in atmospheric CO2 associated with the glacial termination, given the strong covariance of CO2 levels and Antarctic temperatures. Our data establish a contribution from an abrupt, centennial-scale mode of CO2 variability that is not directly related to Antarctic temperature. We suggest that processes operating on centennial timescales, probably involving the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, seem to be influencing global carbon-cycle dynamics and are at present not widely considered in Earth system models.

  • Calcisponges have a ParaHox gene and dynamic expression of dispersed NK homeobox genes

  • Sponges are simple animals with few cell types, but their genomes paradoxically contain a wide variety of developmental transcription factors, including homeobox genes belonging to the Antennapedia (ANTP) class, which in bilaterians encompass Hox, ParaHox and NK genes. In the genome of the demosponge Amphimedon queenslandica, no Hox or ParaHox genes are present, but NK genes are linked in a tight cluster similar to the NK clusters of bilaterians. It has been proposed that Hox and ParaHox genes originated from NK cluster genes after divergence of sponges from the lineage leading to cnidarians and bilaterians. On the other hand, synteny analysis lends support to the notion that the absence of Hox and ParaHox genes in Amphimedon is a result of secondary loss (the ghost locus hypothesis). Here we analysed complete suites of ANTP-class homeoboxes in two calcareous sponges, Sycon ciliatum and Leucosolenia complicata. Our phylogenetic analyses demonstrate that these calcisponges possess orthologues of bilaterian NK genes (Hex, Hmx and Msx), a varying number of additional NK genes and one ParaHox gene, Cdx. Despite the generation of scaffolds spanning multiple genes, we find no evidence of clustering of Sycon NK genes. All Sycon ANTP-class genes are developmentally expressed, with patterns suggesting their involvement in cell type specification in embryos and adults, metamorphosis and body plan patterning. These results demonstrate that ParaHox genes predate the origin of sponges, thus confirming the ghost locus hypothesis, and highlight the need to analyse the genomes of multiple sponge lineages to obtain a complete picture of the ancestral composition of the first animal genome.

  • Non-equivalent contributions of maternal and paternal genomes to early plant embryogenesis

  • Zygotic genome activation in metazoans typically occurs several hours to a day after fertilization, and thus maternal RNAs and proteins drive early animal embryo development. In plants, despite several molecular studies of post-fertilization transcriptional activation, the timing of zygotic genome activation remains a matter of debate. For example, two recent reports that used different hybrid ecotype combinations for RNA sequence profiling of early Arabidopsis embryo transcriptomes came to divergent conclusions. One identified paternal contributions that varied by gene, but with overall maternal dominance, while the other found that the maternal and paternal genomes are transcriptionally equivalent. Here we assess paternal gene activation functionally in an isogenic background, by performing a large-scale genetic analysis of 49 EMBRYO DEFECTIVE genes and testing the ability of wild-type paternal alleles to complement phenotypes conditioned by mutant maternal alleles. Our results demonstrate that wild-type paternal alleles for nine of these genes are completely functional 2 days after pollination, with the remaining 40 genes showing partial activity beginning at 2, 3 or 5 days after pollination. Using our functional assay, we also demonstrate that different hybrid combinations exhibit significant variation in paternal allele activation, reconciling the apparently contradictory results of previous transcriptional studies. The variation in timing of gene function that we observe confirms that paternal genome activation does not occur in one early discrete step, provides large-scale functional evidence that maternal and paternal genomes make non-equivalent contributions to early plant embryogenesis, and uncovers an unexpectedly profound effect of hybrid genetic backgrounds on paternal gene activity.

  • Oncogene ablation-resistant pancreatic cancer cells depend on mitochondrial function

  • Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is one of the deadliest cancers in western countries, with a median survival of 6 months and an extremely low percentage of long-term surviving patients. KRAS mutations are known to be a driver event of PDAC, but targeting mutant KRAS has proved challenging. Targeting oncogene-driven signalling pathways is a clinically validated approach for several devastating diseases. Still, despite marked tumour shrinkage, the frequency of relapse indicates that a fraction of tumour cells survives shut down of oncogenic signalling. Here we explore the role of mutant KRAS in PDAC maintenance using a recently developed inducible mouse model of mutated Kras (KrasG12D, herein KRas) in a p53LoxP/WT background. We demonstrate that a subpopulation of dormant tumour cells surviving oncogene ablation (surviving cells) and responsible for tumour relapse has features of cancer stem cells and relies on oxidative phosphorylation for survival. Transcriptomic and metabolic analyses of surviving cells reveal prominent expression of genes governing mitochondrial function, autophagy and lysosome activity, as well as a strong reliance on mitochondrial respiration and a decreased dependence on glycolysis for cellular energetics. Accordingly, surviving cells show high sensitivity to oxidative phosphorylation inhibitors, which can inhibit tumour recurrence. Our integrated analyses illuminate a therapeutic strategy of combined targeting of the KRAS pathway and mitochondrial respiration to manage pancreatic cancer.

  • Conditional tolerance of temperate phages via transcription-dependent CRISPR-Cas targeting

  • A fundamental feature of immune systems is the ability to distinguish pathogenic from self and commensal elements, and to attack the former but tolerate the latter. Prokaryotic CRISPR-Cas immune systems defend against phage infection by using Cas nucleases and small RNA guides that specify one or more target sites for cleavage of the viral genome. Temperate phages include viruses that can integrate into the bacterial chromosome, and they can carry genes that provide a fitness advantage to the lysogenic host. However, CRISPR-Cas targeting that relies strictly on DNA sequence recognition provides indiscriminate immunity both to lytic and lysogenic infection by temperate phages—compromising the genetic stability of these potentially beneficial elements altogether. Here we show that the Staphylococcus epidermidis CRISPR-Cas system can prevent lytic infection but tolerate lysogenization by temperate phages. Conditional tolerance is achieved through transcription-dependent DNA targeting, and ensures that targeting is resumed upon induction of the prophage lytic cycle. Our results provide evidence for the functional divergence of CRISPR-Cas systems and highlight the importance of targeting mechanism diversity. In addition, they extend the concept of ‘tolerance to non-self’ to the prokaryotic branch of adaptive immunity.

  • Rapid fucosylation of intestinal epithelium sustains host–commensal symbiosis in sickness

  • Systemic infection induces conserved physiological responses that include both resistance and‘tolerance of infection’ mechanisms. Temporary anorexia associated with an infection is often beneficial, reallocating energy from food foraging towards resistance to infection or depriving pathogens of nutrients. However, it imposes a stress on intestinal commensals, as they also experience reduced substrate availability; this affects host fitness owing to the loss of caloric intake and colonization resistance (protection from additional infections). We hypothesized that the host might utilize internal resources to support the gut microbiota during the acute phase of the disease. Here weshow that systemic exposure to Toll-like receptor (TLR) ligands causes rapid α(1,2)-fucosylation of small intestine epithelial cells (IECs) in mice, which requires the sensing of TLR agonists, as well as the production of interleukin (IL)-23 by dendritic cells, activation of innate lymphoid cells and expression of fucosyltransferase 2 (Fut2) by IL-22-stimulated IECs. Fucosylated proteins are shed into the lumen and fucose is liberated and metabolized by the gut microbiota, as shown by reporter bacteria and community-wide analysis of microbial gene expression. Fucose affects the expression ofmicrobial metabolic pathways and reduces the expression of bacterial virulence genes. It also improves host tolerance of the mild pathogen Citrobacter rodentium. Thus, rapid IEC fucosylation appears to be a protective mechanism that utilizes the host’s resources to maintain host–microbial interactions during pathogen-induced stress.

  • Enhanced neonatal Fc receptor function improves protection against primate SHIV infection

  • To protect against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV-1) infection, broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAbs) must be active at the portals of viral entry in the gastrointestinal or cervicovaginal tracts. The localization and persistence of antibodies at these sites is influenced by the neonatal Fc receptor (FcRn), whose role in protecting against infection in vivo has not been defined. Here, we show that a bnAb with enhanced FcRn binding has increased gut mucosal tissue localization, which improves protection against lentiviral infection in non-human primates. A bnAb directed to the CD4-binding site of the HIV-1 envelope (Env) protein (denoted VRC01) was modified by site-directed mutagenesis to increase its binding affinity for FcRn. This enhanced FcRn-binding mutant bnAb, denoted VRC01-LS, displayed increased transcytosis across human FcRn-expressing cellular monolayers in vitro while retaining FcγRIIIa binding and function, including antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC) activity, at levels similar to VRC01 (the wild type). VRC01-LS had a threefold longer serum half-life than VRC01 in non-human primates and persisted in the rectal mucosa even when it was no longer detectable in the serum. Notably, VRC01-LS mediated protection superior to that afforded by VRC01 against intrarectal infection with simian–human immunodeficiency virus (SHIV). These findings suggest that modification of FcRn binding provides a mechanism not only to increase serum half-life but also to enhance mucosal localization that confers immune protection. Mutations that enhance FcRn function could therefore increase the potency and durability of passive immunization strategies to prevent HIV-1 infection.

  • Synergistic blockade of mitotic exit by two chemical inhibitors of the APC/C

  • Protein machines are multi-subunit protein complexes that orchestrate highly regulated biochemical tasks. An example is the anaphase-promoting complex/cyclosome (APC/C), a 13-subunit ubiquitin ligase that initiates the metaphase–anaphase transition and mitotic exit by targeting proteins such as securin and cyclin B1 for ubiquitin-dependent destruction by the proteasome. Because blocking mitotic exit is an effective approach for inducing tumour cell death, the APC/C represents a potential novel target for cancer therapy.APC/C activation in mitosis requires binding of Cdc20 (ref. 5), which forms a co-receptor with the APC/C to recognize substrates containing a destruction box (D-box). Here we demonstrate that we can synergistically inhibit APC/C-dependent proteolysis and mitotic exit by simultaneously disrupting two protein–protein interactions within the APC/C–Cdc20–substrate ternary complex. We identify a small molecule, called apcin (APC inhibitor), which binds to Cdc20 and competitively inhibits the ubiquitylation of D-box-containing substrates. Analysis of the crystal structure of the apcin–Cdc20complex suggests that apcin occupies the D-box-binding pocket on the side face of the WD40-domain. The ability of apcin to block mitotic exit is synergistically amplified by co-addition of tosyl-l-arginine methyl ester, a small molecule that blocks the APC/C–Cdc20 interaction. This work suggests that simultaneous disruption of multiple, weak protein–protein interactions is an effective approach for inactivating a protein machine.

  • Transcriptional interference by antisense RNA is required for circadian clock function

  • Eukaryotic circadian oscillators consist of negative feedback loops that generate endogenous rhythmicities. Natural antisense RNAs are found in a wide range of eukaryotic organisms. Nevertheless, the physiological importance and mode of action of most antisense RNAs are not clear. frequency (frq) encodes a component of the Neurospora core circadian negative feedback loop, which was thought to generate sustained rhythmicity. Transcription of qrf, the long non-coding frq antisense RNA, is induced by light, and its level oscillates in antiphase to frq sense RNA. Here we show that qrf transcription is regulated by both light-dependent and light-independent mechanisms. Light-dependent qrf transcription represses frq expression and regulates clock resetting. Light-independent qrf expression, on the other hand, is required for circadian rhythmicity. frq transcription also inhibits qrf expression and drives the antiphasic rhythm of qrf transcripts. The mutual inhibition of frq and qrf transcription thus forms a double negative feedback loop that is interlocked with the core feedback loop. Genetic and mathematical modelling analyses indicate that such an arrangement is required for robust and sustained circadian rhythmicity. Moreover, our results suggest that antisense transcription inhibits sense expression by mediating chromatin modifications and premature termination of transcription. Taken together, our results establish antisense transcription as an essential feature in a circadian system and shed light on the importance and mechanism of antisense action.

  • Corrigendum: Immune clearance of highly pathogenic SIV infection

  • Nature502, 100–104 (2013); doi:10.1038/nature12519The Acknowledgements section of this Letter should have included the following sentence: “We acknowledge the contribution of M. A. Jarvis to the design, construction and initial in vitro characterization of all the strain

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  • Plant science: Leaf veins share the time of day

  • Techniques for isolating and analysing leaf cell types have now been developed, leading to the discovery that circadian clocks in the plant vasculature communicate with and regulate clocks in neighbouring cells.

  • Origins of life: RNA made in its own mirror image

  • An RNA enzyme has been generated that can assemble a mirror-image version of itself. The finding helps to answer a long-standing conundrum about how RNA molecules could have proliferated on prebiotic Earth.

  • Synaptic, transcriptional and chromatin genes disrupted in autism

  • Whole-exome sequencing in a large autism study identifies over 100 autosomal genes that are likely to affect risk for the disorder; these genes, which show unusual evolutionary constraint against mutations, carry de novo loss-of-function mutations in over 5% of autistic subjects and many function in synaptic, transcriptional and chromatin-remodelling pathways.

  • Genetic and epigenetic fine mapping of causal autoimmune disease variants

  • Genome-wide association studies combined with data from epigenomic maps for immune cells have been used to fine-map causal variants for 21 autoimmune diseases; disease risk tends to be linked to single nucleotide polymorphisms in cell-type-specific enhancers, often in regions adjacent to transcription factor binding motifs.

  • The contribution of de novo coding mutations to autism spectrum disorder

  • Family-based exome sequencing in a large autism study has identified 27 high-confidence gene targets and accurately estimates the contribution of both de novo gene-disrupting and missense mutations to the incidence of simplex autism, with target genes in affected females overlapping those in males of lower but not higher IQ; targets also overlap known targets for intellectual disability and schizophrenia, and are enriched for chromatin modifiers, FMRP-associated genes and embryonically expressed genes.

  • Promoterless gene targeting without nucleases ameliorates haemophilia B in mice

  • Site-specific gene addition can allow stable transgene expression for gene therapy. When possible, this is preferred over the use of promiscuously integrating vectors, which are sometimes associated with clonal expansion and oncogenesis. Site-specific endonucleases that can induce high rates of targeted genome editing are finding increasing applications in biological discovery and gene therapy. However, two safety concerns persist: endonuclease-associated adverse effects, both on-target and off-target; and oncogene activation caused by promoter integration, even without nucleases. Here we perform recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV)-mediated promoterless gene targeting without nucleases and demonstrate amelioration of the bleeding diathesis in haemophilia B mice. In particular, we target a promoterless human coagulation factor IX (F9) gene to the liver-expressed mouse albumin (Alb) locus. F9 is targeted, along with a preceding 2A-peptide coding sequence, to be integrated just upstream to the Alb stop codon. While F9 is fused to Alb at the DNA and RNA levels, two separate proteins are synthesized by way of ribosomal skipping. Thus, F9 expression is linked to robust hepatic albumin expression without disrupting it. We injected an AAV8-F9 vector into neonatal and adult mice and achieved on-target integration into∼0.5% of the albumin alleles in hepatocytes. We established that F9 was produced only from on-target integration, and ribosomal skipping was highly efficient. Stable F9 plasma levels at 7–20% of normal were obtained, and treated F9-deficient mice had normal coagulation times. In conclusion, transgene integration as a 2A-fusion to a highly expressed endogenous gene may obviate the requirement for nucleases and/or vector-borne promoters. This method may allow for safe and efficacious gene targeting in both infants and adults by greatly diminishing off-target effects while still providing therapeutic levels of expression from integration.

  • Solution-processed, high-performance light-emitting diodes based on quantum dots

  • Solution-processed optoelectronic and electronic devices are attractive owing to the potential for low-cost fabrication of large-area devices and the compatibility with lightweight, flexible plastic substrates. Solution-processed light-emitting diodes (LEDs) using conjugated polymers or quantum dots as emitters have attracted great interest over the past two decades. However, the overall performance of solution-processed LEDs—including their efficiency, efficiency roll-off at high current densities, turn-on voltage and lifetime under operational conditions—remains inferior to that of the best vacuum-deposited organic LEDs. Here we report a solution-processed, multilayer quantum-dot-based LED with excellent performance and reproducibility. It exhibits colour-saturated deep-red emission, sub-bandgap turn-on at 1.7 volts, high external quantum efficiencies of up to 20.5 per cent, low efficiency roll-off (up to 15.1 per cent of the external quantum efficiency at 100 mA cm−2), and a long operational lifetime of more than 100,000 hours at 100 cd m−2, making this device the best-performing solution-processed red LED so far, comparable to state-of-the-art vacuum-deposited organic LEDs. This optoelectronic performance is achieved by inserting an insulating layer between the quantum dot layer and the oxide electron-transport layer to optimize charge balance in the device and preserve the superior emissive properties of the quantum dots. We anticipate that our results will be a starting point for further research, leading to high-performance, all-solution-processed quantum-dot-based LEDs ideal for next-generation display and solid-state lighting technologies.

  • Tissue-specific clocks in Arabidopsis show asymmetric coupling

  • Many organisms rely on a circadian clock system to adapt to daily and seasonal environmental changes. The mammalian circadian clock consists of a central clock in the suprachiasmatic nucleus that has tightly coupled neurons and synchronizes other clocks in peripheral tissues. Plants also have a circadian clock, but plant circadian clock function has long been assumed to be uncoupled. Only a few studies have been able to show weak, local coupling among cells. Here, by implementing two novel techniques, we have performed a comprehensive tissue-specific analysis of leaf tissues, and show that the vasculature and mesophyll clocks asymmetrically regulate each other in Arabidopsis. The circadian clock in the vasculature has characteristics distinct from other tissues, cycles robustly without environmental cues, and affects circadian clock regulation in other tissues. Furthermore, we found that vasculature-enriched genes that are rhythmically expressed are preferentially expressed in the evening, whereas rhythmic mesophyll-enriched genes tend to be expressed in the morning. Our results set the stage for a deeper understanding of how the vasculature circadian clock in plants regulates key physiological responses such as flowering time.

  • Modelling human development and disease in pluripotent stem-cell-derived gastric organoids

  • Gastric diseases, including peptic ulcer disease and gastric cancer, affect 10% of the world’s population and are largely due to chronic Helicobacter pylori infection. Species differences in embryonic development and architecture of the adult stomach make animal models suboptimal for studying human stomach organogenesis and pathogenesis, and there is no experimental model of normal human gastric mucosa. Here we report the de novo generation of three-dimensional human gastric tissue in vitro through the directed differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells. We show that temporal manipulation of the FGF, WNT, BMP, retinoic acid and EGF signalling pathways and three-dimensional growth are sufficient to generate human gastric organoids (hGOs). Developing hGOs progressed through molecular and morphogenetic stages that were nearly identical to the developing antrum of the mouse stomach. Organoids formed primitive gastric gland- and pit-like domains, proliferative zones containing LGR5-expressing cells, surface and antral mucous cells, and a diversity of gastric endocrine cells. We used hGO cultures to identify novel signalling mechanisms that regulate early endoderm patterning and gastric endocrine cell differentiation upstream of the transcription factor NEUROG3. Using hGOs to model pathogenesis of human disease, we found that H. pylori infection resulted in rapid association of the virulence factor CagA with the c-Met receptor, activation of signalling and induction of epithelial proliferation. Together, these studies describe a new and robust in vitro system for elucidating the mechanisms underlying human stomach development and disease.

