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The authorities must take the necessary time to remedy the slapdash introduction of a database containing the medical records of the entire population of England.
Regulatory agencies must demand conflict-of-interest statements for the research they use.
Identifiers that follow researchers’ work from grant to paper will make funding more effective.
From car design to drug discovery, the failure to acknowledge sex differences can be costly and even lethal, argues Londa Schiebinger.
The oldest known pieces of cheese have turned up in the tombs of an early Bronze Age cemetery in Xinjiang, China.Andrej Shevchenko at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany, Changsui Wang at the University of Chinese
Proteins that block cell death and help cells to integrate with blood vessels are crucial in the spread of cancer to the brain.Brain metastasis is often deadly, but most cancer cells that invade the brain die without establishing a tumour. To find ways in
Materials that change colour when pulled or squeezed could form the basis of display screens or sensors. But existing photonic gels, which change colour when deformed, cannot cover the entire rainbow or switch quickly.Now, Jianping Ge at East China Normal University in Shanghai and
Researchers have transferred genes for the production of magnetic nanocrystals from one species of bacteria to another, a step towards making bacterial bioreactors that generate such particles.Dirk Schueler at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany, Youming Zhang at the Helmholtz Joint Institute at Shandong University
Salmonella bacteria can escape antibiotics and immune-system attack by hiding inside a host's immune cells.Roland Regoes and Wolf-Dietrich Hardt of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and their colleagues infected mice with Salmonella enterica and then treated the animals with
To reach passing beetles, parasitic worms congregate into towers up to 30 times taller than an individual.Hans-Joachim Knölker at the Dresden University of Technology in Germany, Teymuras Kurzchalia at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, and their team
A by-product of antiquated glass-making processes could find a new lease of life as an optical diffuser.Manufacturers now avoid producing crystals, called devitrite, in their soda–lime–silica glass because they degrade the material's optical qualities. But Haider Butt at the University of Birmingham, UK, and
The unearthing of more than 40 marine mammal fossils (pictured) at a site in Atacama, Chile, has revealed that they probably died en masse in four events due to toxic algae.Nicholas Pyenson of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC and his colleagues
Researchers have pinpointed a molecule produced by male goats that activates reproduction in females outside of their normal breeding season.Yukari Takeuchi at the University of Tokyo and her colleagues used a special cap to capture 18 different pheromone molecules emitted from the heads of
Highly read on www.cell.com 27 Jan–26 FebMobile DNA elements activated by environmental or genetic triggers could boost susceptibility to schizophrenia.Tadafumi Kato at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Saitama, Japan, Kazuya Iwamoto at the University of Tokyo and their colleagues found higher
The week in science: Snow satellite launches; publishers remove computer-generated papers; and Switzerland’s access to EU research funds restricted.
Radioactive leak brings nuclear repositories into the spotlight.
As the third anniversary of the Fukushima disaster nears, the nation is faltering in its resolution to shun nuclear power.
US agency’s reassessment of silica exposure rules provokes conflict-of-interest row with senators.
But the increasingly accurate analyses carry the ethical dilemma of uncertain outcomes.
Debate rages as collectors accused of exporting specimens face up to 20 years in jail.
Costly cancer trials a challenge for revamped US programme.
The roots of inheritance may extend beyond the genome, but the mechanisms remain a puzzle.
Chemists are reinventing rechargeable cells to drive down costs and boost capacity.
Bold strategies are needed to identify the elusive particles that should make up most of the Universe's mass, say Mario Livio and Joe Silk.
With improved breeding and cultivation, ruminant animals can yield food that is better for people and the planet, say Mark C. Eisler, Michael R. F. Lee and colleagues.
Li Gong ponders a translation of a Chinese novel on the world of code-breaking.
Marine biologist Stephen R. Palumbi and writer Anthony R. Palumbi survey an impressive catch of extreme oceanic species, from the oldest to the deepest-dwelling. They are inspired guides, weaving evolutionary and geological backstories into accounts of wonders such as the exquisite architecture of sharks' teeth.
Ewen Callaway revels in an exhibition chronicling the ebb and flow of early humanity over the British Isles.
Materials scientist and engineer Andrea Hamilton at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, UK, uses chemistry research to conserve the structural and aesthetic integrity of concrete. She talks about dams, nuclear-waste storage and an artwork that explores weathering.
Synthetic ivory can now be crafted to the same diagnostic standards as genuine ivory (see M. E.Simset al. Ethnobiol. Lett.2, 40–44; 2011), and its price in China is only about 14% of that of real ivory.
Robert Costanza and colleagues suggest that it is time to abandon gross domestic product (GDP) as a measure of national success (Nature505, 283–285; 201410.1038/505283a). However, I feel that your choice of an illustration of a signpost to
Robert Costanza and colleagues call for the development of an alternative metric that includes a broader set of information than gross domestic product (GDP) and better reflects human well-being (Nature505, 283–285; 201410.1038/505283a). Improved metrics are needed, but
Your assertion that drug addiction is a brain disease (Nature506, 5; 201410.1038/506005a) is a contentious oversimplification— akin to always blaming a car crash on the car alone.By this analogy, addiction is the car crash and the brain
Irrespective of the animal-rights issues you discuss, we disagree with your one-dimensional view that addiction is a disease, and with your claim that this view is not particularly controversial among scientists (Nature506, 5; 201410.1038/506005a). Neuroscience has been widely documented
China is luring back expatriates with generous incentives, causing many to weigh the pros and cons of returning.
Scientists should find engaging ways to present information to their target audience, says Yoshimi Rii.
Reconnect with your past.
The advent of routine childhood vaccination has led to dramatic declines in many contagious diseases in the United States. Maintaining these gains there and spreading these success worldwide is challenge for public health. By Tony Scully.
Malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis are humanity's deadliest foes, and have stymied vaccinologists for centuries. New technology and ideas could finally make a difference.
Extreme temperatures damage vaccines. Efforts are underway to find better ways to deliver the goods.
Tapping into big data could inform better vaccine design.
China is poised to become a major global vaccine maker, but first it must overcome serious problems with quality control.