  • A cross-chiral RNA polymerase ribozyme

  • Thirty years ago it was shown that the non-enzymatic, template-directed polymerization of activated mononucleotides proceeds readily in a homochiral system, but is severely inhibited by the presence of the opposing enantiomer. This finding poses a severe challenge for the spontaneous emergence of RNA-based life, and has led to the suggestion that either RNA was preceded by some other genetic polymer that is not subject to chiral inhibition or chiral symmetry was broken through chemical processes before the origin of RNA-based life. Once an RNA enzyme arose that could catalyse the polymerization of RNA, it would have been possible to distinguish among the two enantiomers, enabling RNA replication and RNA-based evolution to occur. It is commonly thought that the earliest RNA polymerase and its substrates would have been of the same handedness, but this is not necessarily the case. Replicating d- and l-RNA molecules may have emerged together, based on the ability of structured RNAs of one handedness to catalyse the templated polymerization of activated mononucleotides of the opposite handedness. Here we develop such a cross-chiral RNA polymerase, using in vitro evolution starting from a population of random-sequence RNAs. The d-RNA enzyme, consisting of 83 nucleotides, catalyses the joining of l-mono- or oligonucleotide substrates on a complementary l-RNA template, and similar behaviour occurs for the l-enzyme with d-substrates and a d-template. Chiral inhibition is avoided because the 106-fold rate acceleration of the enzyme only pertains to cross-chiral substrates. The enzyme’s activity is sufficient to generate full-length copies of its enantiomer through the templated joining of 11 component oligonucleotides.

  • CEACAM1 regulates TIM-3-mediated tolerance and exhaustion

  • T-cell immunoglobulin domain and mucin domain-3 (TIM-3, also known as HAVCR2) is an activation-induced inhibitory molecule involved in tolerance and shown to induce T-cell exhaustion in chronic viral infection and cancers. Under some conditions, TIM-3 expression has also been shown to be stimulatory. Considering that TIM-3, like cytotoxic T lymphocyte antigen 4 (CTLA-4) and programmed death 1 (PD-1), is being targeted for cancer immunotherapy, it is important to identify the circumstances under which TIM-3 can inhibit and activate T-cell responses. Here we show that TIM-3 is co-expressed and forms a heterodimer with carcinoembryonic antigen cell adhesion molecule 1 (CEACAM1), another well-known molecule expressed on activated T cells and involved in T-cell inhibition. Biochemical, biophysical and X-ray crystallography studies show that the membrane-distal immunoglobulin-variable (IgV)-like amino-terminal domain of each is crucial to these interactions. The presence of CEACAM1 endows TIM-3 with inhibitory function. CEACAM1 facilitates the maturation and cell surface expression of TIM-3 by forming a heterodimeric interaction in cis through the highly related membrane-distal N-terminal domains of each molecule. CEACAM1 and TIM-3 also bind in trans through their N-terminal domains. Both cis and trans interactions between CEACAM1 and TIM-3 determine the tolerance-inducing function of TIM-3. In a mouse adoptive transfer colitis model, CEACAM1-deficient T cells are hyper-inflammatory with reduced cell surface expression of TIM-3 and regulatory cytokines, and this is restored by T-cell-specific CEACAM1 expression. During chronic viral infection and in a tumour environment, CEACAM1 and TIM-3 mark exhausted T cells. Co-blockade of CEACAM1 and TIM-3 leads to enhancement of anti-tumour immune responses with improved elimination of tumours in mouse colorectal cancer models. Thus, CEACAM1 serves as a heterophilic ligand for TIM-3 that is required for its ability to mediate T-cell inhibition, and this interaction has a crucial role in regulating autoimmunity and anti-tumour immunity.

  • Structure and mechanism of the tRNA-dependent lantibiotic dehydratase NisB

  • Lantibiotics are a class of peptide antibiotics that contain one or more thioether bonds. The lantibiotic nisin is an antimicrobial peptide that is widely used as a food preservative to combat food-borne pathogens. Nisin contains dehydroalanine and dehydrobutyrine residues that are formed by the dehydration of Ser/Thr by the lantibiotic dehydratase NisB (ref. 2). Recent biochemical studies revealed that NisB glutamylates Ser/Thr side chains as part of the dehydration process. However, the molecular mechanism by which NisB uses glutamate to catalyse dehydration remains unresolved. Here we show that this process involves glutamyl-tRNAGlu to activate Ser/Thr residues. In addition, the 2.9-Å crystal structure of NisB in complex with its substrate peptide NisA reveals the presence of two separate domains that catalyse the Ser/Thr glutamylation and glutamate elimination steps. The co-crystal structure also provides insights into substrate recognition by lantibiotic dehydratases. Our findings demonstrate an unexpected role for aminoacyl-tRNA in the formation of dehydroamino acids in lantibiotics, and serve as a basis for the functional characterization of the many lantibiotic-like dehydratases involved in the biosynthesis of other classes of natural products.

  • Long-term phenotypic evolution of bacteria

  • For many decades comparative analyses of protein sequences and structures have been used to investigate fundamental principles of molecular evolution. In contrast, relatively little is known about the long-term evolution of species’ phenotypic and genetic properties. This represents an important gap in our understanding of evolution, as exactly these proprieties play key roles in natural selection and adaptation to diverse environments. Here we perform a comparative analysis of bacterial growth and gene deletion phenotypesusing hundreds of genome-scale metabolic models. Overall, bacterial phenotypic evolution can be described by a two-stage process with a rapid initial phenotypic diversification followed by a slow long-term exponential divergence. The observed average divergence trend, with approximately similar fractions of phenotypic properties changing per unit time, continues for billions of years. We experimentally confirm the predicted divergence trend using the phenotypic profiles of 40 diverse bacterial species across more than 60 growth conditions. Our analysis suggests that, at long evolutionary distances, gene essentiality is significantly more conserved than the ability to utilize different nutrients, while synthetic lethality is significantly less conserved. We also find that although a rapid phenotypic evolution is sometimes observed within the same species, a transition from high to low phenotypic similarity occurs primarily at the genus level.

  • The expanding fireball of Nova Delphini 2013

  • A classical nova occurs when material accreting onto the surface of a white dwarf in a close binary system ignites in a thermonuclear runaway. Complex structures observed in the ejecta at late stages could result from interactions with the companion during the common-envelope phase. Alternatively, the explosion could be intrinsically bipolar, resulting from a localized ignition on the surface of the white dwarf or as a consequence of rotational distortion. Studying the structure of novae during the earliest phases is challenging because of the high spatial resolution needed to measure their small sizes. Here we report near-infrared interferometric measurements of the angular size of Nova Delphini 2013, starting one day after the explosion and continuing with extensive time coverage during the first 43 days. Changes in the apparent expansion rate can be explained by an explosion model consisting of an optically thick core surrounded by a diffuse envelope. The optical depth of the ejected material changes as it expands. We detect an ellipticity in the light distribution, suggesting a prolate or bipolar structure that develops as early as the second day. Combining the angular expansion rate with radial velocity measurements, we derive a geometric distance to the nova of 4.54 ± 0.59 kiloparsecs from the Sun.

  • Calcium transient prevalence across the dendritic arbour predicts place field properties

  • Establishing the hippocampal cellular ensemble that represents an animal’s environment involves the emergence and disappearance of place fields in specific CA1 pyramidal neurons, and the acquisition of different spatial firing properties across the active population. While such firing flexibility and diversity have been linked to spatial memory, attention and task performance, the cellular and network origin of these place cell features is unknown. Basic integrate-and-fire models of place firing propose that such features result solely from varying inputs to place cells, but recent studies suggest instead that place cells themselves may play an active role through regenerative dendritic events. However, owing to the difficulty of performing functional recordings from place cell dendrites, no direct evidence of regenerative dendritic events exists, leaving any possible connection to place coding unknown. Using multi-plane two-photon calcium imaging of CA1 place cell somata, axons and dendrites in mice navigating a virtual environment, here we show that regenerative dendritic events do exist in place cells of behaving mice, and, surprisingly, their prevalence throughout the arbour is highly spatiotemporally variable. Furthermore, we show that the prevalence of such events predicts the spatial precision and persistence or disappearance of place fields. This suggests that the dynamics of spiking throughout the dendritic arbour may play a key role in forming the hippocampal representation of space.

  • Control of plant stem cell function by conserved interacting transcriptional regulators

  • Plant stem cells in the shoot apical meristem (SAM) and root apical meristem are necessary for postembryonic development of aboveground tissues and roots, respectively, while secondary vascular stem cells sustain vascular development. WUSCHEL (WUS), a homeodomain transcription factor expressed in the rib meristem of the Arabidopsis SAM, is a key regulatory factor controlling SAM stem cell populations, and is thought to establish the shoot stem cell niche through a feedback circuit involving the CLAVATA3 (CLV3) peptide signalling pathway. WUSCHEL-RELATED HOMEOBOX 5 (WOX5), which is specifically expressed in the root quiescent centre, defines quiescent centre identity and functions interchangeably with WUS in the control of shoot and root stem cell niches. WOX4, expressed in Arabidopsis procambial cells, defines the vascular stem cell niche. WUS/WOX family proteins are evolutionarily and functionally conserved throughout the plant kingdom and emerge as key actors in the specification and maintenance of stem cells within all meristems. However, the nature of the genetic regime in stem cell niches that centre on WOX gene function has been elusive, and molecular links underlying conserved WUS/WOX function in stem cell niches remain unknown. Here we demonstrate that the Arabidopsis HAIRY MERISTEM (HAM) family of transcription regulators act as conserved interacting cofactors with WUS/WOX proteins. HAM and WUS share common targets in vivo and their physical interaction is important in driving downstream transcriptional programs and in promoting shoot stem cell proliferation. Differences in the overlapping expression patterns of WOX and HAM family members underlie the formation of diverse stem cell niche locations, and the HAM family is essential for all of these stem cell niches. These findings establish a new framework for the control of stem cell production during plant development.

  • Turbulent heating in galaxy clusters brightest in X-rays

  • The hot (107 to 108 kelvin), X-ray-emitting intracluster medium (ICM) is the dominant baryonic constituent of clusters of galaxies. In the cores of many clusters, radiative energy losses from the ICM occur on timescales much shorter than the age of the system. Unchecked, this cooling would lead to massive accumulations of cold gas and vigorous star formation, in contradiction to observations. Various sources of energy capable of compensating for these cooling losses have been proposed, the most promising being heating by the supermassive black holes in the central galaxies, through inflation of bubbles of relativistic plasma. Regardless of the original source of energy, the question of how this energy is transferred to the ICM remains open. Here we present a plausible solution to this question based on deep X-ray data and a new data analysis method that enable us to evaluate directly the ICM heating ratefrom the dissipation of turbulence. We find that turbulent heating is sufficient to offset radiative cooling and indeed appears to balance it locally at each radius—it may therefore be the key element in resolving the gas cooling problem in cluster cores and, more universally, in the atmospheres of X-ray-emitting, gas-rich systems on scales from galaxy clusters to groups and elliptical galaxies.

  • Palaeontology: Mystery of the horrible hands solved

  • A pair of newly discovered 70-million-year-old fossils from Mongolia— including material previously lost to poaching — reveals the true nature of one of the most enigmatic dinosaur species, Deinocheirus mirificus.

  • Cancer: Metastasis risk after anti-macrophage therapy

  • Blocking the activity of macrophages may delay the spread of cancer. But new findings show that these immune cells can rapidly rebound to tumours after therapy withdrawal, accelerating lethal metastasis in mice.

  • Developmental biology: Cells unite by trapping a signal

  • Gradients of fibroblast growth factors often induce cells to adopt different fates. A study in zebrafish embryos reveals another, unexpected role when the factors are trapped in small spaces by a special arrangement of cells.

  • Structure and insights into the function of a Ca2+-activated Cl− channel

  • The X-ray crystal structure of a eukaryotic Ca2+-activated chloride channel, BEST1, and its function in liposomes are described; the structure shows that Ca2+ binds to the cytosolic region of this pentameric channel and reveals that the pore is approximately 95 Å long with at least 15 distinct anion-binding sites.

  • Cessation of CCL2 inhibition accelerates breast cancer metastasis by promoting angiogenesis

  • Secretion of C–C chemokine ligand 2 (CCL2) by mammary tumours recruits CCR2-expressing inflammatory monocytes to primary tumours and metastatic sites, and CCL2 neutralization in mice inhibits metastasis by retaining monocytes in the bone marrow. Here we report a paradoxical effect of CCL2 in four syngeneic mouse models of metastatic breast cancer. Surprisingly, interruption of CCL2 inhibition leads to an overshoot of metastases and accelerates death. This is the result of monocyte release from the bone marrow and enhancement of cancer cell mobilization from the primary tumour, as well as blood vessel formation and increased proliferation of metastatic cells in the lungs in an interleukin (IL)-6- and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-A-dependent manner. Notably, inhibition of CCL2 and IL-6 markedly reduced metastases and increased survival of the animals. CCL2 has been implicated in various neoplasias and adopted as a therapeutic target. However, our results call for caution when considering anti-CCL2 agents as monotherapy in metastatic disease and highlight the tumour microenvironment as a critical determinant of successful anti-metastatic therapy.

  • Precision microbiome reconstitution restores bile acid mediated resistance to Clostridium difficile

  • The gastrointestinal tracts of mammals are colonized by hundreds of microbial species that contribute to health, including colonization resistance against intestinal pathogens. Many antibiotics destroy intestinal microbial communities and increase susceptibility to intestinal pathogens. Among these, Clostridium difficile, a major cause of antibiotic-induced diarrhoea, greatly increases morbidity and mortality in hospitalized patients. Which intestinal bacteria provide resistance to C. difficile infection and their in vivo inhibitory mechanisms remain unclear. Here we correlate loss of specific bacterial taxa with development of infection, by treating mice with different antibiotics that result in distinct microbiota changes and lead to varied susceptibility to C. difficile. Mathematical modelling augmented by analyses of the microbiota of hospitalized patients identifies resistance-associated bacteria common to mice and humans. Using these platforms, we determine that Clostridium scindens, a bile acid 7α-dehydroxylating intestinal bacterium, is associated with resistance to C. difficile infection and, upon administration, enhances resistance to infection in a secondary bile acid dependent fashion. Using a workflow involving mouse models, clinical studies, metagenomic analyses, and mathematical modelling, we identify a probiotic candidate that corrects a clinically relevant microbiome deficiency. These findings have implications for the rational design of targeted antimicrobials as well as microbiome-based diagnostics and therapeutics for individuals at risk of C. difficile infection.

  • Luminal signalling links cell communication to tissue architecture during organogenesis

  • Morphogenesis is the process whereby cell collectives are shaped into differentiated tissues and organs. The self-organizing nature of morphogenesis has been recently demonstrated by studies showing that stem cells in three-dimensional culture can generate complex organoids, such as mini-guts, optic-cups and even mini-brains. To achieve this, cell collectives must regulate the activity of secreted signalling molecules that control cell differentiation, presumably through the self-assembly of microenvironments or niches. However, mechanisms that allow changes in tissue architecture to feedback directly on the activity of extracellular signals have not been described. Here we investigate how the process of tissue assembly controls signalling activity during organogenesis in vivo, using the migrating zebrafish lateral line primordium. We show that fibroblast growth factor (FGF) activity within the tissue controls the frequency at which it deposits rosette-like mechanosensory organs. Live imaging reveals that FGF becomes specifically concentrated in microluminal structures that assemble at the centre of these organs and spatially constrain its signalling activity. Genetic inhibition of microlumen assembly and laser micropuncture experiments demonstrate that microlumina increase signalling responses in participating cells, thus allowing FGF to coordinate the migratory behaviour of cell groups at the tissue rear. As the formation of a central lumen is a self-organizing property of many cell types, such as epithelia and embryonic stem cells, luminal signalling provides a potentially general mechanism to locally restrict, coordinate and enhance cell communication within tissues.

  • Resolving the long-standing enigmas of a giant ornithomimosaur Deinocheirus mirificus

  • The holotype of Deinocheirus mirificus was collected by the 1965 Polish–Mongolian Palaeontological Expedition at Altan Uul III in the southern Gobi of Mongolia. Because the holotype consists mostly of giant forelimbs (2.4 m in length) with scapulocoracoids, for almost 50 years Deinocheirus has remained one of the most mysterious dinosaurs. The mosaic of ornithomimosaur and non-ornithomimosaur characters in the holotype has made it difficult to resolve the phylogenetic status of Deinocheirus. Here we describe two new specimens of Deinocheirus that were discovered in the Nemegt Formation of Altan Uul IV in 2006 and Bugiin Tsav in 2009. The Bugiin Tsav specimen (MPC-D 100/127) includes a left forelimb clearly identifiable as Deinocheirus and is 6% longer than the holotype. The Altan Uul IV specimen (MPC-D 100/128) is approximately 74% the size of MPC-D 100/127. Cladistic analysis indicates that Deinocheirus is the largest member of the Ornithomimosauria; however, it has many unique skeletal features unknown in other ornithomimosaurs, indicating that Deinocheirus was a heavily built, non-cursorial animal with an elongate snout, a deep jaw, tall neural spines, a pygostyle, a U-shaped furcula, an expanded pelvis for strong muscle attachments, a relatively short hind limb and broad-tipped pedal unguals. Ecomorphological features in the skull, more than a thousand gastroliths, and stomach contents (fish remains) suggest that Deinocheirus was a megaomnivore that lived in mesic environments.