Researchers are developing a strategy that could put an end to polio forever.
We must push harder to eliminate diseases, for everyone's benefit, say Andrew Artenstein and Gregory Poland.
Faced with outbreaks of preventable diseases, public-health experts need to win over parents who refuse vaccinations.
Klaus Stöhr asks whether those responsible for public health will grasp new opportunities to ensure pandemic vaccine readiness.
In the News Feature‘Smart enough to die?’ (Nature506, 284–286; 2014), it was the Virginia court system, not the US Supreme Court, that changed Daryl Atkins’s sentence to life imprisonment. The Supreme Court also did not mandate that rulings on intellectual
The discovery of crystallographic imperfections known as disclinations in the most profuse mineral in Earth's upper mantle has the potential to solve a problem that has vexed mineral physicists for decades. See Article p.51
An elastic membrane cast around a three-dimensional printed model of a specific heart allows diverse aspects of cardiac function to be monitored and modified, and paves the way to new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.
The protein NRT1.1 transports nitrate ions into plants over a wide range of concentrations. Two studies provide structural insight into this unusual behaviour, but give different explanations for it. See Articles p.68 aamp; p.73
An optomechanical device has been designed that converts radio-frequency electrical signals into laser light. The system could allow computers to share data in a future quantum network based on optical fibres. See Letter p.81
Predicting the long-term evolution of influenza is difficult. But a model incorporating the effects of deleterious and beneficial mutations has met the more tangible goal of predicting year-to-year frequencies of viral groups. See Article p.57
Tumour spread is the main cause of death in patients with melanoma. Exposure of melanoma to ultraviolet radiation has now been found to cause an inflammatory response that drives the formation of distant metastases. See Letter p.109
Mantle flow involves large strains of polymineral aggregates. The strongly anisotropic plastic response of each individual grain in the aggregate results from the interactions between neighbouring grains and the continuity of material displacement across the grain boundaries. Orthorhombic olivine, which is the dominant mineral phase
The seasonal human influenza A/H3N2 virus undergoes rapid evolution, which produces significant year-to-year sequence turnover in the population of circulating strains. Adaptive mutations respond to human immune challenge and occur primarily in antigenic epitopes, the antibody-binding domains of the viral surface protein haemagglutinin. Here we
The clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-associated enzyme Cas9 is an RNA-guided endonuclease that uses RNA–DNA base-pairing to target foreign DNA in bacteria. Cas9–guide RNA complexes are also effective genome engineering agents in animals and plants. Here we use single-molecule and bulk biochemical experiments
The NRT1/PTR family of proton-coupled transporters are responsible for nitrogen assimilation in eukaryotes and bacteria through the uptake of peptides. However, in most plant species members of this family have evolved to transport nitrate as well as additional secondary metabolites and hormones. In response to
Nitrate is a primary nutrient for plant growth, but its levels in soil can fluctuate by several orders of magnitude. Previous studies have identified Arabidopsis NRT1.1 as a dual-affinity nitrate transporter that can take up nitrate over a wide range of concentrations. The mode
IRAS 04368+2557 is a solar-type (low-mass) protostar embedded in a protostellar core (L1527) in the Taurus molecular cloud, which is only 140 parsecs away from Earth, making it the closest large star-forming region. The protostellar envelope has a flattened shape with a diameter of a thousand astronomical units (1 au is the distance from Earth to the Sun), and is infalling and rotating. It also has a protostellar disk with a radius of 90 au (ref. 6), from which a planetary system is expected to form. The interstellar gas, mainly consisting of hydrogen molecules, undergoes a change in density of about three orders of magnitude as it collapses from the envelope into the disk, while being heated from 10 kelvin to over 100 kelvin in the mid-plane, but it has hitherto not been possible to explore changes in chemical composition associated with this collapse. Here we report that the unsaturated hydrocarbon molecule cyclic-C3H2 resides in the infalling rotating envelope, whereas sulphur monoxide (SO) is enhanced in the transition zone at the radius of the centrifugal barrier (100 ± 20 au), which is the radius at which the kinetic energy of the infalling gas is converted to rotational energy. Such a drastic change in chemistry at the centrifugal barrier was not anticipated, but is probably caused by the discontinuous infalling motion at the centrifugal barrier and local heating processes there.
Low-loss transmission and sensitive recovery of weak radio-frequency and microwave signals is a ubiquitous challenge, crucial in radio astronomy, medical imaging, navigation, and classical and quantum communication. Efficient up-conversion of radio-frequency signals to an optical carrier would enable their transmission through optical fibres instead of through copper wires, drastically reducing losses, and would give access to the set of established quantum optical techniques that are routinely used in quantum-limited signal detection. Research in cavity optomechanics has shown that nanomechanical oscillators can couple strongly to either microwave or optical fields. Here we demonstrate a room-temperature optoelectromechanical transducer with both these functionalities, following a recent proposal using a high-quality nanomembrane. A voltage bias of less than 10 V is sufficient to induce strong coupling between the voltage fluctuations in a radio-frequency resonance circuit and the membrane’s displacement, which is simultaneously coupled to light reflected off its surface. The radio-frequency signals are detected as an optical phase shift with quantum-limited sensitivity. The corresponding half-wave voltage is in the microvolt range, orders of magnitude less than that of standard optical modulators. The noise of the transducer—beyond the measured Johnson noise of the resonant circuit—consists of the quantum noise of light and thermal fluctuations of the membrane, dominating the noise floor in potential applications in radio astronomy and nuclear magnetic imaging. Each of these contributions is inferred to be when balanced by choosing an electromechanical cooperativity of with an optical power of 1 mW. The noise temperature of the membrane is divided by the cooperativity. For the highest observed cooperativity of , this leads to a projected noise temperature of 40 mK and a sensitivity limit of . Our approach to all-optical, ultralow-noise detection of classical electronic signals sets the stage for coherent up-conversion of low-frequency quantum signals to the optical domain.
The process of molecular self-assembly on solid surfaces is essentially one of crystallization in two dimensions, and the structures that result depend on the interplay between intermolecular forces and the interaction between adsorbates and the underlying substrate. Because a single hydrogen bond typically has an energy between 15 and 35 kilojoules per mole, hydrogen bonding can be a strong driver of molecular assembly; this is apparent from the dominant role of hydrogen bonding in nucleic-acid base pairing, as well as in the secondary structure of proteins. Carboxylic acid functional groups, which provide two hydrogen bonds, are particularly promising and reliable in creating and maintaining surface order, and self-assembled monolayers of benzoic acids produce structure that depends on the number and relative placement of carboxylic acid groups. Here we use scanning tunnelling microscopy to study self-assembled monolayers of ferrocenecarboxylic acid (FcCOOH), and find that, rather than producing dimeric or linear structures typical of carboxylic acids, FcCOOH forms highly unusual cyclic hydrogen-bonded pentamers, which combine with simultaneously formed FcCOOH dimers to form two-dimensional quasicrystallites that exhibit local five-fold symmetry and maintain translational and rotational order (without periodicity) for distances of more than 400ångströms.
Forests are major components of the global carbon cycle, providing substantial feedback to atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. Our ability to understand and predict changes in the forest carbon cycle—particularly net primary productivity and carbon storage—increasingly relies on models that represent biological processes across several scales of biological organization, from tree leaves to forest stands. Yet, despite advances in our understanding of productivity at the scales of leaves andstands, no consensus exists about the nature of productivity at the scale of the individual tree, in part because we lack a broad empirical assessment of whether rates of absolute tree mass growth (and thus carbon accumulation) decrease, remain constant, or increase as trees increase in size and age. Here we present a global analysis of 403 tropical and temperate tree species, showing that for most species mass growth rate increases continuously with tree size. Thus, large, old trees do not act simply as senescent carbon reservoirs but actively fix large amounts of carbon compared to smaller trees; at the extreme, a single big tree can add the same amount of carbon to the forest within a year as is contained in an entire mid-sized tree. The apparent paradoxes of individual tree growth increasing with tree size despite declining leaf-level and stand-level productivity can be explained, respectively, by increases in a tree’s total leaf area that outpace declines in productivity per unit of leaf area and, among other factors, age-related reductions in population density. Our results resolve conflicting assumptions about the nature of tree growth, inform efforts to undertand and model forest carbon dynamics, and have additional implications for theories of resource allocation and plant senescence.
Historically, the study of speech processing has emphasized a strong link between auditory perceptual input and motor production output. A kind of‘parity’ is essential, as both perception- and production-based representations must form a unified interface to facilitate access to higher-order language processes such as syntax and semantics, believed to be computed in the dominant, typically left hemisphere. Although various theories have been proposed to unite perception and production, the underlying neural mechanisms are unclear. Early models of speech and language processing proposed that perceptual processing occurred in the left posterior superior temporal gyrus (Wernicke’s area) and motor production processes occurred in theleft inferior frontal gyrus (Broca’s area). Sensory activity was proposed to link to production activity through connecting fibre tracts, forming the left lateralized speech sensory–motor system. Although recent evidence indicates that speech perception occurs bilaterally, prevailing models maintain that the speech sensory–motor system is left lateralized and facilitates the transformation from sensory-based auditory representations to motor-based production representations. However, evidence for the lateralized computation of sensory–motor speech transformations is indirect and primarily comes from stroke patients that have speech repetition deficits (conduction aphasia) and studies using covert speech and haemodynamic functional imaging. Whether the speech sensory–motor system is lateralized, like higher-order language processes, or bilateral, like speech perception, is controversial. Here we use direct neural recordings in subjects performing sensory–motor tasks involving overt speech production to show that sensory–motor transformations occur bilaterally. We demonstrate that electrodes over bilateral inferior frontal, inferior parietal, superior temporal, premotor and somatosensory cortices exhibit robust sensory–motor neural responses during both perception and production in an overt word-repetition task. Using a non-word transformation task, we show that bilateral sensory–motor responses can perform transformations between speech-perception- and speech-production-based representations. These results establish a bilateral sublexical speech sensory–motor system.
Ring chromosomes are structural aberrations commonly associated with birth defects, mental disabilities and growth retardation. Rings form after fusion of the long and short arms of a chromosome, and are sometimes associated with large terminal deletions. Owing to the severity of these large aberrations that can affect multiple contiguous genes, no possible therapeutic strategies for ring chromosome disorders have been proposed. During cell division, ring chromosomes can exhibit unstable behaviour leading to continuous production of aneuploid progeny with low viability and high cellular death rate. The overall consequences of this chromosomal instability have been largely unexplored in experimental model systems. Here we generated human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from patient fibroblasts containing ring chromosomes with large deletions and found that reprogrammed cells lost the abnormal chromosome and duplicated the wild-type homologue through the compensatory uniparental disomy (UPD) mechanism. The karyotypically normal iPSCs with isodisomy for the corrected chromosome outgrew co-existing aneuploid populations, enabling rapid and efficient isolation of patient-derived iPSCs devoid of the original chromosomal aberration. Our results suggest a fundamentally different function for cellular reprogramming as a means of‘chromosome therapy’ to reverse combined loss-of-function across many genes in cells with large-scale aberrations involving ring structures. In addition, our work provides an experimentally tractable human cellular system for studying mechanisms of chromosomal number control, which is of critical relevance to human development and disease.