  • In vivo engineering of oncogenic chromosomal rearrangements with the CRISPR/Cas9 system

  • Chromosomal rearrangements have a central role in the pathogenesis of human cancers and often result in the expression of therapeutically actionable gene fusions. A recently discovered example is a fusion between the genes echinoderm microtubule-associated protein like 4 (EML4) and anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK), generated by an inversion on the short arm of chromosome 2: inv(2)(p21p23). The EML4–ALK oncogene is detected in a subset of human non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) and is clinically relevant because it confers sensitivity to ALK inhibitors. Despite their importance, modelling such genetic events in mice has proven challenging and requires complex manipulation of the germ line. Here we describe an efficient method to induce specific chromosomal rearrangements in vivo using viral-mediated delivery of the CRISPR/Cas9 system to somatic cells of adult animals. We apply it to generate a mouse model of Eml4–Alk-driven lung cancer. The resulting tumours invariably harbour theEml4–Alk inversion, express the Eml4–Alk fusion gene, display histopathological and molecular features typical of ALK+ human NSCLCs, and respond to treatment with ALK inhibitors. The general strategy described here substantially expands our ability to model human cancers in mice and potentiallyin other organisms.

  • Productivity limits and potentials of the principles of conservation agriculture

  • One of the primary challenges of our time is to feed a growing and more demanding world population with reduced external inputs and minimal environmental impacts, all under more variable and extreme climate conditions in the future. Conservation agriculture represents a set of three crop management principles that has received strong international support to help address this challenge, with recent conservation agriculture efforts focusing on smallholder farming systems in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. However, conservation agriculture is highly debated, with respect to both its effects on crop yields and its applicability in different farming contexts. Here we conduct a global meta-analysis using 5,463 paired yield observations from 610 studies to compare no-till, the original and central concept of conservation agriculture, with conventional tillage practices across 48 crops and 63 countries. Overall, our results show that no-till reduces yields, yet this response is variable and under certain conditions no-till can produce equivalent or greater yields than conventional tillage. Importantly, when no-till is combined with the other two conservation agriculture principles of residue retention and crop rotation, its negative impacts are minimized. Moreover, no-till in combination with the other two principles significantly increases rainfed crop productivity in dry climates, suggesting that it may become an important climate-change adaptation strategy for ever-drier regions of the world. However, any expansion of conservation agriculture should be done with caution in these areas, as implementation of the other two principles is often challenging in resource-poor and vulnerable smallholder farming systems, thereby increasing the likelihood of yield losses rather than gains. Although farming systems are multifunctional, and environmental and socio-economic factors need to be considered, our analysis indicates that the potential contribution of no-till to the sustainable intensification of agriculture is more limited than often assumed.

  • Rapid modelling of cooperating genetic events in cancer through somatic genome editing

  • Cancer is a multistep process that involves mutations and other alterations in oncogenes and tumour suppressor genes. Genome sequencing studies have identified a large collection of genetic alterations that occur in human cancers. However, the determination of which mutations are causally related to tumorigenesis remains a major challenge. Here we describe a novel CRISPR/Cas9-based approach for rapid functional investigation of candidate genes in well-established autochthonous mouse models of cancer. Using a KrasG12D-driven lung cancer model, we performed functional characterization of a panel of tumour suppressor genes with known loss-of-function alterations in human lung cancer. Cre-dependent somatic activation of oncogenic KrasG12D combined with CRISPR/Cas9-mediated genome editing of tumour suppressor genes resulted in lung adenocarcinomas with distinct histopathological and molecular features. This rapid somatic genome engineering approach enables functional characterization of putative cancer genes in the lung and other tissues using autochthonous mouse models. We anticipate that this approach can be used to systematically dissect the complex catalogue of mutations identified in cancer genome sequencing studies.

  • Allosteric activation of the RNF146 ubiquitin ligase by a poly(ADP-ribosyl)ation signal

  • Protein poly(ADP-ribosyl)ation (PARylation) has a role in diverse cellular processes such as DNA repair, transcription, Wnt signalling, and cell death. Recent studies have shown that PARylation can serve as a signal for the polyubiquitination and degradation of several crucial regulatory proteins, including Axin and 3BP2 (refs 7, 8, 9). The RING-type E3 ubiquitin ligase RNF146 (also known as Iduna) is responsible for PARylation-dependent ubiquitination (PARdU). Here we provide a structural basis for RNF146-catalysed PARdU and how PARdU specificity is achieved. First, we show that iso-ADP-ribose (iso-ADPr), the smallest internal poly(ADP-ribose) (PAR) structural unit, binds between the WWE and RING domains of RNF146 and functions as an allosteric signal that switches the RING domain from a catalytically inactive state to an active one. In the absence of PAR, the RING domain is unable to bind and activate a ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme (E2) efficiently. Binding of PAR or iso-ADPr induces a major conformational change that creates a functional RING structure. Thus, RNF146 represents a new mechanistic class of RING E3 ligases, the activities of which are regulated by non-covalent ligand binding, and that may provide a template for designing inducible protein-degradation systems. Second, we find that RNF146 directly interacts with the PAR polymerase tankyrase (TNKS). Disruption of the RNF146–TNKS interaction inhibits turnover of the substrate Axin in cells. Thus, both substrate PARylation and PARdU are catalysed by enzymes within the same protein complex, and PARdU substrate specificity may be primarily determined by the substrate–TNKS interaction. We propose that the maintenance of unliganded RNF146 in an inactive state may serve to maintain the stability of the RNF146–TNKS complex, which in turn regulates the homeostasis of PARdU activity in the cell.

  • Copulation in antiarch placoderms and the origin of gnathostome internal fertilization

  • Reproduction in jawed vertebrates (gnathostomes) involves either external or internal fertilization. It is commonly argued that internal fertilization can evolve from external, but not the reverse. Male copulatory claspers are present in certain placoderms, fossil jawed vertebrates retrieved as a paraphyletic segment of the gnathostome stem group in recent studies. This suggests that internal fertilization could be primitive for gnathostomes, but such a conclusion depends on demonstrating that copulation was not just a specialized feature of certain placoderm subgroups. The reproductive biology of antiarchs, consistently identified as the least crownward placoderms and thus of great interest in this context, has until now remained unknown. Here we show that certain antiarchs possessed dermal claspers in the males, while females bore paired dermal plates inferred to have facilitated copulation. These structures are not associated with pelvic fins. The clasper morphology resembles that of ptyctodonts, a more crownward placoderm group, suggesting that all placoderm claspers are homologous and that internal fertilization characterized all placoderms. This implies that external fertilization and spawning, which characterize most extant aquatic gnathostomes, must be derived from internal fertilization, even though this transformation has been thought implausible. Alternatively, the substantial morphological evidence for placoderm paraphyly must be rejected.

  • Reductive dehalogenase structure suggests a mechanism for B12-dependent dehalogenation

  • Organohalide chemistry underpins many industrial and agricultural processes, and a large proportion of environmental pollutants are organohalides. Nevertheless, organohalide chemistry is not exclusively of anthropogenic origin, with natural abiotic and biological processes contributing to the global halide cycle. Reductive dehalogenases are responsible for biological dehalogenation in organohalide respiring bacteria, with substrates including polychlorinated biphenyls or dioxins. Reductive dehalogenases form a distinct subfamily of cobalamin (B12)-dependent enzymes that are usually membrane associated and oxygen sensitive, hindering detailed studies. Here we report the characterization of a soluble, oxygen-tolerant reductive dehalogenase and, by combining structure determination with EPR (electron paramagnetic resonance) spectroscopy and simulation, show that a direct interaction between the cobalamin cobalt and the substrate halogen underpins catalysis. In contrast to the carbon–cobalt bond chemistry catalysed by the other cobalamin-dependent subfamilies, we propose that reductive dehalogenases achieve reduction of the organohalide substrate via halogen–cobalt bond formation. This presents a new model in both organohalide and cobalamin (bio)chemistry that will guide future exploitation of these enzymes in bioremediation or biocatalysis.

  • Suppression of cooling by strong magnetic fields in white dwarf stars

  • Isolated cool white dwarf stars more often have strong magnetic fields than young, hotter white dwarfs, which has been a puzzle because magnetic fields are expected to decay with time but a cool surface suggests that the star is old. In addition, some white dwarfs with strong fields vary in brightness as they rotate, which has been variously attributed to surface brightness inhomogeneities similar to sunspots, chemical inhomogeneities and other magneto-optical effects. Here we describe optical observations of the brightness and magnetic field of the cool white dwarf WD 1953-011 taken over about eight years, and the results of an analysis of its surface temperature and magnetic field distribution. We find that the magnetic field suppresses atmospheric convection, leading to dark spots in the most magnetized areas. We also find that strong fields are sufficient to suppress convection over the entire surface in cool magnetic white dwarfs, which inhibits their cooling evolution relative to weakly magnetic and non-magnetic white dwarfs, making them appear younger than they truly are. This explains the long-standing mystery of why magnetic fields are more common amongst cool white dwarfs, and implies that the currently accepted ages of strongly magnetic white dwarfs are systematically too young.

  • Hepatitis A virus and the origins of picornaviruses

  • Hepatitis A virus (HAV) remains enigmatic, despite 1.4 million cases worldwide annually. It differs radically from other picornaviruses, existing in an enveloped form and being unusually stable, both genetically and physically, but has proved difficult to study. Here we report high-resolution X-ray structures for the mature virus and the empty particle. The structures of the two particles are indistinguishable, apart from some disorder on the inside of the empty particle. The full virus contains the small viral protein VP4, whereas the empty particle harbours only the uncleaved precursor, VP0. The smooth particle surface is devoid of depressions that might correspond to receptor-binding sites. Peptide scanning data extend the previously reported VP3 antigenic site, while structure-based predictions suggest further epitopes. HAV contains no pocket factor and can withstand remarkably high temperature and low pH, and empty particles are even more robust than full particles. The virus probably uncoats via a novel mechanism, being assembled differently to other picornaviruses. It utilizes a VP2‘domain swap’ characteristic of insect picorna-like viruses, and structure-based phylogenetic analysis places HAV between typical picornaviruses and the insect viruses. The enigmatic properties of HAV may reflect its position as a link between ‘modern’ picornaviruses and the more ‘primitive’ precursor insect viruses; for instance, HAV retains the ability to move from cell-to-cell by transcytosis.

  • Identification of multipotent mammary stem cells by protein C receptor expression

  • The mammary gland is composed of multiple types of epithelial cells, which are generated by mammary stem cells (MaSCs) residing at the top of the hierarchy. However, the existence of these multipotent MaSCs remains controversial and the nature of such cells is unknown. Here we demonstrate that protein C receptor (Procr), a novel Wnt target in the mammary gland, marks a unique population of multipotent mouse MaSCs. Procr-positive cells localize to the basal layer, exhibit epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition characteristics, and express low levels of basal keratins. Procr-expressing cells have a high regenerative capacity in transplantation assays and differentiate into all lineages of the mammary epithelium by lineage tracing. These results define a novel multipotent mammary stem cell population that could be important in the initiation of breast cancer.

  • Ecology: Diversity breeds complementarity

  • Evolutionary and ecosystem processes have long been treated as distinct. The finding that interactions among plant species cause rapid evolutionary changes that affect ecosystem function suggests that it is time for unification.

  • Adenosine activates brown adipose tissue and recruits beige adipocytes via A2A receptors

  • Brown adipose tissue (BAT) is specialized in energy expenditure, making it a potential target for anti-obesity therapies. Following exposure to cold, BAT is activated by the sympathetic nervous system with concomitant release of catecholamines and activation ofβ-adrenergic receptors. Because BAT therapies based on cold exposure or β-adrenergic agonists are clinically not feasible, alternative strategies must be explored. Purinergic co-transmission might be involved in sympathetic control of BAT and previous studies reported inhibitory effects of the purinergic transmitter adenosine in BAT from hamster or rat. However, the role of adenosine in human BAT is unknown. Here we show that adenosine activates human and murine brown adipocytes at low nanomolar concentrations. Adenosine is released in BAT during stimulation of sympathetic nerves as well asfrom brown adipocytes. The adenosine A2A receptor is the most abundant adenosine receptor in human and murine BAT. Pharmacological blockade or genetic loss of A2A receptors in mice causes a decrease in BAT-dependent thermogenesis, whereas treatment with A2A agonists significantly increases energy expenditure. Moreover, pharmacological stimulation of A2A receptors or injection of lentiviral vectors expressing the A2A receptor into white fat induces brown-like cells—so-called beige adipocytes. Importantly, mice fed a high-fat diet and treated with an A2A agonist are leaner with improved glucose tolerance. Taken together, our results demonstrate that adenosine–A2A signalling plays an unexpected physiological role in sympathetic BAT activation and protects mice from diet-induced obesity. Those findings reveal new possibilities for developing novel obesity therapies.

  • T–B-cell entanglement and ICOSL-driven feed-forward regulation of germinal centre reaction

  • The germinal centre (GC) reaction supports affinity-based B-cell competition and generates high-affinity bone-marrow plasma cells (BMPCs). How follicular T-helper (TFH) cells regulate GC selection is not clear. Using competitive mixed chimaera, we show here that, beyond the role in promoting TFH development, ICOSL (inducible T-cell co-stimulator ligand, also known as ICOSLG) is important for individual B cells to competitively participate in the GC reaction and to develop into BMPCs. Using intravital imaging aided by a calcium reporter, we further show that ICOSL promotes an‘entangled’ mode of TFH–B-cell interactions, characterized by brief but extensive surface engagement, productive T-cell calcium spikes, and B-cell acquisition of CD40 signals. Reiterated entanglement promotes outer-zone co-localization of outcompeting GC B cells together with TFH cells, affording the former increased access to T-cell help. ICOSL on GC B cells is upregulated by CD40 signals. Such an intercellular positive feedback between contact-dependent help and ICOSL-controlled entanglement promotes positive selection and BMPC development, as evidenced by observations that higher-affinity B-cell receptor variants are enriched in the ICOSLhigh fraction, that numerically disadvantaged ICOSL-deficient GC B cells or BMPCs exhibit strong affinity compensation in competitive chimaera, and that when GC competition proceeds without ICOSL, selection of high-affinity variants in otherwise normal GC reactions is impaired. By demonstrating entanglement as the basic form of GC TFH–B-cell interactions, identifying ICOSL as a molecular linkage between T–B interactional dynamics and positive selection for high-affinity BMPC formation, our study reveals a pathway by which TFH cells control the quality of long-lived humoral immunity.

  • Origins of major archaeal clades correspond to gene acquisitions from bacteria

  • The mechanisms that underlie the origin of major prokaryotic groups are poorly understood. In principle, the origin of both species and higher taxa among prokaryotes should entail similar mechanisms—ecological interactions with the environment paired with natural genetic variation involving lineage-specific gene innovations and lineage-specific gene acquisitions. To investigate the origin of higher taxa in archaea, we have determined gene distributions and gene phylogenies for the 267,568 protein-coding genes of 134 sequenced archaeal genomes in the context of their homologues from 1,847 reference bacterial genomes. Archaeal-specific gene families define 13 traditionally recognized archaeal higher taxa in our sample. Here we report that the origins of these 13 groups unexpectedly correspond to 2,264 group-specific gene acquisitions from bacteria. Interdomain gene transfer is highly asymmetric, transfers from bacteria to archaea are more than fivefold more frequent than vice versa. Gene transfers identified at major evolutionary transitions among prokaryotes specifically implicate gene acquisitions for metabolic functions from bacteria as key innovations in the origin of higher archaeal taxa.

  • Primate-specific endogenous retrovirus-driven transcription defines naive-like stem cells

  • Naive embryonic stem cells hold great promise for research and therapeutics as they have broad and robust developmental potential. While such cells are readily derived from mouse blastocysts it has not been possible to isolate human equivalents easily, although human naive-like cells have been artificially generated (rather than extracted) by coercion of human primed embryonic stem cells by modifying culture conditions or through transgenic modification. Here we show that a sub-population within cultures of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) manifests key properties of naive state cells. These naive-like cells can be genetically tagged, and are associated with elevated transcription of HERVH, a primate-specific endogenous retrovirus. HERVH elements provide functional binding sites for a combination of naive pluripotency transcription factors, including LBP9, recently recognized as relevant to naivety in mice. LBP9–HERVH drives hESC-specific alternative and chimaeric transcripts, including pluripotency-modulating long non-coding RNAs. Disruption of LBP9, HERVH and HERVH-derived transcripts compromises self-renewal. These observations define HERVH expression as a hallmark of naive-like hESCs, and establish novel primate-specific transcriptional circuitry regulating pluripotency.

  • Selection for niche differentiation in plant communities increases biodiversity effects

  • In experimental plant communities, relationships between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning have been found to strengthen over time, a fact often attributed to increased resource complementarity between species in mixtures and negative plant–soil feedbacks in monocultures. Here we show that selection for niche differentiation between species can drive this increasing biodiversity effect. Growing 12 grassland species in test monocultures and mixtures, we found character displacement between species and increased biodiversity effects when plants had been selected over 8 years in species mixtures rather than in monocultures. When grown in mixtures, relative differences in height and specific leaf area between plant species selected in mixtures (mixture types) were greater than between species selected in monocultures (monoculturetypes). Furthermore, net biodiversity and complementarity effects were greater in mixtures of mixture types than in mixtures of monoculture types. Our study demonstrates a novel mechanism for the increase in biodiversity effects: selection for increased niche differentiation through character displacement. Selection in diverse mixtures may therefore increase species coexistence and ecosystem functioning in natural communities and may also allow increased mixture yields in agriculture or forestry. However, loss of biodiversity and prolonged selection of crops in monoculture may compromise thispotential for selection in the longer term.

  • Centriole amplification by mother and daughter centrioles differs in multiciliated cells

  • The semi-conservative centrosome duplication in cycling cells gives rise to a centrosome composed of a mother and a newly formed daughter centriole. Both centrioles are regarded as equivalent in their ability to form new centrioles and their symmetric duplication is crucial for cell division homeostasis. Multiciliated cells do not use the archetypal duplication program and instead form more than a hundred centrioles that are required for the growth of motile cilia and the efficient propelling of physiological fluids. The majority of these new centrioles are thought to appear de novo, that is, independently from the centrosome, around electron-dense structures called deuterosomes. Their origin remains unknown. Using live imaging combined with correlative super-resolution light and electron microscopy, we show that all new centrioles derive from the pre-existing progenitor cell centrosome through multiple rounds of procentriole seeding. Moreover, we establish that only the daughter centrosomal centriole contributes to deuterosome formation, and thus to over ninety per cent of the final centriole population. This unexpected centriolar asymmetry grants new perspectives when studying cilia-related diseases and pathological centriole amplification observed in cycling cells and associated with microcephaly and cancer.