Citrullination is the post-translational conversion of an arginine residue within a protein to the non-coded amino acid citrulline. This modification leads to the loss of a positive charge and reduction in hydrogen-bonding ability. It is carried out by a small family of tissue-specific vertebrate enzymes called peptidylarginine deiminases (PADIs) and is associated with the development of diverse pathological states such as autoimmunity, cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, prion diseases and thrombosis. Nevertheless, the physiological functions of citrullination remain ill-defined, although citrullination of core histones has been linked to transcriptional regulation and the DNA damage response. PADI4 (also called PAD4 or PADV), the only PADI with a nuclear localization signal, was previously shown to act in myeloid cells where it mediates profound chromatin decondensation during the innate immune response to infection. Here we show that the expression and enzymatic activity of Padi4 are also induced under conditions of ground-state pluripotency and during reprogramming in mouse. Padi4 is part of the pluripotency transcriptional network, binding to regulatory elements of key stem-cell genes and activating their expression. Its inhibition lowers the percentage of pluripotent cells in the early mouse embryo and significantly reduces reprogramming efficiency. Using an unbiased proteomic approach we identify linker histone H1 variants, which are involved in the generation of compact chromatin, as novel PADI4 substrates. Citrullination of a single arginine residue within the DNA-binding site of H1 results in its displacement from chromatin and global chromatin decondensation. Together, these results uncover a role for citrullination in the regulation of pluripotency and provide new mechanistic insights into how citrullination regulates chromatin compaction.
Intermittent intense ultraviolet (UV) exposure represents an important aetiological factor in the development of malignant melanoma. The ability of UV radiation to cause tumour-initiating DNA mutations in melanocytes is now firmly established, but how the microenvironmental effects of UV radiation influence melanoma pathogenesis is not fully understood. Here we report that repetitive UV exposure of primary cutaneous melanomas in a genetically engineered mouse model promotes metastatic progression, independent of its tumour-initiating effects. UV irradiation enhanced the expansion of tumour cells along abluminal blood vessel surfaces and increased the number of lung metastases. This effect depended on the recruitment and activation of neutrophils, initiated by the release of high mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) from UV-damaged epidermal keratinocytes and driven by Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4). The UV-induced neutrophilic inflammatory response stimulated angiogenesis and promoted the ability of melanoma cells to migrate towards endothelial cells and use selective motility cues on their surfaces. Our results not only reveal how UV irradiation of epidermal keratinocytes is sensed by the innate immune system, but also show that the resulting inflammatory response catalyses reciprocal melanoma–endothelial cell interactions leading to perivascular invasion, a phenomenon originally described as angiotropism in human melanomas by histopathologists. Angiotropism represents a hitherto underappreciated mechanism of metastasis that also increases the likelihood of intravasation and haematogenous dissemination. Consistent with our findings, ulcerated primary human melanomas with abundant neutrophils and reactive angiogenesis frequently show angiotropism and a high risk for metastases. Our work indicates that targeting the inflammation-induced phenotypic plasticity of melanoma cells and their association with endothelial cells represent rational strategies to specifically interfere with metastatic progression.
Sulphoquinovose (SQ, 6-deoxy-6-sulphoglucose) has been known for 50 years as the polar headgroup of the plant sulpholipid in the photosynthetic membranes of all higher plants, mosses, ferns, algae and most photosynthetic bacteria. It is also found in some non-photosynthetic bacteria, and SQ is part of the surface layer of some Archaea. The estimated annual production of SQ is 10,000,000,000 tonnes (10 petagrams), thus it comprises a major portion of the organo-sulphur in nature, where SQ is degraded by bacteria. However, despite evidence for at least three different degradative pathways in bacteria, no enzymic reaction or gene in any pathway has been defined, although a sulphoglycolytic pathway has been proposed. Here we show that Escherichia coli K-12, the most widely studied prokaryotic model organism, performs sulphoglycolysis, in addition to standard glycolysis. SQ is catabolised through four newly discovered reactions that we established using purified, heterologously expressed enzymes: SQ isomerase, 6-deoxy-6-sulphofructose (SF) kinase, 6-deoxy-6-sulphofructose-1-phosphate (SFP) aldolase, and 3-sulpholactaldehyde (SLA) reductase. The enzymes are encoded in a ten-gene cluster, which probably also encodes regulation, transport and degradation of the whole sulpholipid; the gene cluster is present in almost all (ggt;91%) available E. coli genomes, and is widespread in Enterobacteriaceae. The pathway yields dihydroxyacetone phosphate (DHAP), which powers energy conservation and growth of E. coli, and the sulphonate product 2,3-dihydroxypropane-1-sulphonate (DHPS), which is excreted. DHPS is mineralized by other bacteria, thus closing the sulphur cycle within a bacterial community.
The recognition events that mediate adaptive cellular immunity and regulate antibody responses depend on intercellular contacts between T cells and antigen-presenting cells (APCs). T-cell signalling is initiated at these contacts when surface-expressed T-cell receptors (TCRs) recognize peptide fragments (antigens) of pathogens bound to major histocompatibility complex molecules (pMHC) on APCs. This, along with engagement of adhesion receptors, leads to the formation of a specialized junction between T cells and APCs, known as the immunological synapse, which mediates efficient delivery of effector molecules and intercellular signals across the synaptic cleft. T-cell recognition of pMHC and the adhesion ligand intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) on supported planar bilayers recapitulates the domain organization of the immunological synapse, which is characterized by central accumulation of TCRs, adjacent to a secretory domain, both surrounded by an adhesive ring. Although accumulation of TCRs at the immunological synapse centre correlates with T-cell function, this domain is itself largely devoid of TCR signalling activity, and is characterized by an unexplained immobilization of TCR–pMHC complexes relative to the highly dynamic immunological synapse periphery. Here we show that centrally accumulated TCRs are located on the surface of extracellular microvesicles that bud at the immunological synapse centre. Tumour susceptibility gene 101 (TSG101) sorts TCRs for inclusion in microvesicles, whereas vacuolar protein sorting 4 (VPS4) mediates scission of microvesicles from the T-cell plasma membrane. The human immunodeficiency virus polyprotein Gag co-opts this process for budding of virus-like particles. B cells bearing cognate pMHC receive TCRs from T cells and initiate intracellular signals in response to isolated synaptic microvesicles. We conclude that the immunological synapse orchestrates TCR sorting and release in extracellular microvesicles. These microvesicles deliver transcellular signals across antigen-dependent synapses by engaging cognate pMHC on APCs.
RNA-directed DNA methylation in Arabidopsis thaliana depends on the upstream synthesis of 24-nucleotide small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) by RNA POLYMERASE IV (Pol IV) and downstream synthesis of non-coding transcripts by Pol V. Pol V transcripts are thought to interact with siRNAs which then recruit DOMAINS REARRANGED METHYLTRANSFERASE 2 (DRM2) to methylate DNA. The SU(VAR)3-9 homologues SUVH2 and SUVH9 act in this downstream step but the mechanism of their action is unknown. Here we show that genome-wide Pol V association with chromatin redundantly requires SUVH2 and SUVH9. Although SUVH2 and SUVH9 resemble histone methyltransferases, a crystal structure reveals that SUVH9 lacks a peptide-substrate binding cleft and lacks a properly formed S-adenosyl methionine (SAM)-binding pocket necessary for normal catalysis, consistent with a lack of methyltransferase activity for these proteins. SUVH2 and SUVH9 both contain SRA (SET- and RING-ASSOCIATED) domains capable of binding methylated DNA, suggesting that they function to recruit Pol V through DNA methylation. Consistent with this model, mutation of DNA METHYLTRANSFERASE 1 (MET1) causes loss of DNA methylation, a nearly complete loss of Pol V at its normal locations, and redistribution of Pol V to sites that become hypermethylated. Furthermore, tethering SUVH2 with a zinc finger to an unmethylated site is sufficient to recruit Pol V and establish DNA methylation and gene silencing. These results indicate that Pol V is recruited to DNA methylation through the methyl-DNA binding SUVH2 and SUVH9 proteins, and our mechanistic findings suggest a means for selectively targeting regions of plant genomes for epigenetic silencing.
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Haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) have a lower rate of protein synthesis in vivo than most other haematopoietic cells, and both increases and decreases in the rate of protein synthesis impair HSC function, demonstrating that HSC maintenance—and hence, cellular homeostasis—requires the rate of protein synthesis to be highly regulated.
Human alterations to nutrient cycles and herbivore communities are affecting global biodiversity dramatically. Ecological theory predicts these changes should be strongly counteractive: nutrient addition drives plant species loss through intensified competition for light, whereas herbivores prevent competitive exclusion by increasing ground-level light, particularly in productive systems. Here we use experimental data spanning a globally relevant range of conditions to test the hypothesis that herbaceous plant species losses caused by eutrophication may be offset by increased light availability due to herbivory. This experiment, replicated in 40 grasslands on 6 continents, demonstrates that nutrients and herbivores can serve as counteracting forces to control local plant diversity through light limitation, independent of site productivity, soil nitrogen, herbivore type and climate. Nutrient addition consistently reduced local diversity through light limitation, and herbivory rescued diversity at sites where it alleviated light limitation. Thus, species loss from anthropogenic eutrophication can be ameliorated in grasslands where herbivory increases ground-level light.
The preparation of cold molecules is of great importance in many contexts, such as fundamental physics investigations, high-resolution spectroscopy of complex molecules, cold chemistry and astrochemistry. One versatile and widely applied method to cool molecules is helium buffer-gas cooling in either a supersonic beam expansion or a cryogenic trap environment. Another more recent method applicable to trapped molecular ions relies on sympathetic translational cooling, through collisional interactions with co-trapped, laser-cooled atomic ions, into spatially ordered structures called Coulomb crystals, combined with laser-controlled internal-state preparation. Here we present experimental results on helium buffer-gas cooling of the rotational degrees of freedom of MgH+ molecular ions, which have been trapped and sympathetically cooled in a cryogenic linear radio-frequency quadrupole trap. With helium collision rates of only about ten per second—that is, four to five orders of magnitude lower than in typical buffer-gas cooling settings—we have cooled a single molecular ion to a rotational temperature of kelvin, the lowest such temperature so far measured. In addition, by varying the shape of, or the number of atomic and molecular ions in, larger Coulomb crystals, or both, we have tuned the effective rotational temperature from about 7 kelvin to about 60 kelvin by changing the translational micromotion energy of the ions. The extremely low helium collision rate may allow for sympathetic sideband cooling of single molecularions, and eventually make quantum-logic spectroscopy of buffer-gas-cooled molecular ions feasible. Furthermore, application of the present cooling scheme to complex molecular ions should enable single- or few-state manipulations of individual molecules of biological interest.
Akt, also known as protein kinase B, plays key roles in cell proliferation, survival and metabolism. Akt hyperactivation contributes to many pathophysiological conditions, including human cancers, and is closely associated with poor prognosis and chemo- or radiotherapeutic resistance. Phosphorylation of Akt at S473 (ref. 5) and T308 (ref. 6) activates Akt. However, it remains unclear whether further mechanisms account for full Akt activation, and whether Akt hyperactivation is linked to misregulated cell cycle progression, another cancer hallmark. Here we report that Akt activity fluctuates across the cell cycle, mirroring cyclin A expression. Mechanistically, phosphorylation of S477 and T479 at the Akt extreme carboxy terminus by cyclin-dependent kinase 2 (Cdk2)/cyclin A or mTORC2, under distinct physiological conditions, promotes Akt activation through facilitating, or functionally compensating for, S473 phosphorylation. Furthermore, deletion of the cyclin A2 allele in the mouse olfactory bulb leads to reduced S477/T479 phosphorylation and elevated cellular apoptosis. Notably, cyclin A2-deletion-induced cellular apoptosis in mouse embryonic stem cells is partly rescued by S477D/T479E-Akt1, supporting a physiological role for cyclin A2 in governing Akt activation. Together, the results of our study show Akt S477/T479 phosphorylation to be an essential layer of the Akt activation mechanism to regulate its physiological functions, thereby providing a new mechanistic link between aberrant cell cycle progression and Akt hyperactivation in cancer.
Bacterial type IV secretion systems translocate virulence factors into eukaryotic cells, distribute genetic material between bacteria and have shown potential as a tool for the genetic modification of human cells. Given the complex choreography of the substrate through the secretion apparatus, the molecular mechanism of the type IV secretion system has proved difficult to dissect in the absence of structural data for the entire machinery. Here we use electron microscopy to reconstruct the type IV secretion system encoded by the Escherichia coli R388 conjugative plasmid. We show that eight proteins assemble in an intricate stoichiometric relationship to form an approximately 3 megadalton nanomachine that spans the entire cell envelope. The structure comprises an outer membrane-associated core complex connected by a central stalk to a substantial inner membrane complex that is dominated by a battery of 12 VirB4 ATPase subunits organized as side-by-side hexameric barrels. Our results show a secretion system with markedly different architecture, and consequently mechanism, to other known bacterial secretion systems.