  • A three-dimensional human neural cell culture model of Alzheimer’s disease

  • Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, characterized by two pathological hallmarks: amyloid-β plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. The amyloid hypothesis of Alzheimer’s disease posits that the excessive accumulation of amyloid-β peptide leads to neurofibrillary tangles composed of aggregated hyperphosphorylated tau. However, to date, no single disease model has serially linked these two pathological events using human neuronal cells. Mouse models with familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD) mutations exhibit amyloid-β-induced synaptic and memory deficits but they do not fully recapitulate other key pathological events of Alzheimer’s disease, including distinct neurofibrillary tangle pathology. Human neurons derived from Alzheimer’s disease patients have shown elevated levels of toxic amyloid-β species and phosphorylated tau but did not demonstrate amyloid-β plaques orneurofibrillary tangles. Here we report that FAD mutations in β-amyloid precursor protein and presenilin 1 are able to induce robust extracellular deposition of amyloid-β, including amyloid-β plaques, in a human neural stem-cell-derived three-dimensional (3D) culture system. More importantly, the 3D-differentiated neuronal cells expressing FAD mutations exhibited high levels of detergent-resistant, silver-positive aggregates of phosphorylated tau in the soma and neurites, as well as filamentous tau, as detected by immunoelectron microscopy. Inhibition of amyloid-β generation with β- or γ-secretase inhibitors not only decreased amyloid-β pathology, but also attenuated tauopathy. We also found that glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3) regulated amyloid-β-mediated tau phosphorylation. We have successfully recapitulated amyloid-β and tau pathology in a single 3D human neural cell culture system. Our unique strategy for recapitulating Alzheimer’s disease pathology in a 3D neural cell culture model should also serve to facilitate the development of more precise human neural cell models of other neurodegenerative disorders.

  • Structure of an integral membrane sterol reductase from Methylomicrobium alcaliphilum

  • Sterols are essential biological molecules in the majority of life forms. Sterol reductases includingΔ14-sterol reductase (C14SR, also known as TM7SF2), 7-dehydrocholesterol reductase (DHCR7) and 24-dehydrocholesterol reductase (DHCR24) reduce specific carbon–carbon double bonds of the sterol moiety using a reducing cofactor during sterol biosynthesis. Lamin B receptor (LBR), an integral inner nuclear membrane protein, also contains a functional C14SR domain. Here we report the crystal structure of a Δ14-sterol reductase (MaSR1) from the methanotrophic bacterium Methylomicrobium alcaliphilum 20Z (a homologue of human C14SR, LBR and DHCR7) with the cofactor NADPH. The enzyme contains ten transmembrane segments (TM1–10). Its catalytic domain comprises the carboxy-terminal half (containing TM6–10) and envelops two interconnected pockets, one of which faces the cytoplasm and houses NADPH, while the other one is accessible from the lipid bilayer. Comparison with a soluble steroid 5β-reductase structure suggests that the reducing end of NADPH meets the sterol substrate at the juncture of the two pockets. A sterol reductase activity assay proves that MaSR1 can reduce the double bond of a cholesterol biosynthetic intermediate, demonstrating functional conservation to human C14SR. Therefore, our structure as a prototype of integral membrane sterol reductases provides molecular insight into mutations in DHCR7 and LBR for inborn human diseases.

  • Cohesin-dependent globules and heterochromatin shape 3D genome architecture in S. pombe

  • Eukaryotic genomes are folded into three-dimensional structures, such as self-associating topological domains, the borders of which are enriched in cohesin and CCCTC-binding factor (CTCF) required for long-range interactions. How local chromatin interactions govern higher-order folding of chromatin fibres and the function of cohesin in this process remain poorly understood. Here we perform genome-wide chromatin conformation capture (Hi-C) analysis to explore the high-resolution organization of the Schizosaccharomyces pombe genome, which despite its small size exhibits fundamental features found in other eukaryotes. Our analyses of wild-type and mutant strains reveal key elements of chromosome architecture and genome organization. On chromosome arms, small regions of chromatin locally interact to form‘globules’. This feature requires a function of cohesin distinct from its role in sister chromatid cohesion. Cohesin is enriched at globule boundaries and its loss causes disruption of local globule structures and global chromosome territories. By contrast, heterochromatin, which loads cohesin at specific sites including pericentromeric and subtelomeric domains, is dispensable for globule formation but nevertheless affects genome organization. We show that heterochromatin mediates chromatin fibre compaction at centromeres and promotes prominent inter-arm interactions within centromere-proximal regions, providing structural constraints crucial for proper genome organization. Loss of heterochromatin relaxes constraints on chromosomes, causing an increase in intra- and inter-chromosomal interactions. Together, our analyses uncover fundamental genome folding principles that drive higher-order chromosome organization crucial for coordinating nuclear functions.

  • Human intracellular ISG15 prevents interferon-α/β over-amplification and auto-inflammation

  • Intracellular ISG15 is an interferon (IFN)-α/β-inducible ubiquitin-like modifier which can covalently bind other proteins in a process called ISGylation; it is an effector of IFN-α/β-dependent antiviral immunity in mice. We previously published a study describing humans with inherited ISG15 deficiency but without unusually severe viraldiseases. We showed that these patients were prone to mycobacterial disease and that human ISG15 was non-redundant as an extracellular IFN-γ-inducing molecule. We show here that ISG15-deficient patients also display unanticipated cellular, immunological and clinical signs of enhanced IFN-α/β immunity, reminiscent of the Mendelian autoinflammatory interferonopathies Aicardi–Goutières syndrome and spondyloenchondrodysplasia. We further show that an absence of intracellular ISG15 in the patients’ cells prevents the accumulation of USP18, a potent negative regulator of IFN-α/β signalling, resulting in the enhancement and amplification of IFN-α/β responses. Human ISG15, therefore, is not only redundant for antiviral immunity, but is a key negative regulator of IFN-α/β immunity. In humans, intracellular ISG15 is IFN-α/β-inducible not to serve as a substrate for ISGylation-dependent antiviral immunity, but to ensure USP18-dependent regulation of IFN-α/β and prevention of IFN-α/β-dependent autoinflammation.

  • Neuroscience: Towards unified vesicle endocytosis

  • An ultrafast, temperature-dependent mode of endocytosis, a process that is required for neurons to repeatedly fire, challenges current thinking and brings an old model back into the spotlight.

  • Clathrin regenerates synaptic vesicles from endosomes

  • Ultrastructural analysis of synaptic vesicle recycling reveals that clathrin is not required for the initial rapid step of vesicle recycling by ultrafast endocytosis at the plasma membrane and instead clathrin acts later at an endosome to regenerate synaptic vesicles; however, when ultrafast endocytosis does not occur (for example, in experiments at room temperature rather than physiological temperature), clathrin-mediated endocytosis does happen at the plasma membrane.

  • Rapid development of broadly influenza neutralizing antibodies through redundant mutations

  • The neutralizing antibody response to influenza virus is dominated by antibodies that bind to the globular head of haemagglutinin, which undergoes a continuous antigenic drift, necessitating the re-formulation of influenza vaccines on an annual basis. Recently, several laboratories have described a new class of rare influenza-neutralizing antibodies that target a conserved site in the haemagglutinin stem. Most of these antibodies use the heavy-chain variable region VH1-69 gene, and structural data demonstrate that they bind to the haemagglutinin stem through conserved heavy-chain complementarity determining region (HCDR) residues. However, the VH1-69 antibodies are highly mutated and are produced by some but not all individuals, suggesting that several somatic mutations may be required for their development. To address this, here we characterize 197 anti-stem antibodies from a single donor, reconstruct the developmental pathways of several VH1-69 clones and identify two key elements that are required for the initial development of most VH1-69 antibodies: a polymorphic germline-encoded phenylalanine at position 54 and a conserved tyrosine at position 98 in HCDR3. Strikingly, in most cases a single proline to alanine mutation at position 52a in HCDR2 is sufficient to confer high affinity binding to the selecting H1 antigen, consistent with rapid affinity maturation. Surprisingly, additional favourable mutations continue to accumulate, increasing the breadth of reactivity and making both the initial mutations and phenylalanine at position 54 functionally redundant. These results define VH1-69 allele polymorphism, rearrangement of the VDJ gene segments and single somatic mutations as the three requirements for generating broadly neutralizing VH1-69 antibodies and reveal an unexpected redundancy in the affinity maturation process.

  • R-loops induce repressive chromatin marks over mammalian gene terminators

  • The formation of R-loops is a natural consequence of the transcription process, caused by invasion of the DNA duplex by nascent transcripts. These structures have been considered rare transcriptional by-products with potentially harmful effects on genome integrity owing to the fragility of the displaced DNA coding strand. However, R-loops may also possess beneficial effects, as their widespread formation has been detected over CpG island promoters in human genes. Furthermore, we have previously shown that R-loops are particularly enriched over G-rich terminator elements. These facilitate RNA polymerase II (Pol II) pausing before efficient termination. Here we reveal an unanticipated link between R-loops and RNA-interference-dependent H3K9me2 formation over pause-site termination regions in mammalian protein-coding genes. We show that R-loops induce antisense transcription over these pause elements, which in turn leads to the generation of double-stranded RNA and the recruitment of DICER, AGO1, AGO2 and the G9a histone lysine methyltransferase. Consequently, an H3K9me2 repressive mark is formed and heterochromatin protein 1γ (HP1γ) is recruited, which reinforces Pol II pausing before efficient transcriptional termination. We predict that R-loops promote a chromatin architecture that defines the termination region for a substantial subset of mammalian genes.

  • Animal behaviour: Incipient tradition in wild chimpanzees

  • The adoption of a new form of tool use has been observed to spread along social-network pathways in a chimpanzee community. The finding offers the first direct evidence of cultural diffusion in these animals in the wild.

  • An evolutionary arms race between KRAB zinc-finger genes ZNF91/93 and SVA/L1 retrotransposons

  • Throughout evolution primate genomes have been modified by waves of retrotransposon insertions. For each wave, the host eventually finds a way to repress retrotransposon transcription and prevent further insertions. In mouse embryonic stem cells, transcriptional silencing of retrotransposons requires KAP1 (also known as TRIM28) and its repressive complex, which can be recruited to target sites by KRAB zinc-finger (KZNF) proteins such as murine-specific ZFP809 which binds to integrated murine leukaemia virus DNA elements and recruits KAP1 to repress them. KZNF genes are one of the fastest growing gene families in primates and this expansion is hypothesized to enable primates to respond to newly emerged retrotransposons. However, the identity of KZNF genes battling retrotransposons currently active in the human genome, such as SINE-VNTR-Alu (SVA) and long interspersed nuclear element 1 (L1), is unknown. Here we show that two primate-specific KZNF genes rapidly evolved to repress these two distinct retrotransposon families shortly after they began to spread in our ancestral genome. ZNF91 underwent a series of structural changes 8–12 million years ago that enabled it to repress SVA elements. ZNF93 evolved earlier to repress the primate L1 lineage until ∼12.5 million years ago when the L1PA3-subfamily of retrotransposons escaped ZNF93’s restriction through the removal of the ZNF93-binding site. Our data support a modelwhere KZNF gene expansion limits the activity of newly emerged retrotransposon classes, and this is followed by mutations in these retrotransposons to evade repression, a cycle of events that could explain the rapid expansion of lineage-specific KZNF genes.

  • Dietary modulation of the microbiome affects autoinflammatory disease

  • The incidences of chronic inflammatory disorders have increased considerably over the past three decades. Recent shifts in dietary consumption may have contributed importantly to this surge, but how dietary consumption modulates inflammatory disease is poorly defined. Pstpip2cmo mice, which express a homozygous Leu98Pro missense mutation in the Pombe Cdc15 homology family protein PSTPIP2 (proline-serine-threonine phosphatase interacting protein 2), spontaneously develop osteomyelitis that resembles chronic recurrent multifocal osteomyelitis in humans. Recent reports demonstrated a crucial role for interleukin-1β (IL-1β) in osteomyelitis, but deletion of the inflammasome components caspase-1 and NLRP3 failed to rescue Pstpip2cmo mice from inflammatory bone disease. Thus, the upstream mechanisms controlling IL-1β production in Pstpip2cmo mice remain to be identified. In addition, the environmental factors driving IL-1β-dependent inflammatory bone erosion are unknown. Here we show that the intestinal microbiota of diseased Pstpip2cmo mice was characterized by an outgrowth of Prevotella. Notably, Pstpip2cmo mice that were fed a diet rich in fat and cholesterol maintained a normal body weight, but were markedly protected against inflammatory bone disease and bone erosion. Diet-induced protection against osteomyelitis was accompanied by marked reductions in intestinal Prevotella levels and significantly reduced pro-IL-1β expression in distant neutrophils. Furthermore, pro-IL-1β expression wasalso decreased in Pstpip2cmo mice treated with antibiotics, and in wild-type mice that were kept under germ-free conditions. We further demonstrate that combined deletion of caspases 1 and 8 was required for protection against IL-1β-dependent inflammatory bone disease, whereas the deletion of either caspase alone or of elastase or neutrophil proteinase 3 failed to prevent inflammatory disease. Collectively, this work reveals diet-associated changes in the intestinal microbiome as a crucial factor regulating inflammasome- and caspase-8-mediated maturation of IL-1β and osteomyelitis in Pstpip2cmo mice.

  • Loss of signalling via Gα13 in germinal centre B-cell-derived lymphoma

  • Germinal centre B-cell-like diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (GCB-DLBCL) is a common malignancy, yet the signalling pathways that are deregulated and the factors leading to its systemic dissemination are poorly defined. Work in mice showed that sphingosine-1-phosphate receptor-2 (S1PR2), a Gα12 and Gα13 coupled receptor, promotes growth regulation and local confinement of germinal centre B cells. Recent deep sequencing studies of GCB-DLBCL have revealed mutations in many genes in this cancer, including in GNA13 (encoding Gα13) and S1PR2 (refs 5,6, 7). Here we show, using in vitro and in vivo assays, that GCB-DLBCL-associated mutations occurring in S1PR2 frequently disrupt the receptor’s Akt and migration inhibitory functions. Gα13-deficient mouse germinal centre B cells and human GCB-DLBCL cells were unable to suppress pAkt and migration in response to S1P, and Gα13-deficient mice developed germinal centre B-cell-derived lymphoma. Germinal centre B cells, unlike most lymphocytes, are tightly confined in lymphoid organs and do not recirculate. Remarkably, deficiency in Gα13, but not S1PR2, led to germinal centre B-cell dissemination into lymph and blood. GCB-DLBCL cell lines frequently carried mutations in the Gα13 effector ARHGEF1, and Arhgef1 deficiency also led to germinal centre B-cell dissemination. The incomplete phenocopy of Gα13- and S1PR2 deficiency led us to discover that P2RY8, an orphan receptor that is mutated in GCB-DLBCL and another germinal centre B-cell-derived malignancy, Burkitt’s lymphoma, also represses germinal centre B-cell growth and promotes confinement via Gα13. These findings identify a Gα13-dependent pathway that exerts dual actions in suppressing growth and blocking dissemination of germinal centre B cells that is frequently disrupted in germinal centre B-cell-derived lymphoma.

  • Programmable RNA recognition and cleavage by CRISPR/Cas9

  • The CRISPR-associated protein Cas9 is an RNA-guided DNA endonuclease that uses RNA–DNA complementarity to identify target sites for sequence-specific double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) cleavage. In its native context, Cas9 acts on DNA substrates exclusively because both binding and catalysis require recognition of a short DNA sequence, known as the protospacer adjacent motif (PAM), next to and on the strand opposite the twenty-nucleotide target site in dsDNA. Cas9 has proven to be a versatile tool for genome engineering and gene regulation in a large range of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cell types, and in whole organisms, but it has been thought to be incapable of targeting RNA.Here we show that Cas9 binds with high affinity to single-stranded RNA (ssRNA) targets matching the Cas9-associated guide RNA sequence when the PAM is presented in trans as a separate DNA oligonucleotide. Furthermore, PAM-presenting oligonucleotides (PAMmers) stimulate site-specific endonucleolyticcleavage of ssRNA targets, similar to PAM-mediated stimulation of Cas9-catalysed DNA cleavage. Using specially designed PAMmers, Cas9 can be specifically directed to bind or cut RNA targets while avoiding corresponding DNA sequences, and we demonstrate that this strategy enables the isolation of a specific endogenous messenger RNA from cells. These results reveal a fundamental connection between PAM binding and substrate selection by Cas9, and highlight the utility of Cas9 for programmable transcript recognition without the need for tags.

  • Mitochondrial UPR-regulated innate immunity provides resistance to pathogen infection

  • Metazoans identify and eliminate bacterial pathogens in microbe-rich environments such as the intestinal lumen; however, the mechanisms are unclear. Host cells could potentially use intracellular surveillance or stress response programs to detect pathogens that target monitored cellular activities and then initiate innate immune responses. Mitochondrial function is evaluated by monitoring mitochondrial protein import efficiency of the transcription factor ATFS-1, which mediates the mitochondrial unfolded protein response (UPRmt). During mitochondrial stress, mitochondrial import is impaired, allowing ATFS-1 to traffic to the nucleus where it mediates a transcriptional response to re-establish mitochondrial homeostasis. Here we examined the role of ATFS-1 in Caenorhabditis elegans during pathogen exposure, because during mitochondrial stress ATFS-1 induced not only mitochondrial protective genes but also innate immune genes that included a secreted lysozyme and anti-microbial peptides. Exposure to the pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa caused mitochondrial dysfunction and activation of the UPRmt. C. elegans lacking atfs-1 were susceptible to P. aeruginosa, whereas hyper-activation of ATFS-1 and the UPRmt improved clearance of P. aeruginosa from the intestine and prolonged C. elegans survival in a manner mainly independent of known innate immune pathways. We propose that ATFS-1 import efficiency and the UPRmt is a means to detect pathogens that target mitochondria and initiate a protective innate immune response.

  • Structural biology: Lariat lessons

  • The spliceosome enzyme complex removes intron sequences from RNA transcripts to form messenger RNA. The crystal structure of a lasso-shaped RNA suggests a mechanism for this splicing process.

  • Crystal structure of a eukaryotic group II intron lariat

  • This study determines the structure of a branched lariat RNA, providing insights into rearrangement of the intron between the two steps of RNA splicing.