Variation in an evolutionarily conserved sexual-differentiation gene, doublesex, has been found to explain how females of one species of butterfly mimic the colour patterns of several toxic species to avoid predation.
The power of a cosmic lens to magnify and split the light from a distant, mass-accreting giant black hole into four components has allowed researchers to measure the black hole's spin.
Multiplication of repetitive DNA sequences is often the cause of neurodegenerative diseases. A four-stranded structure has been found to form in one such expansion in the gene C9orf72, altering gene function in four ways.
A systematic and painstaking analysis reveals that much of the complexity and variability of the courtship song of male fruit flies can be accounted for by simple rules that relate sensory experience to motor output.
Structurally polymorphic C9orf72 hexanucleotide repeats cause an impairment in transcriptional processivity and lead to accumulation of truncated repeat-containing transcripts that bind to specific ribonucleoproteins, such as nucleolin, in a conformation-dependent manner resulting in nucleolar stress and C9orf72-linked pathology in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia.
The generation of acoustic communication signals is widespread across the animal kingdom, and males of many species, including Drosophilidae, produce patterned courtship songs to increase their chance of success with a female. For some animals, song structure can vary considerably from one rendition to the next; neural noise within pattern generating circuits is widely assumed to be the primary source of such variability, and statistical models that incorporate neural noise are successful at reproducing the full variation present in natural songs. In direct contrast, here we demonstrate that much of the pattern variability in Drosophila courtship song can be explained by taking into account the dynamic sensory experience of the male. In particular, using a quantitative behavioural assay combined with computational modelling, we find that males use fast modulations in visual and self-motion signals to pattern their songs, a relationship that we show is evolutionarily conserved. Using neural circuit manipulations, we also identify the pathways involved in song patterning choices and show that females are sensitive to song features. Our data not only demonstrate that Drosophila song production is not a fixed action pattern, but establish Drosophila as a valuable new model for studies of rapid decision-making under both social and naturalistic conditions.
One of the most striking examples of sexual dimorphism is sex-limited mimicry in butterflies, a phenomenon in which one sex—usually the female—mimics a toxic model species, whereas the other sex displays a different wing pattern. Sex-limited mimicry is phylogenetically widespread in the swallowtail butterfly genus Papilio, in which it is often associated with female mimetic polymorphism. In multiple polymorphic species, the entire wing pattern phenotype is controlled by a single Mendelian ‘supergene’. Although theoretical work has explored the evolutionary dynamics of supergene mimicry, there are almost no empirical data that address the critical issue of what a mimicry supergene actually is at a functional level. Using an integrative approach combining genetic and association mapping, transcriptome and genome sequencing, and gene expression analyses, we show that a single gene, doublesex, controls supergene mimicry in Papilio polytes. This is in contrast to the long-held view that supergenes are likely to be controlled by a tightly linked cluster of loci. Analysis of gene expression and DNA sequence variation indicates that isoform expression differences contribute to the functional differences between dsx mimicry alleles, and protein sequence evolution may also have a role. Our results combine elements from different hypotheses for the identity of supergenes, showing that a single gene can switch the entire wing pattern among mimicry phenotypes but may require multiple, tightly linked mutations to do so.
The co-evolution of a supermassive black hole with its host galaxy through cosmic time is encoded in its spin. At z ggt; 2, supermassive black holes are thought to grow mostly by merger-driven accretion leading to high spin. It is not known, however, whether below z ≈ 1 these black holes continue to grow by coherent accretion or in a chaotic manner, though clear differences are predicted in their spinevolution. An established method of measuring the spin of black holes is through the study of relativistic reflection features from the inner accretion disk. Owing to their greater distances from Earth, there has hitherto been no significant detection of relativistic reflection features in a moderate-redshift quasar. Here we report an analysis of archival X-ray data together with a deep observation of a gravitationally lensed quasar at z = 0.658. The emission originates within three or fewer gravitational radii from the black hole, implying a spin parameter (a measure of how fast the black hole is rotating) of a = at the 3σ confidence level and a ggt; 0.66 at the 5σ level. The high spin found here is indicative of growth by coherent accretion for this black hole, and suggests that black-hole growth at 0.5 ≤ z ≤ 1 occurs principally by coherent rather than chaotic accretion episodes.
A longitudinal study of an individual patient developing neutralizing antibodies against HIV-1 (targeting the V1V2 region of gp120) reveals how such neutralizing antibodies develop and evolve over time, providing important insights relevant to vaccine development.
Epithelial folding mediated by apical constriction converts flat epithelial sheets into multilayered, complex tissue structures and is used throughout development in most animals. Little is known, however, about how forces produced near the apical surface of the tissue are transmitted within individual cells to generate the global changes in cell shape that characterize tissue deformation. Here we apply particle tracking velocimetry in gastrulating Drosophila embryos to measure the movement of cytoplasm and plasma membrane during ventral furrow formation. We find that cytoplasmic redistribution during the lengthening phase of ventral furrow formation can be precisely described by viscous flows that quantitatively match the predictions of hydrodynamics. Cell membranes move with the ambient cytoplasm, with little resistance to, or driving force on, the flow. Strikingly, apical constriction produces similar flow patterns in mutant embryos that fail to form cells before gastrulation (‘acellular’ embryos), such that the global redistribution of cytoplasm mirrors the summed redistribution occurring in individual cells of wild-type embryos. Our results indicate that during the lengthening phase of ventral furrow formation, hydrodynamic behaviour of the cytoplasm provides the predominant mechanism transmitting apically generated forces deep into the tissue and that cell individualization is dispensable.