  • Tyrosine phosphorylation of histone H2A by CK2 regulates transcriptional elongation

  • Post-translational histone modifications have a critical role in regulating transcription, the cell cycle, DNA replication and DNA damage repair. The identification of new histone modifications critical for transcriptional regulation at initiation, elongation or termination is of particular interest. Here we report a new layer of regulation in transcriptional elongation that is conserved from yeast to mammals. This regulation is based on the phosphorylation of a highly conserved tyrosine residue, Tyr 57, in histone H2A and is mediated by the unsuspected tyrosine kinase activity of casein kinase 2 (CK2). Mutation of Tyr 57 in H2A in yeast or inhibition of CK2 activity impairs transcriptional elongation in yeast as well as in mammalian cells. Genome-wide binding analysis reveals that CK2α, the catalytic subunit of CK2, binds across RNA-polymerase-II-transcribed coding genes and active enhancers. Mutation of Tyr 57 causes a loss of H2B mono-ubiquitination as well as H3K4me3 and H3K79me3, histone marks associated with active transcription. Mechanistically, both CK2 inhibition and the H2A(Y57F) mutation enhance H2B deubiquitination activity of the Spt-Ada-Gcn5 acetyltransferase (SAGA) complex, suggesting a critical role of this phosphorylation in coordinating the activity of the SAGA complex during transcription. Together, these results identify a new component of regulation in transcriptional elongation based on CK2-dependent tyrosine phosphorylation of the globular domain of H2A.

  • Global covariation of carbon turnover times with climate in terrestrial ecosystems

  • The response of the terrestrial carbon cycle to climate change is among the largest uncertainties affecting future climate change projections. The feedback between the terrestrial carbon cycle and climate is partly determined by changes in the turnover time of carbon in land ecosystems, which in turn is an ecosystem property that emerges from the interplay between climate, soil and vegetation type. Here we present a global, spatially explicit and observation-based assessment of whole-ecosystem carbon turnover times that combines new estimates of vegetation and soil organic carbon stocks and fluxes. We find that the overall mean global carbon turnover time is years (95 per cent confidence interval). On average, carbon resides in the vegetation and soil near the Equator for a shorter time than at latitudes north of 75° north (mean turnover times of 15 and 255 years, respectively). We identify a clear dependence of the turnover time on temperature, asexpected from our present understanding of temperature controls on ecosystem dynamics. Surprisingly, our analysis also reveals a similarly strong association between turnover time and precipitation. Moreover, we find that the ecosystem carbon turnover times simulated by state-of-the-art coupled climate/carbon-cycle models vary widely and that numerical simulations, on average, tend to underestimate the global carbon turnover time by 36 per cent. The models show stronger spatial relationships with temperature than do observation-based estimates, but generally do not reproduce the strong relationships with precipitation and predict faster carbon turnover in many semi-arid regions. Our findings suggest that future climate/carbon-cycle feedbacks may depend more strongly on changes in the hydrological cycle than is expected at present and is considered in Earth system models.

  • Cell differentiation and germ–soma separation in Ediacaran animal embryo-like fossils

  • Phosphorites of the Ediacaran Doushantuo Formation (∼600 million years old) yield spheroidal microfossils with a palintomic cell cleavage pattern. These fossils have been variously interpreted as sulphur-oxidizing bacteria, unicellular protists, mesomycetozoean-like holozoans, green algae akin to Volvox, and blastula embryos of early metazoans orbilaterian animals. However, their complete life cycle is unknown and it is uncertain whether they had a cellularly differentiated ontogenetic stage, making it difficult to test their various phylogenetic interpretations. Here we describe new spheroidal fossils from black phosphorites of the Doushantuo Formation that have been overlooked in previous studies. These fossils represent later developmental stages of previously published blastula-like fossils, and they show evidence for cell differentiation, germ–soma separation, and programmed cell death. Their complex multicellularity is inconsistent with a phylogenetic affinity with bacteria, unicellular protists, or mesomycetozoean-like holozoans. Available evidence also indicates that the Doushantuo fossils are unlikely crown-group animals or volvocine green algae. We conclude that an affinity with cellularly differentiated multicellular eukaryotes, including stem-group animals or algae, is likely but more data are needed to constrain further the exact phylogenetic affinity of the Doushantuo fossils.

  • Individual improvements and selective mortality shape lifelong migratory performance

  • Billions of organisms, from bacteria to humans, migrate each year and research on their migration biology is expanding rapidly through ever more sophisticated remote sensing technologies. However, little is known about how migratory performance develops through life for any organism. To date, age variation has been almost systematically simplified into a dichotomous comparison between recently born juveniles at their first migration versus adults of unknown age. These comparisons have regularly highlighted better migratory performance by adults compared with juveniles, but it is unknown whether such variation is gradual or abrupt and whether it is driven by improvements within the individual, by selective mortality of poor performers, or both. Here we exploit the opportunity offered by long-term monitoring of individuals through Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite tracking to combine within-individual and cross-sectional data on 364 migration episodes from 92 individuals of a raptorial bird, aged 1–27 years old. We show that the development of migratory behaviour follows a consistent trajectory, more gradual and prolonged than previously appreciated, and that this is promoted by both individual improvements and selective mortality, mainly operating in early life and during the pre-breedingmigration. Individuals of different age used different travelling tactics and varied in their ability to exploit tailwinds or to cope with wind drift. All individuals seemed aligned along a race with their contemporary peers, whose outcome was largely determined by the ability to depart early, affecting their subsequent recruitment, reproduction and survival. Understanding how climate change and human action can affect the migration of younger animals may be the key to managing and forecasting the declines of many threatened migrants.

  • Multiplex single-molecule interaction profiling of DNA-barcoded proteins

  • In contrast with advances in massively parallel DNA sequencing, high-throughput protein analyses are often limited by ensemble measurements, individual analyte purification and hence compromised quality and cost-effectiveness. Single-molecule protein detection using optical methods is limited by the number of spectrally non-overlapping chromophores. Here we introduce a single-molecular-interaction sequencing (SMI-seq) technology for parallel protein interaction profiling leveraging single-molecule advantages. DNA barcodes are attached to proteins collectively via ribosome display or individually via enzymatic conjugation. Barcoded proteins are assayed en masse in aqueous solution and subsequently immobilized in a polyacrylamide thin film to construct a random single-molecule array, where barcoding DNAs are amplified into in situ polymerase colonies (polonies) and analysed by DNA sequencing. This method allows precise quantification of various proteins with a theoretical maximum array density of over one million polonies per square millimetre. Furthermore, protein interactions can be measured on the basis of the statistics of colocalized polonies arising from barcoding DNAs of interacting proteins. Two demanding applications, G-protein coupled receptor and antibody-binding profiling, are demonstrated. SMI-seq enables‘library versus library’ screening in a one-pot assay, simultaneously interrogating molecular binding affinity and specificity.

  • Regulation of RNA polymerase II activation by histone acetylation in single living cells

  • In eukaryotic cells, post-translational histone modifications have an important role in gene regulation. Starting with early work on histone acetylation, a variety of residue-specific modifications have now been linked to RNA polymerase II (RNAP2) activity, but it remains unclear if these markers are active regulators of transcription or just passive byproducts. This is because studies have traditionally relied on fixed cell populations, meaning temporal resolution is limited to minutes at best, and correlated factors may not actually be present in the same cell at the same time. Complementary approaches are therefore needed to probe the dynamic interplay of histone modifications and RNAP2 with higher temporal resolution in single living cells. Here we address this problem by developing a system to track residue-specific histone modifications and RNAP2 phosphorylation in living cells by fluorescence microscopy. This increases temporal resolution to the tens-of-seconds range. Our single-cell analysis reveals histone H3 lysine-27 acetylation at a gene locus can alter downstream transcription kinetics by as much as 50%, affecting two temporally separate events. First acetylation enhances the search kinetics of transcriptional activators, and later the acetylation accelerates the transition of RNAP2 from initiation to elongation. Signatures of the latter can be found genome-wide using chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by sequencing. We argue that this regulation leads to a robust and potentially tunable transcriptional response.

  • Health: The weighty costs of non-caloric sweeteners

  • Analyses in mice and humans indicate that non-caloric artificial sweeteners may promote obesity-associated metabolic changes by changing the function of the bacteria that colonize the gut.

  • Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota

  • Non-caloric artificial sweeteners (NAS), widely used food additives considered to be safe and beneficial alternatives to sugars, are shown here to lead to the development of glucose intolerance through compositional and functional changes in the gut microbiota of mice, and the deleterious metabolic effects are transferred to germ-free mice by faecal transplant; NAS-induced dysbiosis and glucose intolerance are also demonstrated in healthy human subjects.

  • Members of the human gut microbiota involved in recovery from Vibrio cholerae infection

  • Given the global burden of diarrhoeal diseases, it is important to understand how members of the gut microbiota affect the risk for, course of, and recovery from disease in children and adults. The acute, voluminous diarrhoea caused by Vibrio cholerae represents a dramatic example of enteropathogen invasion and gut microbial community disruption. Here we conduct a detailed time-series metagenomic study of faecal microbiota collected during the acute diarrhoeal and recovery phases of cholera in a cohort of Bangladeshi adults living in an area with a high burden of disease. We find that recovery is characterized by a pattern of accumulation of bacterial taxa that shows similarities to the pattern of assembly/maturation of the gut microbiota in healthy Bangladeshi children. To define the underlying mechanisms, we introduce into gnotobiotic mice an artificial community composed of human gut bacterial species that directly correlate with recovery from cholera in adults and are indicative of normal microbiota maturation in healthy Bangladeshi children. One of the species, Ruminococcus obeum, exhibits consistent increases in its relative abundance upon V. cholerae infection of the mice. Follow-up analyses, including mono- and co-colonization studies, establish that R. obeum restricts V. cholerae colonization, that R. obeum luxS (autoinducer-2 (AI-2) synthase) expression and AI-2 production increase significantly with V. cholerae invasion, and that R. obeum AI-2 causes quorum-sensing-mediated repression of several V. cholerae colonization factors. Co-colonization with V. cholerae mutants discloses that R. obeum AI-2 reduces Vibrio colonization/pathogenicity through a novel pathway that does not depend on the V. cholerae AI-2 sensor, LuxP. The approach described can be used to mine the gut microbiota of Bangladeshi or other populations for members that use autoinducers and/or other mechanisms to limit colonization with V. cholerae, or conceivably other enteropathogens.

  • High secondary aerosol contribution to particulate pollution during haze events in China

  • Rapid industrialization and urbanization in developing countries has led to an increase in air pollution, along a similar trajectory to that previously experienced by the developed nations. In China, particulate pollution is a serious environmental problem that is influencing air quality, regional and global climates, and human health. In response to the extremely severe and persistent haze pollution experienced by about 800 million people during the first quarter of 2013 (refs 4, 5), the Chinese State Council announced its aim to reduce concentrations of PM2.5 (particulate matter with an aerodynamic diameter less than 2.5 micrometres) by up to 25 per cent relative to 2012 levels by 2017 (ref. 6). Such efforts however require elucidation of the factors governing the abundance and composition of PM2.5, which remain poorly constrained in China. Here we combine a comprehensive set of novel and state-of-the-art offlineanalytical approaches and statistical techniques to investigate the chemical nature and sources of particulate matter at urban locations in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xi’an during January 2013. We find that the severe haze pollution event was driven to a large extent by secondary aerosol formation, which contributed 30–77 per cent and 44–71 per cent (average for all four cities) of PM2.5 and of organic aerosol, respectively. On average, the contribution of secondary organic aerosol (SOA) and secondary inorganic aerosol (SIA) are found to be of similar importance (SOA/SIA ratios range from 0.6 to 1.4). Our results suggest that, in addition to mitigating primary particulate emissions, reducing the emissions of secondary aerosol precursors from, for example, fossil fuel combustion and biomass burning is likely to be important for controlling China’s PM2.5 levels and for reducing the environmental, economic and health impacts resulting from particulate pollution.

  • Large, non-saturating magnetoresistance in WTe2

  • Magnetoresistance is the change in a material’s electrical resistance in response to an applied magnetic field. Materials with large magnetoresistance have found use as magnetic sensors, in magnetic memory, and in hard drives at room temperature, and their rarity has motivated many fundamental studies in materials physics at low temperatures. Here we report the observation of an extremely large positive magnetoresistance at low temperatures in the non-magnetic layered transition-metal dichalcogenide WTe2: 452,700 per cent at 4.5 kelvins in a magnetic field of 14.7 teslas, and 13 million per cent at 0.53 kelvins in a magnetic field of 60 teslas. In contrast with other materials, there is no saturation of the magnetoresistance value even at very high applied fields. Determination of the origin and consequences of this effect, and the fabrication of thin films, nanostructures and devices based on the extremely large positive magnetoresistance of WTe2, will represent a significant new direction in the study of magnetoresistivity.

  • Epigenetic reprogramming that prevents transgenerational inheritance of the vernalized state

  • The reprogramming of epigenetic states in gametes and embryos is essential for correct development in plants and mammals. In plants, the germ line arises from somatic tissues of the flower, necessitating the erasure of chromatin modifications that have accumulated at specific loci during development or in response to external stimuli. If this process occurs inefficiently, it can lead to epigenetic states being inherited from one generation to the next. However, in most cases, accumulated epigenetic modifications are efficiently erased before the next generation. An important example of epigenetic reprogramming in plants is the resetting of the expression of the floral repressor locus FLC in Arabidopsis thaliana. FLC is epigenetically silenced by prolonged cold in a process called vernalization. However, the locus is reactivated before the completion of seed development, ensuring the requirement for vernalization in every generation. In contrast to our detailed understanding of the polycomb-mediated epigenetic silencing induced by vernalization, little is known about the mechanism involved in the reactivation of FLC. Here we show that a hypomorphic mutation in the jumonji-domain-containing protein ELF6 impaired the reactivation of FLC in reproductive tissues, leading to the inheritance of a partially vernalized state. ELF6 has H3K27me3 demethylase activity, and the mutation reduced this enzymatic activity in planta. Consistent with this, in the next generation of mutant plants, H3K27me3 levels at the FLC locus stayed higher, and FLC expression remained lower, than in the wild type. Our data reveal an ancient role for H3K27 demethylation in the reprogramming of epigenetic states in plant and mammalian embryos.

  • Structural and mechanistic insights into the bacterial amyloid secretion channel CsgG

  • Curli are functional amyloid fibres that constitute the major protein component of the extracellular matrix in pellicle biofilms formed by Bacteroidetes and Proteobacteria (predominantly of theα and γ classes). They provide a fitness advantage in pathogenic strains and induce a strong pro-inflammatory response during bacteraemia. Curli formation requires a dedicated protein secretion machinery comprising the outer membrane lipoprotein CsgG and two soluble accessory proteins, CsgE and CsgF. Here we report the X-ray structure of Escherichia coli CsgG in a non-lipidated, soluble form as well as in its native membrane-extracted conformation. CsgG forms an oligomeric transport complex composed of nine anticodon-binding-domain-like units that give rise to a 36-stranded β-barrel that traverses the bilayer and is connected to a cage-like vestibule in the periplasm. The transmembrane and periplasmic domains are separated by a 0.9-nm channel constriction composed of three stacked concentric phenylalanine, asparagine and tyrosine rings that may guide the extended polypeptide substrate through the secretion pore. The specificity factor CsgE forms a nonameric adaptor that binds and closes off the periplasmic face of the secretion channel, creating a 24,000 Å3 pre-constriction chamber. Our structural, functional and electrophysiological analyses imply that CsgG is an ungated, non-selective protein secretion channel that is expected to employ a diffusion-based, entropy-driven transport mechanism.

  • Discovery and characterization of small molecules that target the GTPase Ral

  • The Ras-like GTPases RalA and RalB are important drivers of tumour growth and metastasis. Chemicals that block Ral function would be valuable as research tools and for cancer therapeutics. Here we used protein structure analysis and virtual screening to identify drug-like molecules that bind to a site on the GDP-bound form of Ral. The compounds RBC6, RBC8 and RBC10 inhibited the binding of Ral to its effector RALBP1, as well as inhibiting Ral-mediated cell spreading of murine embryonic fibroblasts and anchorage-independent growth of human cancer cell lines. The binding of the RBC8 derivative BQU57 to RalB was confirmed by isothermal titration calorimetry, surface plasmon resonance and 1H–15N transverse relaxation-optimized spectroscopy (TROSY) NMR spectroscopy. RBC8 and BQU57 show selectivity for Ral relative to the GTPases Ras and RhoA and inhibit tumour xenograft growth to a similar extent to the depletion of Ral using RNA interference. Our results show the utility of structure-based discovery for the development of therapeutics for Ral-dependent cancers.

  • Histone H2A.Z subunit exchange controls consolidation of recent and remote memory

  • Memory formation is a multi-stage process that initially requires cellular consolidation in the hippocampus, after which memories are downloaded to the cortex for maintenance, in a process termed systems consolidation. Epigenetic mechanisms regulate both types of consolidation, but histone variant exchange, in which canonical histones are replaced with their variant counterparts, is an entire branch of epigenetics that has received limited attention in the brain and has never, to our knowledge, been studied in relation to cognitive function. Here we show that histone H2A.Z, a variant of histone H2A, is actively exchanged in response to fear conditioning in the hippocampus and the cortex, where it mediates gene expression and restrains the formation of recent and remote memory. Our data provide evidence for H2A.Z involvement in cognitive function and specifically implicate H2A.Z as a negative regulator of hippocampal consolidation and systems consolidation, probably through downstream effects on gene expression. Moreover, alterations in H2A.Z binding at later stages of systems consolidation suggest that this histone has the capacity to mediate stable molecular modifications required for memory retention. Overall, our data introduce histone variant exchange as a novel mechanism contributing to the molecular basis of cognitive function and implicate H2A.Z as a potential therapeutic target for memory disorders.

  • The drivers of tropical speciation

  • Since the recognition that allopatric speciation can be induced by large-scale reconfigurations of the landscape that isolate formerly continuous populations, such as the separation of continents by plate tectonics, the uplift of mountains or the formation of large rivers, landscape change has been viewed as a primary driver of biological diversification. This process is referred to in biogeography as vicariance. In the most species-rich region of the world, the Neotropics, the sundering of populations associated with the Andean uplift is ascribed this principal role in speciation. An alternative model posits that rather than being directly linked to landscape change, allopatric speciation is initiated to a greater extent by dispersal events, with the principal drivers of speciation being organism-specific abilities to persist and disperse in the landscape. Landscape change is not a necessity for speciation in this model. Here we show that spatial and temporal patterns of genetic differentiation in Neotropical birds are highly discordant across lineages and are not reconcilable with a model linking speciation solely to landscape change. Instead, the strongest predictors of speciation are the amount of time a lineage has persisted in the landscape and the ability of birds to move through the landscape matrix. These results, augmented by the observation that most species-level diversity originated after episodes of major Andean uplift in the Neogene period, suggest that dispersal and differentiation on a matrix previously shaped by large-scale landscape events was a major driver of avian speciation in lowland Neotropical rainforests.