Haematopoietic stem and progenitor cells are maintained by special microenvironments known as niches in bone marrow. Many studies have identified diverse candidate cells that constitute niches for haematopoietic stem cells in the marrow, including osteoblasts, endothelial cells, Schwann cells,α-smooth muscle actin-expressing macrophages and mesenchymal progenitors such as CXC chemokine ligand (CXCL)12-abundant reticular (CAR) cells, stem cell factor-expressing cells, nestin-expressing cells and platelet-derived growth factor receptor-α (PDGFR-α)+Sca-1+CD45−Ter119− (PαS) cells. However, the molecular basis of the formation of the niches remains unclear. Here we find that the transcription factor Foxc1 is preferentially expressed in the adipo-osteogenic progenitor CAR cells essential for haematopoietic stem and progenitor cell maintenance in vivo in the developing and adult bone marrow. When Foxc1 was deleted in all marrow mesenchymal cells or CAR cells, from embryogenesis onwards, osteoblasts appeared normal, but haematopoietic stem and progenitor cells were markedly reduced and marrow cavities were occupied by adipocytes (yellow adipose marrow) with reduced CAR cells. Inducible deletion of Foxc1 in adult mice depleted haematopoietic stem and progenitor cells and reduced CXCL12 and stem cell factor expression in CAR cells but did not induce a change to yellow marrow. These data suggest a role for Foxc1 in inhibiting adipogenic processes in CAR progenitors. Foxc1might also promote CAR cell development, upregulating CXCL12 and stem cell factor expression. This study identifies Foxc1 as a specific transcriptional regulator essential for development and maintenance of the mesenchymal niches for haematopoietic stem and progenitor cells.
Ubiquitin (Ub) has important roles in a wide range of intracellular signalling pathways. In the conventional view, ubiquitin alters the signalling activity of the target protein through covalent modification, but accumulating evidence points to the emerging role of non-covalent interaction between ubiquitin and the target. In the innate immune signalling pathway of a viral RNA sensor, RIG-I, both covalent and non-covalent interactions with K63-linked ubiquitin chains (K63-Ubn) were shown to occur in its signalling domain, a tandem caspase activation and recruitment domain (hereafter referred to as 2CARD). Non-covalent binding of K63-Ubn to 2CARD induces its tetramer formation, a requirement for downstream signal activation. Here we report the crystal structure of the tetramer of human RIG-I 2CARD bound by three chains of K63-Ub2. 2CARD assembles into a helical tetramer resembling a‘lock-washer’, in which the tetrameric surface serves as a signalling platform for recruitment and activation of the downstream signalling molecule, MAVS. Ubiquitin chains are bound along the outer rim of the helical trajectory, bridging adjacent subunits of 2CARD and stabilizing the 2CARD tetramer. The combination of structural and functional analyses reveals that binding avidity dictates the K63-linkage and chain-length specificity of 2CARD, and that covalent ubiquitin conjugation of 2CARD further stabilizes the Ub–2CARD interaction and thus the 2CARD tetramer. Our work provides unique insights into the novel types of ubiquitin-mediated signal-activation mechanism, and previously unexpected synergism between the covalent and non-covalent ubiquitin interaction modes.
Characterization of how the microenvironment, or niche, regulates stem cell activity is central to understanding stem cell biology and to developing strategies for the therapeutic manipulation of stem cells. Low oxygen tension (hypoxia) is commonly thought to be a shared niche characteristic in maintaining quiescence in multiple stem cell types. However, support for the existence of a hypoxic niche has largely come from indirect evidence such as proteomic analysis, expression of Hif-1 (also known as Setd2) and related genes, and staining with surrogate hypoxic markers (for example, pimonidazole). Here we perform direct in vivo measurements of local oxygen tension (pO2) in the bone marrow of live mice. Using two-photon phosphorescence lifetime microscopy, we determined the absolute pO2 of the bone marrow to be quite low (llt;32 mm Hg) despite very high vascular density. We further uncovered heterogeneities in local pO2, with the lowest pO2 (∼9.9 mm Hg, or 1.3%) found in deeper peri-sinusoidal regions. The endosteal region, by contrast, is less hypoxic as it is perfused with small arteries that are often positive for the marker nestin. These pO2 values change markedly after radiation and chemotherapy, pointing to the role of stress in altering the stem cell metabolic microenvironment.
Filoviruses are emerging pathogens and causative agents of viral haemorrhagic fever. Case fatality rates of filovirus disease outbreaks are among the highest reported for any human pathogen, exceeding 90% (ref. 1). Licensed therapeutic or vaccine products are not available to treat filovirus diseases. Candidate therapeutics previously shown to be efficacious in non-human primate disease models are based on virus-specific designs and have limited broad-spectrum antiviral potential. Here we show that BCX4430, a novel synthetic adenosine analogue, inhibits infection of distinct filoviruses in human cells. Biochemical, reporter-based and primer-extension assays indicate that BCX4430 inhibits viral RNA polymerase function, acting as a non-obligate RNA chain terminator. Post-exposure intramuscular administration of BCX4430 protects against Ebola virus and Marburg virus disease in rodent models. Most importantly, BCX4430 completely protects cynomolgus macaques from Marburg virus infection when administered as late as 48 hours after infection. In addition, BCX4430 exhibits broad-spectrum antiviral activity against numerous viruses, including bunyaviruses, arenaviruses, paramyxoviruses, coronaviruses and flaviviruses. This is the first report, to our knowledge, of non-human primate protection from filovirus disease by a synthetic drug-like small molecule. We provide additional pharmacological characterizations supporting the potential development of BCX4430 as a countermeasure against human filovirus diseases and other viral diseases representing major public health threats.