  • Architecture of mammalian respiratory complex I

  • Complex I is the first enzyme of the mitochondrial electron transport chain and it is essential for oxidative phosphorylation in mammalian mitochondria; here the electron cryo-microscopy structure of complex I from bovine heart mitochondria is reported, advancing knowledge of its structure in mammals.

  • Structural basis for the assembly of the Sxl–Unr translation regulatory complex

  • Genetic equality between males and females is established by chromosome-wide dosage-compensation mechanisms. In the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster, the dosage-compensation complex promotes twofold hypertranscription of the single male X-chromosome and is silenced in females by inhibition of the translation of msl2, which codes for the limiting component of the dosage-compensation complex. The female-specific protein Sex-lethal (Sxl) recruits Upstream-of-N-ras (Unr) to the 3′ untranslated region of msl2 messenger RNA, preventing the engagement of the small ribosomal subunit. Here we report the 2.8 Å crystal structure, NMR and small-angle X-ray and neutron scattering data of the ternary Sxl–Unr–msl2 ribonucleoprotein complex featuring unprecedented intertwined interactions of two Sxl RNA recognition motifs, a Unr cold-shock domain and RNA. Cooperative complex formation is associated with a 1,000-fold increase of RNA binding affinity for the Unr cold-shock domain and involves novel ternary interactions, as well as non-canonical RNA contacts by the α1 helixof Sxl RNA recognition motif 1. Our results suggest that repression of dosage compensation, necessary for female viability, is triggered by specific, cooperative molecular interactions that lock a ribonucleoprotein switch to regulate translation. The structure serves as a paradigm for how a combination of general and widespread RNA binding domains expands the code for specific single-stranded RNA recognition in the regulation of gene expression.

  • A structure-based mechanism for tRNA and retroviral RNA remodelling during primer annealing

  • To prime reverse transcription, retroviruses require annealing of a transfer RNA molecule to the U5 primer binding site (U5-PBS) region of the viral genome. The residues essential for primer annealing are initially locked in intramolecular interactions; hence, annealing requires the chaperone activity of the retroviral nucleocapsid (NC) protein to facilitate structural rearrangements. Here we show that, unlike classical chaperones, the Moloney murine leukaemia virus NC uses a unique mechanism for remodelling: it specifically targets multiple structured regions in both the U5-PBS and tRNAPro primer that otherwise sequester residues necessary for annealing. This high-specificity and high-affinity binding by NC consequently liberates these sequestered residues—which are exactly complementary—for intermolecular interactions. Furthermore, NC utilizes a step-wise, entropy-driven mechanism to trigger both residue-specific destabilization and residue-specific release. Our structures of NC bound to U5-PBS and tRNAPro reveal the structure-based mechanism for retroviral primer annealing and provide insights as to how ATP-independent chaperones can target specific RNAs amidst the cellular milieu of non-target RNAs.

  • Broad and potent HIV-1 neutralization by a human antibody that binds the gp41–gp120 interface

  • The isolation of human monoclonal antibodies is providing important insights into the specificities that underlie broad neutralization of HIV-1 (reviewed in ref. 1). Here we report a broad and extremely potent HIV-specific monoclonal antibody, termed 35O22, which binds a novel HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein (Env) epitope. 35O22 neutralized 62% of 181 pseudoviruses with a half-maximum inhibitory concentration (IC50) llt;50 μg ml−1. The median IC50 of neutralized viruses was 0.033 μg ml−1, among the most potent thus far described. 35O22 did not bind monomeric forms of Env tested, but did bind the trimeric BG505 SOSIP.664. Mutagenesis and a reconstruction by negative-stain electron microscopy of the Fab in complex with trimer revealed that it bound to a conserved epitope, which stretched across gp120 and gp41. The specificity of 35O22 represents a novel site of vulnerability on HIV Env, which serum analysis indicates to be commonly elicited by natural infection. Binding to this new site of vulnerability may thus be an important complement to current monoclonal-antibody-based approaches to immunotherapies, prophylaxis and vaccine design.

  • Transcript-RNA-templated DNA recombination and repair

  • Homologous recombination is a molecular process that has multiple important roles in DNA metabolism, both for DNA repair and genetic variation in all forms of life. Generally, homologous recombination involves the exchange of genetic information between two identical or nearly identical DNA molecules; however, homologous recombination can also occur between RNA molecules, as shown for RNA viruses. Previous research showed that synthetic RNA oligonucleotides can act as templates for DNA double-strand break (DSB) repair in yeast and human cells, and artificial long RNA templates injected in ciliate cells can guide genomic rearrangements. Here we report that endogenous transcript RNA mediates homologous recombination with chromosomal DNA in yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. We developed a system to detect the events of homologous recombination initiated by transcript RNA following the repair of a chromosomal DSB occurring either in a homologous but remote locus, or in the same transcript-generating locus in reverse-transcription-defective yeast strains. We found that RNA–DNA recombination is blocked by ribonucleases H1 and H2. In the presence of H-type ribonucleases, DSB repair proceeds through a complementary DNA intermediate, whereas in their absence, it proceeds directly through RNA. The proximity of the transcript to its chromosomal DNA partner in the same locus facilitates Rad52-driven homologous recombination during DSB repair. We demonstrate that yeast and human Rad52 proteins efficiently catalyse annealing of RNA to a DSB-like DNA end in vitro. Our results reveal a novel mechanism of homologous recombination and DNA repair in which transcript RNA is used as a template for DSB repair. Thus, considering the abundance of RNA transcripts in cells, RNA may have a marked impact on genomic stability and plasticity.

  • Structures of bacterial homologues of SWEET transporters in two distinct conformations

  • SWEETs and their prokaryotic homologues are monosaccharide and disaccharide transporters that are present from Archaea to plants and humans. SWEETs play crucial roles in cellular sugar efflux processes: that is, in phloem loading, pollen nutrition and nectar secretion. Their bacterial homologues, which are called SemiSWEETs, are among the smallest known transporters. Here we show that SemiSWEET molecules, which consist of a triple-helix bundle, form symmetrical, parallel dimers, thereby generating the translocation pathway. Two SemiSWEET isoforms were crystallized, one in an apparently open state and one in an occluded state, indicating that SemiSWEETs and SWEETs are transporters that undergo rocking-type movements during the transport cycle. The topology of the triple-helix bundle is similar yet distinct to that of the basic building block of animal and plant major facilitator superfamily (MFS) transporters (for example, GLUTs and SUTs). This finding indicates two possibilities: that SWEETs and MFS transporters evolved from an ancestral triple-helix bundle or that the triple-helix bundle represents convergent evolution. In SemiSWEETs and SWEETs, two triple-helix bundles are arranged in a parallel configuration to produce the 6- and 6 + 1-transmembrane-helix pores, respectively. In the 12-transmembrane-helix MFS transporters, four triple-helix bundles are arranged into an alternating antiparallel configuration, resulting in a much larger 2 × 2 triple-helix bundle forming the pore. Given the similarity of SemiSWEETs and SWEETs to PQ-loop amino acid transporters and to mitochondrial pyruvate carriers (MPCs), the structures characterized here may also be relevant to other transporters in the MtN3 clan. The insight gained from the structures of these transporters and from the analysis of mutations of conserved residues will improve the understanding of the transport mechanism, as well as allow comparative studies of the different superfamilies involved in sugar transport and the evolution of transporters in general.

  • Sensory-evoked LTP driven by dendritic plateau potentials in vivo

  • Long-term synaptic potentiation (LTP) is thought to be a key process in cortical synaptic network plasticity and memory formation. Hebbian forms of LTP depend on strong postsynaptic depolarization, which in many models is generated by action potentials that propagate back from the soma into dendrites. However, local dendritic depolarization has been shown to mediate these forms of LTP as well. As pyramidal cells in supragranular layers of the somatosensory cortex spike infrequently, it is unclear which of the two mechanisms prevails for those cells in vivo. Using whole-cell recordings in the mouse somatosensory cortex in vivo, we demonstrate that rhythmic sensory whisker stimulation efficiently induces synaptic LTP in layer 2/3 (L2/3) pyramidal cells in the absence of somatic spikes. The induction of LTP depended on the occurrence of NMDAR (N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor)-mediated long-lasting depolarizations, which bear similarities to dendritic plateau potentials. In addition, we show that whisker stimuli recruit synaptic networks that originate from the posteromedial complex of the thalamus (POm). Photostimulation of channelrhodopsin-2 expressing POm neurons generated NMDAR-mediated plateau potentials, whereas the inhibition of POm activity during rhythmic whisker stimulation suppressed the generation of those potentials and prevented whisker-evoked LTP. Taken together, our data provide evidence for sensory-driven synaptic LTP in vivo, in the absence of somatic spiking. Instead, LTP is mediated by plateau potentials that are generated through the cooperative activity of lemniscal and paralemniscal synaptic circuitry.

  • HSP70 sequestration by freeα-globin promotes ineffective erythropoiesis in β-thalassaemia

  • β-Thalassaemia major (β-TM) is an inherited haemoglobinopathy caused by a quantitative defect in the synthesis of β-globin chains of haemoglobin, leading to the accumulation of free α-globin chains that form toxic aggregates. Despite extensive knowledge of the molecular defects causing β-TM, little is known of the mechanisms responsible for the ineffective erythropoiesis observed in the condition, which is characterized by accelerated erythroid differentiation, maturation arrest and apoptosis at the polychromatophilic stage. We have previously demonstrated that normal human erythroid maturation requires a transient activation of caspase-3 at the later stages of maturation. Although erythroid transcription factor GATA-1, the master transcriptional factor of erythropoiesis, is a caspase-3 target, it is not cleaved during erythroid differentiation. We have shown that, in human erythroblasts, the chaperone heat shock protein70 (HSP70) is constitutively expressed and, at later stages of maturation, translocates into the nucleus and protects GATA-1 from caspase-3 cleavage. The primary role of this ubiquitous chaperone is to participate in the refolding of proteins denatured by cytoplasmic stress, thus preventing their aggregation. Here we show in vitro that during the maturation of human β-TM erythroblasts, HSP70 interacts directly with free α-globin chains. As a consequence, HSP70 is sequestrated in the cytoplasm and GATA-1 is no longer protected, resulting in end-stage maturation arrest and apoptosis. Transduction of a nuclear-targeted HSP70 mutant or a caspase-3-uncleavable GATA-1 mutant restores terminal maturation of β-TM erythroblasts, which may provide a rationale for new targeted therapies of β-TM.

  • Tumour-infiltrating Gr-1+ myeloid cells antagonize senescence in cancer

  • Aberrant activation of oncogenes or loss of tumour suppressor genes opposes malignant transformation by triggering a stable arrest in cell growth, which is termed cellular senescence. This process is finely tuned by both cell-autonomous and non-cell-autonomous mechanisms that regulate the entry of tumour cells to senescence. Whether tumour-infiltrating immune cells can oppose senescence is unknown. Here we show that at the onset of senescence, PTEN null prostate tumours in mice are massively infiltrated by a population of CD11b+Gr-1+ myeloid cells that protect a fraction of proliferating tumour cells from senescence, thus sustaining tumour growth. Mechanistically, we found that Gr-1+ cells antagonize senescence in a paracrine manner by interfering with the senescence-associated secretory phenotype of the tumour through the secretion of interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1RA). Strikingly, Pten-loss-induced cellular senescence was enhanced in vivo when Il1ra knockout myeloid cells were adoptively transferred to PTEN null mice. Therapeutically, docetaxel-induced senescence and efficacy were higher in PTEN null tumours when the percentage of tumour-infiltrating CD11b+Gr-1+ myeloid cells was reduced using an antagonist of CXC chemokine receptor 2 (CXCR2). Taken together, our findings identify a novel non-cell-autonomous network, established by innate immunity, that controls senescence evasion and chemoresistance. Targeting this network provides novel opportunities for cancer therapy.

  • PLETHORA gradient formation mechanism separates auxin responses

  • During plant growth, dividing cells in meristems must coordinate transitions from division to expansion and differentiation, thus generating three distinct developmental zones: the meristem, elongation zone and differentiation zone. Simultaneously, plants display tropisms, rapid adjustments of their direction of growth to adapt to environmental conditions. It is unclear how stable zonation is maintained during transient adjustments in growth direction. In Arabidopsis roots, many aspects of zonation are controlled by the phytohormone auxin and auxin-induced PLETHORA (PLT) transcription factors, both of which display a graded distribution with a maximum near the root tip. In addition, auxin is also pivotal for tropic responses. Here, using an iterative experimental and computational approach, we show how an interplay between auxin and PLTs controls zonation and gravitropism. We find that the PLT gradient is not a direct, proportionate readout of the auxin gradient. Rather, prolonged high auxin levels generate a narrow PLT transcription domain from which a gradient of PLT protein is subsequently generated through slow growth dilution and cell-to-cell movement. The resulting PLT levels define the location of developmental zones. In addition to slowly promoting PLT transcription, auxin also rapidly influences division, expansion and differentiation rates. We demonstrate how this specific regulatory design in which auxin cooperates with PLTs through different mechanisms and on different timescales enables both the fast tropic environmental responses and stable zonation dynamics necessary for coordinated cell differentiation.

  • Nodal signalling determines biradial asymmetry in Hydra

  • In bilaterians, three orthogonal body axes define the animal form, with distinct anterior–posterior, dorsal–ventral and left–right asymmetries. The key signalling factors are Wnt family proteins for the anterior–posterior axis, Bmp family proteins for the dorsal–ventral axis and Nodal for the left–right axis. Cnidarians, the sister group to bilaterians, are characterized byone oral–aboral body axis, which exhibits a distinct biradiality of unknown molecular nature. Here we analysed the biradial growth pattern in the radially symmetrical cnidarian polyp Hydra, and we report evidence of Nodal in a pre-bilaterian clade. We identified a Nodal-related gene (Ndr) in Hydra magnipapillata, and this gene is essential for setting up an axial asymmetry along the main body axis. This asymmetry defines a lateral signalling centre, inducing a new body axis of a budding polyp orthogonal to the mother polyp’s axis. Ndr is expressed exclusively in the lateral bud anlage andinduces Pitx, which encodes an evolutionarily conserved transcription factor that functions downstream of Nodal. Reminiscent of its function in vertebrates, Nodal acts downstream of β-Catenin signalling. Our data support an evolutionary scenario in which a ‘core-signalling cassette’ consistingof β-Catenin, Nodal and Pitx pre-dated the cnidarian–bilaterian split. We presume that this cassette was co-opted for various modes of axial patterning: for example, for lateral branching in cnidarians and left–right patterning in bilaterians.

  • Comparative population genomics in animals uncovers the determinants of genetic diversity

  • Genetic diversity is the amount of variation observed between DNA sequences from distinct individuals of a given species. This pivotal concept of population genetics has implications for species health, domestication, management and conservation. Levels of genetic diversity seem to vary greatly in natural populations and species, but the determinants of this variation, and particularly the relative influences of species biology and ecology versus population history, are still largely mysterious. Here we show that the diversity of a species is predictable, and is determined in the first place by its ecological strategy. We investigated the genome-wide diversity of 76 non-model animal species by sequencing the transcriptome of two to ten individuals in each species. The distribution of genetic diversity between species revealed no detectable influence of geographic range or invasive status but was accurately predicted by key species traits related to parental investment: long-lived or low-fecundity species with brooding ability were genetically less diverse than short-lived or highly fecund ones. Our analysis demonstrates the influence of long-term life-history strategies on species response to short-term environmental perturbations, a result with immediate implications for conservation policies.

  • Synaptic dysregulation in a human iPS cell model of mental disorders

  • Dysregulated neurodevelopment with altered structural and functional connectivity is believed to underlie many neuropsychiatric disorders, and‘a disease of synapses’ is the major hypothesis for the biological basis of schizophrenia. Although this hypothesis has gained indirect support from human post-mortem brain analyses and genetic studies, little is known about the pathophysiology of synapses in patient neurons and how susceptibility genes for mental disorders could lead to synaptic deficits in humans. Genetics of most psychiatric disorders are extremely complex due to multiple susceptibility variants with low penetrance and variable phenotypes. Rare, multiply affected, large families in which a single genetic locus is probably responsible for conferring susceptibility have proven invaluable for the study of complex disorders. Here we generated induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells from four members of a family in which a frameshift mutation of disrupted in schizophrenia 1 (DISC1) co-segregated with major psychiatric disorders and we further produced different isogenic iPS cell lines via gene editing. We showed that mutant DISC1 causes synaptic vesicle release deficits in iPS-cell-derived forebrain neurons. Mutant DISC1 depletes wild-type DISC1 protein and, furthermore, dysregulates expression of many genes related to synapses and psychiatric disorders in human forebrain neurons. Our study reveals that a psychiatric disorder relevant mutation causes synapse deficits and transcriptional dysregulation in human neurons and our findings provide new insight into the molecular and synaptic etiopathology of psychiatric disorders.

  • Structure of malaria invasion protein RH5 with erythrocyte basigin and blocking antibodies

  • Invasion of host erythrocytes is essential to the life cycle of Plasmodium parasites and development of the pathology of malaria. The stages of erythrocyte invasion, including initial contact, apical reorientation, junction formation, and active invagination, are directed by coordinated release of specialized apical organelles and their parasite protein contents. Among these proteins, and central to invasion by all species, are two parasite protein families, the reticulocyte-binding protein homologue (RH) and erythrocyte-binding like proteins, which mediate host–parasite interactions. RH5 from Plasmodium falciparum (PfRH5) is the only member of either family demonstrated to be necessary for erythrocyte invasion in all tested strains, through its interaction with the erythrocyte surface protein basigin (also known as CD147 and EMMPRIN). Antibodies targeting PfRH5 or basigin efficiently block parasite invasion in vitro, making PfRH5 an excellent vaccine candidate. Here we present crystal structures of PfRH5 in complex with basigin and two distinct inhibitory antibodies. PfRH5 adopts a novel fold in which two three-helical bundles come together in a kite-like architecture, presenting binding sites for basigin and inhibitory antibodies at one tip. This provides the first structural insight into erythrocyte binding by the Plasmodium RH protein family and identifies novel inhibitory epitopes to guide design of a new generation of vaccines against the blood-stage parasite.

  • PRC2 loss amplifies Ras-driven transcription and confers sensitivity to BRD4-based therapies

  • The polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) exerts oncogenic effects in many tumour types. However, loss-of-function mutations in PRC2 components occur in a subset of haematopoietic malignancies, suggesting that this complex plays a dichotomous and poorly understood role in cancer. Here we provide genomic, cellular, and mouse modelling data demonstrating that the polycomb group gene SUZ12 functions as tumour suppressor in PNS tumours, high-grade gliomas and melanomas by cooperating with mutations in NF1. NF1 encodes a Ras GTPase-activating protein (RasGAP) and its loss drives cancer by activating Ras. We show that SUZ12 loss potentiates the effects of NF1 mutations by amplifying Ras-driven transcription through effects on chromatin. Importantly, however, SUZ12 inactivation also triggers an epigenetic switch that sensitizes these cancers to bromodomain inhibitors. Collectively, these studies not only reveal an unexpected connection between the PRC2 complex, NF1 and Ras, but also identify a promising epigenetic-based therapeutic strategy that may be exploited for a variety of cancers.

  • Piezo1 integration of vascular architecture with physiological force

  • The mechanisms by which physical forces regulate endothelial cells to determine the complexities of vascular structure and function are enigmatic. Studies of sensory neurons have suggested Piezo proteins as subunits of Ca2+-permeable non-selective cationic channels for detection of noxious mechanical impact. Here we show Piezo1 (Fam38a) channels as sensors of frictional force (shear stress) and determinants of vascular structure in both development and adult physiology. Global or endothelial-specific disruption of mouse Piezo1 profoundly disturbed the developing vasculature and was embryonic lethal within days of the heart beating. Haploinsufficiency was not lethal but endothelial abnormality was detected in mature vessels. The importance of Piezo1 channels as sensors of blood flow was shown by Piezo1 dependence of shear-stress-evoked ionic current and calcium influx in endothelial cells and the ability of exogenous Piezo1 to confer sensitivity to shear stress on otherwise resistant cells. Downstream of this calcium influx there was protease activation and spatial reorganization of endothelial cells to the polarity of the applied force. The data suggest that Piezo1 channels function as pivotal integrators in vascular biology.

  • Inflammatory caspases are innate immune receptors for intracellular LPS

  • Caspase-4 and caspase-11 are shown to be the direct sensors for cytoplasmic lipopolysaccharide in humans and mice, respectively, mediating inflammatory cell death in intracellular bacterial infection.

  • Protein competition switches the function of COP9 from self-renewal to differentiation

  • The balance between stem cell self-renewal and differentiation is controlled by intrinsic factors and niche signals. In the Drosophila melanogaster ovary, some intrinsic factors promote germline stem cell (GSC) self-renewal, whereas others stimulate differentiation. However, it remains poorly understood how the balance between self-renewal and differentiation is controlled. Here we use D. melanogaster ovarian GSCs to demonstrate that the differentiation factor Bam controls the functional switch of the COP9 complex from self-renewal to differentiation via protein competition. The COP9 complex is composed of eight Csn subunits, Csn1–8, and removes Nedd8 modifications from target proteins. Genetic results indicated that the COP9 complex is required intrinsically for GSC self-renewal, whereas other Csn proteins, with the exception of Csn4, were also required for GSC progeny differentiation. Bam-mediated Csn4 sequestration from the COP9 complex via protein competition inactivated the self-renewing function of COP9 and allowed other Csn proteins to promote GSC differentiation. Therefore, this study reveals a protein-competition-based mechanism for controlling the balance between stem cell self-renewal and differentiation.Because numerous self-renewal factors are ubiquitously expressed throughout the stem cell lineage in various systems, protein competition may function as an important mechanism for controlling the self-renewal-to-differentiation switch.

  • Interleukin-22 alleviates metabolic disorders and restores mucosal immunity in diabetes

  • The connection between an altered gut microbiota and metabolic disorders such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease is well established. Defects in preserving the integrity of the mucosal barriers can result in systemic endotoxaemia that contributes to chronic low-grade inflammation, which further promotes the development of metabolic syndrome. Interleukin (IL)-22 exerts essential roles in eliciting antimicrobial immunity and maintaining mucosal barrier integrity within the intestine. Here we investigate the connection between IL-22 and metabolic disorders. We find that the induction of IL-22 from innate lymphoid cells and CD4+ T cells is impaired in obese mice under various immune challenges, especially in the colon during infection with Citrobacter rodentium. While innate lymphoid cell populations are largely intact in obese mice, the upregulation of IL-23, a cytokine upstream of IL-22, is compromised during the infection. Consequently, these mice are susceptible to C. rodentium infection, and both exogenous IL-22 and IL-23 are able to restore the mucosal host defence. Importantly, we further unveil unexpected functions of IL-22 in regulating metabolism. Mice deficient in IL-22 receptor and fed with high-fat diet are prone to developing metabolic disorders. Strikingly, administration of exogenous IL-22 in genetically obese leptin-receptor-deficient (db/db) mice and mice fed with high-fat diet reverses many of the metabolic symptoms, including hyperglycaemia and insulin resistance. IL-22 shows diverse metabolic benefits, as it improves insulin sensitivity, preserves gut mucosal barrier and endocrine functions, decreases endotoxaemia and chronic inflammation, and regulates lipid metabolism in liver and adipose tissues. In summary, we identify the IL-22 pathway as a novel target for therapeutic intervention in metabolic diseases.

  • Mechanism of Dis3l2 substrate recognition in the Lin28–let-7 pathway

  • The pluripotency factor Lin28 inhibits the biogenesis of the let-7 family of mammalian microRNAs. Lin28 is highly expressed in embryonic stem cells and has a fundamental role in regulation of development, glucose metabolism and tissue regeneration. Overexpression of Lin28 is correlated with the onset of numerous cancers, whereas let-7, a tumour suppressor, silences several human oncogenes. Lin28 binds to precursor let-7 (pre-let-7) hairpins, triggering the 3′ oligo-uridylation activity of TUT4 and TUT7 (refs 10, 11, 12). The oligoU tail added to pre-let-7 serves as a decay signal, as it is rapidly degraded by Dis3l2 (refs 13, 14), a homologue of the catalytic subunit of the RNA exosome. The molecular basis of Lin28-mediated recruitment of TUT4 and TUT7 to pre-let-7 and its subsequent degradation by Dis3l2 is largely unknown. To examine the mechanism of Dis3l2 substrate recognition we determined the structure of mouse Dis3l2 in complex with an oligoU RNA to mimic the uridylated tail of pre-let-7. Three RNA-binding domains form an open funnel onone face of the catalytic domain that allows RNA to navigate a path to the active site different from that of its exosome counterpart. The resulting path reveals an extensive network of uracil-specific interactions spanning the first 12 nucleotides of an oligoU-tailed RNA. We identify three U-specificity zones that explain how Dis3l2 recognizes, binds and processes uridylated pre-let-7 in the final step of the Lin28–let-7 pathway.

  • Required enhancer–matrin-3 network interactions for a homeodomain transcription program

  • Homeodomain proteins, described 30 years ago, exert essential roles in development as regulators of target gene expression; however, the molecular mechanisms underlying transcriptional activity of homeodomain factors remain poorly understood. Here investigation of a developmentally required POU-homeodomain transcription factor, Pit1 (also known as Pou1f1), has revealed that, unexpectedly, binding of Pit1-occupied enhancers to a nuclear matrin-3-rich network/architecture is a key event in effective activation of the Pit1-regulated enhancer/coding gene transcriptional program. Pit1 association with Satb1 (ref. 8) andβ-catenin is required for this tethering event. A naturally occurring, dominant negative, point mutation in human PIT1(R271W), causing combined pituitary hormone deficiency, results in loss of Pit1 association with β-catenin and Satb1 and therefore the matrin-3-rich network, blocking Pit1-dependent enhancer/coding target gene activation. This defective activation can be rescued by artificial tethering of the mutant R271W Pit1 protein to the matrin-3 network, bypassing the pre-requisite association with β-catenin and Satb1 otherwise required. The matrin-3 network-tethered R271W Pit1 mutant,but not the untethered protein, restores Pit1-dependent activation of the enhancers and recruitment of co-activators, exemplified by p300, causing both enhancer RNA transcription and target gene activation. These studies have thus revealed an unanticipated homeodomain factor/β-catenin/Satb1-dependent localization of target gene regulatory enhancer regions to a subnuclear architectural structure that serves as an underlying mechanism by which an enhancer-bound homeodomain factor effectively activates developmental gene transcriptional programs.

  • Inappropriate p53 activation during development induces features of CHARGE syndrome

  • CHARGE syndrome is a multiple anomaly disorder in which patients present with a variety of phenotypes, including ocular coloboma, heart defects, choanal atresia, retarded growth and development, genitourinary hypoplasia and ear abnormalities. Despite 70–90% of CHARGE syndrome cases resulting from mutations in the gene CHD7, which encodes an ATP-dependent chromatin remodeller, the pathways underlying the diverse phenotypes remain poorly understood. Surprisingly, our studies of a knock-in mutant mouse strain that expresses a stabilized and transcriptionally dead variant of the tumour-suppressor protein p53 (p5325,26,53,54), along with a wild-type allele of p53 (also known as Trp53), revealed late-gestational embryonic lethality associated with a host of phenotypes that are characteristic of CHARGE syndrome, including coloboma, inner and outer ear malformations, heart outflow tract defects and craniofacial defects. We found that the p5325,26,53,54 mutant protein stabilized and hyperactivated wild-type p53, which then inappropriately induced its target genes and triggered cell-cycle arrest or apoptosis during development. Importantly, these phenotypes were only observed with a wild-type p53 allele, as p5325,26,53,54/− embryos were fully viable. Furthermore, we found that CHD7 can bind to the p53 promoter, thereby negatively regulating p53 expression, and that CHD7 loss in mouse neural crest cells or samples from patients with CHARGE syndrome results in p53 activation. Strikingly, we found that p53 heterozygosity partially rescued the phenotypes in Chd7-null mouse embryos, demonstrating that p53 contributes to the phenotypes that result from CHD7 loss. Thus, inappropriate p53 activation during development can promote CHARGEphenotypes, supporting the idea that p53 has a critical role in developmental syndromes and providing important insight into the mechanisms underlying CHARGE syndrome.

  • Evolution: Tooth structure re-engineered

  • Mice deficient in the EDA protein lack normal tooth features. Restoring EDA in embryonic teeth at increasing doses has now been found to recover these dental features in a stepwise pattern that mimics evolution.

  • Replaying evolutionary transitions from the dental fossil record

  • Gradual changes that occur to mammalian tooth morphology across evolutionary time were modelled in vitro and in vivo by modulation of signalling pathways in the mouse, and computer modelling was used to provide further analysis of the parameters influencing tooth morphology.

  • Cancer: Directions for the drivers

  • A comparison of colorectal cancer and normal cells from 103 patients identifies dozens of genes that are differently expressed in tumour cells as a result of altered regulation of transcription.

  • Putative cis-regulatory drivers in colorectal cancer

  • The cis-regulatory effects responsible for cancer development have not been as extensively studied as the perturbations of the protein coding genome in tumorigenesis. To better characterize colorectal cancer (CRC) development we conducted an RNA-sequencing experiment of 103 matched tumour and normal colon mucosa samples from Danish CRC patients, 90 of which were germline-genotyped. By investigating allele-specific expression (ASE) we show that the germline genotypes remain important determinants of allelic gene expression in tumours. Using the changes in ASE in matched pairs of samples we discover 71 genes with excess of somatic cis-regulatory effects in CRC, suggesting a cancer driver role. We correlate genotypes and gene expression to identify expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) and find 1,693 and 948 eQTLs in normal samples and tumours, respectively. We estimate that 36% of the tumour eQTLs are exclusive to CRC and show that this specificity is partially driven by increased expression of specific transcription factors and changes in methylation patterns. We show that tumour-specific eQTLs are more enriched for low CRC genome-wide association study (GWAS) P values than shared eQTLs, which suggests that some of the GWAS variants are tumour specific regulatory variants. Importantly, tumour-specific eQTL genes also accumulate more somatic mutations when compared to the shared eQTL genes, raising the possibility that they constitute germline-derived cancer regulatory drivers. Collectively the integration of genome and the transcriptome reveals a substantial number of putative somatic and germline cis-regulatory cancer changes that may have a role in tumorigenesis.

  • HIV: Early treatment may not be early enough

  • Giving monkeys antiretroviral therapy from just three days after exposure to simian immunodeficiency virus does not prevent a subsequent rebound of viral replication, suggesting that viral reservoirs are established early.

  • Convergence of terrestrial plant production across global climate gradients

  • Net primary production is affected by temperature and precipitation, but whether this is a direct kinetic effect on plant metabolism or an indirect ecological effect mediated by changes in plant age, plant biomass or growing season length is unclear— this study develops metabolic scaling theory to be able to answer this question and applies it to a global data set of plant productivity, concluding that it is indirect effects that explain the influence of climate on productivity, which is characterized by a common scaling relationship acrossclimate gradients.

  • Rapid seeding of the viral reservoir prior to SIV viraemia in rhesus monkeys

  • The viral reservoir represents a critical challenge for human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) eradication strategies. However, it remains unclear when and where the viral reservoir is seeded during acute infection and the extent to which it is susceptible to early antiretroviral therapy (ART). Here we show that the viral reservoir is seeded rapidly after mucosal simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection of rhesus monkeys and before systemic viraemia. We initiated suppressive ART in groups of monkeys on days 3, 7, 10 and 14 after intrarectal SIVMAC251 infection. Treatment with ART on day 3 blocked the emergence of viral RNA and proviral DNA in peripheral blood and also substantially reduced levels of proviral DNA in lymph nodes and gastrointestinal mucosa as compared with treatment at later time points. In addition, treatment on day 3 abrogated the induction of SIV-specific humoral and cellular immune responses. Nevertheless, after discontinuation of ART following 24 weeks of fully suppressive therapy, virus rebounded in all animals, although the monkeys that were treated on day 3 exhibited a delayed viral rebound as compared with those treated on days 7, 10 and 14. The time to viral rebound correlated with total viraemia during acute infection and with proviral DNA at the time of ART discontinuation. These data demonstrate that the viral reservoir is seeded rapidly after intrarectal SIV infection of rhesus monkeys, during the‘eclipse’ phase, and before detectable viraemia. This strikingly early seeding of the refractory viral reservoir raises important new challenges for HIV-1 eradication strategies.

  • Structure of the DDB1–CRBN E3 ubiquitin ligase in complex with thalidomide

  • The crystal structures of thalidomide and its derivatives bound to the E3 ligase subcomplex DDB1–CRBN are shown; these drugs are found to have dual functions, interfering with the binding of certain cellular substrates to the E3 ligase but promoting the binding of others, thereby modulating the degradation of cellular proteins.

  • Enhancer loops appear stable during development and are associated with paused polymerase

  • Developmental enhancers initiate transcription and are fundamental to our understanding of developmental networks, evolution and disease. Despite their importance, the properties governing enhancer–promoter interactions and their dynamics during embryogenesis remain unclear. At the β-globin locus, enhancer–promoter interactions appear dynamic and cell-type specific, whereas at the HoxD locus they are stable and ubiquitous, being present in tissues where the target genes are not expressed. The extent to which preformed enhancer–promoter conformations exist at other, more typical, loci and how transcription is eventually triggered is unclear. Here we generated a high-resolution map of enhancer three-dimensional contacts during Drosophila embryogenesis, covering two developmental stages and tissue contexts, at unprecedented resolution. Although local regulatory interactions are common, long-range interactions are highly prevalent within the compact Drosophila genome. Each enhancer contacts multiple enhancers, and promoters with similar expression, suggesting a role in their co-regulation. Notably, most interactions appear unchanged between tissue context and across development, arising before gene activation, and are frequently associated with paused RNA polymerase. Our results indicate that the general topology governing enhancer contacts is conserved from flies to humans and suggest that transcription initiates from preformed enhancer–promoter loops through release of paused polymerase.

  • Negative regulation of the NLRP3 inflammasome by A20 protects against arthritis

  • Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoinflammatory disease that affects 1–2% of the world’s population and is characterized by widespread joint inflammation. Interleukin-1 is an important mediator of cartilage destruction in rheumatic diseases, but our understanding of the upstream mechanisms leading to production of interleukin-1β in rheumatoid arthritis is limited by the absence of suitable mouse models of the disease in which inflammasomes contribute to pathology. Myeloid-cell-specific deletion of the rheumatoid arthritis susceptibility gene A20/Tnfaip3 in mice (A20myel-KO mice) triggers a spontaneous erosive polyarthritis that resembles rheumatoid arthritis in patients. Rheumatoid arthritis in A20myel-KO mice is not rescued by deletion of tumour necrosis factor receptor 1 (ref. 2). Here we show, however, that it crucially relies on the Nlrp3 inflammasome and interleukin-1 receptor signalling. Macrophages lacking A20 have increased basal and lipopolysaccharide-induced expression levels of the inflammasome adaptor Nlrp3 and proIL-1β. As a result, A20-deficiency in macrophages significantly enhances Nlrp3 inflammasome-mediated caspase-1 activation, pyroptosis and interleukin-1β secretion by soluble and crystalline Nlrp3 stimuli. In contrast, activation of the Nlrc4 and AIM2 inflammasomes is not altered. Importantly, increased Nlrp3 inflammasome activation contributes to the pathology of rheumatoid arthritis in vivo, because deletion of Nlrp3, caspase-1 and the interleukin-1 receptor markedly protects against rheumatoid-arthritis-associated inflammation and cartilage destruction in A20myel-KO mice. These results reveal A20 as a novel negative regulator of Nlrp3 inflammasome activation, and describe A20myel-KO mice as the first experimental model to study the role of inflammasomes in the pathology of rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Neuropathy of haematopoietic stem cell niche is essential for myeloproliferative neoplasms

  • Myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) are diseases caused by mutations in the haematopoietic stem cell (HSC) compartment. Most MPN patients have a common acquired mutation of Janus kinase 2 (JAK2) gene in HSCs that renders this kinase constitutively active, leading to uncontrolled cell expansion. The bone marrow microenvironment might contribute to the clinical outcomes of this common event. We previously showed that bone marrow nestin+ mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) innervated by sympathetic nerve fibres regulate normal HSCs. Here we demonstrate that abrogation of this regulatory circuit is essential for MPN pathogenesis. Sympathetic nerve fibres, supporting Schwann cells and nestin+ MSCs are consistently reduced in the bone marrow of MPN patients and mice expressing the human JAK2(V617F) mutation in HSCs. Unexpectedly, MSC reduction is not due to differentiation but is caused by bone marrow neural damage and Schwann cell death triggered by interleukin-1β produced by mutant HSCs. In turn, in vivo depletion of nestin+ cells or their production of CXCL12 expanded mutant HSC number and accelerated MPN progression. In contrast, administration of neuroprotective or sympathomimetic drugs prevented mutant HSC expansion. Treatment with β3-adrenergic agonists that restored the sympathetic regulation of nestin+ MSCs prevented the loss of these cells and blocked MPN progression by indirectly reducing the number of leukaemic stem cells. Our results demonstrate that mutant-HSC-driven niche damage critically contributes to disease manifestation in MPN and identify niche-forming MSCs and their neural regulation as promising therapeutic targets.

  • Visualizing the kinetic power stroke that drives proton-coupled zinc(ii) transport

  • The proton gradient is a principal energy source for respiration-dependent active transport, but the structural mechanisms of proton-coupled transport processes are poorly understood. YiiP is a proton-coupled zinc transporter found in the cytoplasmic membrane of Escherichia coli. Its transport site receives protons from water molecules that gain access to its hydrophobic environment and transduces the energy of an inward proton gradient to drive Zn(ii) efflux. This membrane protein is a well-characterized member of the family of cation diffusion facilitators that occurs at all phylogenetic levels. Here we show, using X-ray-mediated hydroxyl radical labelling of YiiP and mass spectrometry, that Zn(ii) binding triggers a highly localized, all-or-nothing change of water accessibility to the transport site and an adjacent hydrophobic gate. Millisecond time-resolved dynamics reveal a concerted and reciprocal pattern of accessibility changes along a transmembrane helix, suggesting a rigid-body helical re-orientation linked to Zn(ii) binding that triggers the closing of the hydrophobic gate. The gated water access to the transport site enables a stationary proton gradient to facilitate the conversion of zinc-binding energy to the kinetic power stroke of a vectorial zinc transport. The kinetic details provide energetic insights into a proton-coupled active-transport reaction.

  • PVT1 dependence in cancer with MYC copy-number increase

  • ‘Gain’ of supernumerary copies of the 8q24.21 chromosomal region has been shown to be common in many human cancers and is associated with poor prognosis. The well-characterized myelocytomatosis (MYC) oncogene resides in the 8q24.21 region and is consistently co-gained with an adjacent ‘gene desert’ of approximately 2 megabases that contains the long non-coding RNA gene PVT1, the CCDC26 gene candidate and the GSDMC gene. Whether low copy-number gain of one or more of these genes drives neoplasia is not known. Here we use chromosome engineering in mice to show that a single extra copyof either the Myc gene or the region encompassing Pvt1, Ccdc26 and Gsdmc fails to advance cancer measurably, whereas a single supernumerary segment encompassing all four genes successfully promotes cancer. Gain of PVT1 long non-coding RNA expression was required for high MYC protein levels in 8q24-amplified human cancer cells. PVT1 RNA and MYC protein expression correlated in primary human tumours, and copy number of PVT1 was co-increased in more than 98% of MYC-copy-increase cancers. Ablation of PVT1 from MYC-driven colon cancer line HCT116 diminished its tumorigenic potency. As MYC protein has been refractory to small-molecule inhibition, the dependence of high MYC protein levels on PVT1 long non-coding RNA provides a much needed therapeutic target.

  • Quantum computing: Powered by magic

  • What gives quantum computers that extra oomph over their classical digital counterparts? An intrinsic, measurable aspect of quantum mechanics called contextuality, it now emerges.

  • Cancer: Natural-born killers unleashed

  • The finding that phosphoinositide-3-OH kinaseδ restrains the antitumour immune response by promoting the action of suppressive immune cells may broaden the applicability of drugs targeting this enzyme to multiple cancers.

  • Contextuality supplies the‘magic’ for quantum computation

  • Quantum computing promises advantages over classical computing for certain problems; now‘quantum contextuality’ — a generalization of the concept of quantum non-locality — is shown to be a critical resource that gives the most promising class of quantum computers their power.

  • The genome of Eucalyptus grandis

  • The Eucalyptus grandis genome has been sequenced, revealing the greatest number of tandem duplications of any plant genome sequenced so far, and the highest diversity of genes for specialized metabolites that act as chemical defence and provide unique pharmaceutical oils; genome sequencing of the sister species E. globulus and a set of inbred E. grandis tree genomes reveals dynamic genome evolution and hotspots of inbreeding depression.

  • Single-cell RNA-seq reveals dynamic paracrine control of cellular variation

  • Large-scale single-cell RNA-seq of stimulated primary mouse bone-marrow-derived dendritic cells highlights positive and negative intercellular signalling pathways that promote and restrain cellular variation.

  • Inactivation of PI(3)K p110δ breaks regulatory T-cell-mediated immune tolerance to cancer

  • Inhibitors against the p110δ isoform of phosphoinositide-3-OH kinase (PI(3)K) have shown remarkable therapeutic efficacy in some human leukaemias. As p110δ is primarily expressed in leukocytes, drugs against p110δ have not been considered for the treatment of solid tumours. Here we report that p110δ inactivation in mice protects against a broad range of cancers, including non-haematological solid tumours. We demonstrate that p110δ inactivation in regulatory T cells unleashes CD8+ cytotoxic T cells and induces tumour regression. Thus, p110δ inhibitors can break tumour-induced immune tolerance and should be considered for wider use in oncology.

  • Population health: Immaturity in the gut microbial community

  • Undernourished children fall behind not only on growth, but also on maturation of their intestinal bacterial communities, according to a study comparing acutely malnourished and healthy Bangladeshi children.

  • Cell biology: Balancing act

  • The enzyme parkin is known to promote disposal of organelles called mitochondria that have suffered damage. The identification of an enzyme that opposes parkin demonstrates how a delicate balance is maintained in the cell.

  • The mitochondrial deubiquitinase USP30 opposes parkin-mediated mitophagy

  • Damaged mitochondria are removed by mitophagy, and defects in mitophagy are linked to Parkinson’s disease; here it is shown that USP30, a deubiquitinase localized to mitochondria, antagonizes mitophagy by removing the ubiquitin tags put in place by Parkin, USP30 inhibition is therefore potentially beneficial for Parkinson’s disease by promoting mitochondrial clearance and quality control.

  • Persistent gut microbiota immaturity in malnourished Bangladeshi children

  • Therapeutic food interventions have reduced mortality in children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM), but incomplete restoration of healthy growth remains a major problem. The relationships between the type of nutritional intervention, the gut microbiota, and therapeutic responses are unclear. In the current study, bacterial species whose proportional representation define a healthy gut microbiota as it assembles during the first two postnatal years were identified by applying a machine-learning-based approach to 16S ribosomal RNA data sets generated from monthly faecal samples obtained from birth onwards in a cohort of children living in an urban slum of Dhaka, Bangladesh, who exhibited consistently healthy growth. These age-discriminatory bacterial species were incorporated into a model that computes a‘relative microbiota maturity index’ and ‘microbiota-for-age Z-score’ that compare postnatal assembly (defined here as maturation) of a child’s faecal microbiota relative to healthy children of similar chronologic age. The model was applied to twins and triplets (to test for associations of these indices with genetic and environmental factors, including diarrhoea), children with SAM enrolled in a randomized trial of two food interventions, and children with moderate acute malnutrition. Our results indicate that SAM is associated with significant relative microbiota immaturity that is only partially ameliorated following two widely used nutritional interventions. Immaturity is also evident in less severe forms of malnutrition and correlates with anthropometric measurements. Microbiota maturity indices provide a microbial measure of human postnatal development, a way of classifying malnourished states, and a parameter for judging therapeutic efficacy. More prolonged interventions with existing or new therapeutic foods and/or addition of gut microbes may be needed to achieve enduring repair of gut microbiota immaturity in childhood malnutrition and improve clinical outcomes.

  • Genome-scale functional characterization of Drosophila developmental enhancers in vivo

  • Transcriptional enhancers are crucial regulators of gene expression and animal development and the characterization of their genomic organization, spatiotemporal activities and sequence properties is a key goal in modern biology. Here we characterize the in vivo activity of 7,705 Drosophila melanogaster enhancer candidates covering 13.5% of the non-coding non-repetitive genome throughout embryogenesis. 3,557 (46%) candidates are active, suggesting a high density with 50,000 to 100,000 developmental enhancers genome-wide. The vast majority of enhancers display specific spatial patterns that are highly dynamic during development. Most appear to regulate their neighbouring genes, suggesting that the cis-regulatory genome is organized locally into domains, which are supported by chromosomal domains, insulator binding and genome evolution. However, 12 to 21 per cent of enhancers appear to skip non-expressed neighbours and regulate a more distal gene. Finally, we computationally identify cis-regulatory motifs that are predictive and required for enhancer activity, as we validate experimentally. This work provides global insights into the organization of an animal regulatory genome and the make-up of enhancer sequences and confirms and generalizes principles from previous studies. All enhancer patterns are annotated manually with a controlled vocabulary and all results are available through a web interface (http://enhancers.starklab.org), including the raw images of all microscopy slides for manual inspection at arbitrary zoom levels.

  • mTORC1 controls the adaptive transition of quiescent stem cells from G0 to GAlert

  • A unique property of many adult stem cells is their ability to exist in a non-cycling, quiescent state. Although quiescence serves an essential role in preserving stem cell function until the stem cell is needed in tissue homeostasis or repair, defects in quiescence can lead to an impairment in tissue function. The extent to which stem cells can regulate quiescence is unknown. Here we show that the stem cell quiescent state is composed of two distinct functional phases, G0 and an‘alert’ phase we term GAlert. Stem cells actively and reversibly transition between these phases in response to injury-induced systemic signals. Using genetic mouse models specific to muscle stem cells (or satellite cells), we show that mTORC1 activity is necessary and sufficient for the transition of satellite cells from G0 into GAlert and that signalling through the HGF receptor cMet is also necessary. We also identify G0-to-GAlert transitions in several populations of quiescent stem cells. Quiescent stem cells that transition into GAlert possess enhanced tissue regenerative function. We propose that the transition of quiescent stem cells into GAlert functions as an ‘alerting’ mechanism, an adaptive response that positions stem cells to respond rapidly under conditions of injury and stress, priming them for cell cycle entry.

  • The metaboliteα-ketoglutarate extends lifespan by inhibiting ATP synthase and TOR

  • Metabolism and ageing are intimately linked. Compared with ad libitum feeding, dietary restriction consistently extends lifespan and delays age-related diseases in evolutionarily diverse organisms. Similar conditions of nutrient limitation and genetic or pharmacological perturbations of nutrient or energy metabolism also have longevity benefits. Recently, several metabolites have been identified that modulate ageing; however, the molecular mechanisms underlying this are largely undefined. Here we show thatα-ketoglutarate (α-KG), a tricarboxylic acid cycle intermediate, extends the lifespan of adult Caenorhabditis elegans. ATP synthase subunit β is identified as a novel binding protein of α-KG using a small-molecule target identification strategy termed drug affinity responsive target stability (DARTS). The ATP synthase, also known as complex V of the mitochondrial electron transport chain, is the main cellular energy-generating machinery and is highly conserved throughout evolution. Although complete loss of mitochondrial function is detrimental, partial suppression of the electron transport chain has been shown to extend C. elegans lifespan. We show that α-KG inhibits ATP synthase and, similar to ATP synthase knockdown, inhibition by α-KG leads to reduced ATP content, decreased oxygen consumption, and increased autophagy in both C. elegans and mammalian cells. We provide evidence that the lifespan increase by α-KG requires ATP synthase subunit β and is dependent on target of rapamycin (TOR) downstream. Endogenous α-KG levels are increased on starvation and α-KG does not extend the lifespan of dietary-restricted animals, indicating that α-KG is a key metabolite that mediates longevity by dietary restriction. Our analyses uncover new molecular links between a common metabolite, a universal cellular energy generator and dietary restriction in the regulation of organismal lifespan, thus suggesting new strategies for the prevention and treatment of ageing and age-related diseases.

  • Ribosomal oxygenases are structurally conserved from prokaryotes to humans

  • 2-Oxoglutarate (2OG)-dependent oxygenases have important roles in the regulation of gene expression via demethylation of N-methylated chromatin components and in the hydroxylation of transcription factors and splicing factor proteins. Recently, 2OG-dependent oxygenases that catalyse hydroxylation of transfer RNA and ribosomal proteins have been shown to be important in translation relating to cellular growth, TH17-cell differentiation and translational accuracy. The finding that ribosomal oxygenases (ROXs) occur in organisms ranging from prokaryotes to humans raises questions as to their structural and evolutionary relationships. In Escherichia coli, YcfD catalyses arginine hydroxylation in the ribosomal protein L16; in humans, MYC-induced nuclear antigen (MINA53; also known as MINA) and nucleolar protein 66 (NO66) catalyse histidine hydroxylation in the ribosomal proteins RPL27A and RPL8, respectively. The functional assignments of ROXs open therapeutic possibilities via either ROX inhibition or targeting of differentially modified ribosomes. Despite differences in the residue and protein selectivities of prokaryotic and eukaryotic ROXs, comparison of the crystal structures of E. coli YcfD and Rhodothermus marinus YcfD with those of human MINA53 and NO66 reveals highly conserved folds and novel dimerization modes defining a new structural subfamily of 2OG-dependent oxygenases. ROX structures with and without their substrates support their functional assignments as hydroxylases but not demethylases, and reveal how the subfamily has evolved to catalyse the hydroxylation of different residue side chains of ribosomal proteins. Comparison of ROX crystal structures with those of other JmjC-domain-containing hydroxylases, including the hypoxia-inducible factor asparaginyl hydroxylase FIH and histone Nε-methyl lysine demethylases, identifies branch points in 2OG-dependent oxygenase evolution and distinguishes between JmjC-containing hydroxylases and demethylases catalysing modifications of translational and transcriptional machinery. The structures reveal that new protein hydroxylation activities can evolve by changing the coordination position from which the iron-bound substrate-oxidizing species reacts. This coordination flexibility has probably contributed to the evolution of the wide range of reactions catalysed by oxygenases.

  • CFIm25 links alternative polyadenylation to glioblastoma tumour suppression

  • The global shortening of messenger RNAs through alternative polyadenylation (APA) that occurs during enhanced cellular proliferation represents an important, yet poorly understood mechanism of regulated gene expression. The 3′ untranslated region (UTR) truncation of growth-promoting mRNA transcripts that relieves intrinsic microRNA- and AU-rich-element-mediated repression has been observed to correlate with cellular transformation; however, the importance to tumorigenicity of RNA 3′-end-processing factors that potentially govern APA is unknown. Here we identify CFIm25 as a broad repressor of proximal poly(A) site usage that, when depleted, increases cell proliferation. Applying a regression model on standard RNA-sequencing data for novel APA events, we identified at least 1,450 genes with shortened 3′ UTRs after CFIm25 knockdown, representing 11% of significantly expressed mRNAs in human cells. Marked increases in the expression of several known oncogenes, including cyclin D1, are observed as a consequence of CFIm25 depletion. Importantly, we identified a subset of CFIm25-regulated APA genes with shortened 3′ UTRs in glioblastoma tumours that have reduced CFIm25 expression. Downregulation of CFIm25 expression in glioblastoma cells enhances their tumorigenic properties and increases tumour size, whereas CFIm25 overexpression reduces these properties and inhibits tumour growth. These findings identify a pivotal role of CFIm25 in governing APA and reveal a previously unknown connection between CFIm25 and glioblastoma tumorigenicity.

  • Co-opting sulphur-carrier proteins from primary metabolic pathways for 2-thiosugar biosynthesis

  • Sulphur is an essential element for life and is ubiquitous in living systems. Yet how the sulphur atom is incorporated into many sulphur-containing secondary metabolites is poorly understood. For bond formation between carbon and sulphur in primary metabolites, the major ionic sulphur sources are the persulphide and thiocarboxylate groups on sulphur-carrier (donor) proteins. Each group is post-translationally generated through the action of a specific activating enzyme. In all reported bacterial cases, the gene encoding the enzyme that catalyses the carbon–sulphur bond formation reaction and that encoding the cognate sulphur-carrier protein exist in the same gene cluster. To study the production of the 2-thiosugar moiety in BE-7585A, an antibiotic from Amycolatopsis orientalis, we identified a putative 2-thioglucose synthase, BexX, whose protein sequence and mode of action seem similar to those of ThiG, the enzyme that catalyses thiazole formation in thiamine biosynthesis. However, no gene encoding a sulphur-carrier protein could be located in the BE-7585A cluster. Subsequent genome sequencing uncovered a few genes encoding sulphur-carrier proteins that are probably involved in the biosynthesis of primary metabolites but only one activating enzyme gene in the A. orientalis genome. Further experiments showed that this activating enzyme can adenylate each of these sulphur-carrier proteins and probably also catalyses the subsequent thiolation, through its rhodanese domain. A proper combination of these sulphur-delivery systems is effective for BexX-catalysed 2-thioglucose production. The ability of BexX to selectively distinguish sulphur-carrier proteins is given a structural basis using X-ray crystallography. This study is, to our knowledge, the first complete characterization of thiosugar formation in nature and also demonstrates the receptor promiscuity of the A. orientalis sulphur-delivery system. Our results also show that co-opting the sulphur-delivery machinery of primary metabolism for the biosynthesis of sulphur-containing natural products is probably a general strategy found in nature.

  • PTEN action in leukaemia dictated by the tissue microenvironment

  • PTEN encodes a lipid phosphatase that is underexpressed in many cancers owing to deletions, mutations or gene silencing. PTEN dephosphorylates phosphatidylinositol (3,4,5)-triphosphate, thereby opposing the activity of class I phosphatidylinositol 3-kinases that mediate growth- and survival-factor signalling through phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase effectors such as AKT and mTOR. To determine whether continued PTEN inactivation is required to maintain malignancy, here we generate an RNA interference-based transgenic mouse model that allows tetracycline-dependent regulation of PTEN in a time- and tissue-specific manner. Postnatal Pten knockdown in the haematopoietic compartment produced highly disseminated T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. Notably, reactivation of PTEN mainly reduced T-cell leukaemia dissemination but had little effect on tumour load in haematopoietic organs. Leukaemia infiltration into the intestine was dependent on CCR9 G-protein-coupled receptor signalling, which was amplified by PTEN loss. Our results suggest that in the absence of PTEN, G-protein-coupled receptors may have an unanticipated role in driving tumour growth and invasion in an unsupportive environment. They further reveal that the role of PTEN loss in tumour maintenance is not invariant and can be influenced by the tissue microenvironment, thereby producing a form of intratumoral heterogeneity that is independent of cancer genotype.
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