Recognition of modified histones by‘reader’ proteins plays a critical role in the regulation of chromatin. H3K36 trimethylation (H3K36me3) is deposited onto the nucleosomes in the transcribed regions after RNA polymerase II elongation. In yeast, this mark in turn recruits epigenetic regulators to reset the chromatin to a relatively repressive state, thus suppressing cryptic transcription. However, much less is known about the role of H3K36me3 in transcription regulation in mammals. This is further complicated by the transcription-coupled incorporation of the histone variant H3.3 in gene bodies. Here we show that the candidate tumour suppressor ZMYND11 specifically recognizes H3K36me3 on H3.3 (H3.3K36me3) and regulates RNA polymerase II elongation. Structural studies show that in addition to the trimethyl-lysine binding by an aromatic cage within the PWWP domain, the H3.3-dependent recognition is mediated by the encapsulation of the H3.3-specific ‘Ser 31’ residue in a composite pocket formed by the tandem bromo–PWWP domains of ZMYND11. Chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by sequencing shows a genome-wide co-localization of ZMYND11 with H3K36me3 and H3.3 in gene bodies, and its occupancy requires the pre-deposition of H3.3K36me3. Although ZMYND11 is associated with highly expressed genes, it functions as an unconventional transcription co-repressor by modulating RNA polymerase II at the elongation stage. ZMYND11 is critical for the repression of a transcriptional program that is essential for tumour cell growth; low expression levels of ZMYND11 in breast cancer patients correlate with worse prognosis. Consistently, overexpression of ZMYND11 suppresses cancer cell growth in vitro and tumour formation in mice. Together, this study identifies ZMYND11 as an H3.3-specific reader of H3K36me3 thatlinks the histone-variant-mediated transcription elongation control to tumour suppression.
How specific features in the environment are represented within the brain is an important unanswered question in neuroscience. A subset of retinal neurons, called direction-selective ganglion cells (DSGCs), are specialized for detecting motion along specific axes of the visual field. Despite extensive study of the retinal circuitry that endows DSGCs with their unique tuning properties, their downstream circuitry in the brain and thus their contribution to visual processing has remained unclear. In mice, several different types of DSGCs connect to the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (dLGN), the visual thalamic structure that harbours cortical relay neurons. Whether direction-selective information computed at the level of the retina is routed to cortical circuits and integrated with other visual channels, however, is unknown. Here we show that there is a di-synaptic circuit linking DSGCs with the superficial layers of the primary visual cortex (V1) by using viral trans-synaptic circuit mapping and functional imaging of visually driven calcium signals in thalamocortical axons. This circuit pools information from several types of DSGCs, converges in a specialized subdivision of the dLGN, and delivers direction-tuned and orientation-tuned signals to superficial V1. Notably, this circuit is anatomically segregated from the retino-geniculo-cortical pathway carrying non-direction-tuned visual information to deeper layers of V1, such as layer 4. Thus, the mouse harbours several functionally specialized, parallel retino-geniculo-cortical pathways, one of which originates with retinal DSGCs and delivers direction- and orientation-tuned information specifically to the superficial layers of the primary visual cortex. These data provide evidence that direction and orientation selectivity of some V1 neurons may be influenced by the activation of DSGCs.
Epistasis is the phenomenon whereby one polymorphism’s effect on a trait depends on other polymorphisms present in the genome. The extent to which epistasis influences complex traits and contributes to their variation is a fundamental question in evolution and human genetics. Although often demonstrated in artificial gene manipulation studies in model organisms, and some examples have been reported in other species, few examples exist for epistasis among natural polymorphisms in human traits. Its absence from empirical findings may simply be due to low incidence in the genetic control of complex traits, but an alternative view is that it haspreviously been too technically challenging to detect owing to statistical and computational issues. Here we show, using advanced computation and a gene expression study design, that many instances of epistasis are found between common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). In a cohort of 846 individuals with 7,339 gene expression levels measured in peripheral blood, we found 501 significant pairwise interactions between common SNPs influencing the expression of 238 genes (P llt; 2.91 × 10−16). Replication of these interactions in two independent data sets showed both concordance of direction of epistatic effects (P = 5.56 × 10−31) and enrichment of interaction P values, with 30 being significant at a conservative threshold of P llt; 9.98 × 10−5. Forty-four of the genetic interactions are located within 5 megabases of regions of known physical chromosome interactions (P = 1.8 × 10−10). Epistatic networks of three SNPs or more influence the expression levels of 129 genes, whereby one cis-acting SNP is modulated by several trans-acting SNPs. For example, MBNL1 is influenced by an additive effect at rs13069559, which itself is masked by trans-SNPson 14 different chromosomes, with nearly identical genotype–phenotype maps for each cis–trans interaction. This study presents the first evidence, to our knowledge, for many instances of segregating common polymorphisms interacting to influence human traits.
High-resolution structures of the Photorhabdus luminescens TcA toxin subunit and the entire Tc toxin complex reveal important new insights into Tc complex structure and function.
Driven by gravity, massive structures like galaxies and clusters of galaxies are believed to grow continuously through hierarchical merging and accretion of smaller systems. Observational evidence of accretion events is provided by the coherent stellar streams crossing the outer haloes of massive galaxies, such as the Milky Way or Andromeda. At similar mass scales, around 1011 solar masses in stars, further evidence of merging activity is also ample. Mergers of lower-mass galaxies are expected within the hierarchical process of galaxy formation, but have hitherto not been seen for galaxies with less than about 109 solar masses in stars. Here we report the kinematic detection of a stellar stream in one of the satellite galaxies of Andromeda, the dwarf spheroidal Andromeda II, which has a mass of only 107 solar masses in stars. The properties of the stream show that we are observing the remnant of a merger between two dwarf galaxies. This had a drastic influence on the dynamics of the remnant, which is now rotating around its projected major axis. The stellar stream in Andromeda II illustrates the scale-free character of the formation of galaxies, down to the lowest galactic mass scales.
The hippocampus is critical for encoding declarative memory, our repository of knowledge of who, what, where and when. Mnemonic information is processed in the hippocampus through several parallel routes involving distinct subregions. In the classic trisynaptic pathway, information proceeds from entorhinal cortex (EC) to dentate gyrus to CA3 and then to CA1, the main hippocampal output. Genetic lesions of EC (ref. 3) and hippocampal dentate gyrus (ref. 4), CA3 (ref. 5) and CA1 (ref. 6) regions have revealed their distinct functions in learning and memory. In contrast, little is known about the role of CA2, a relatively small area interposed between CA3 and CA1 that forms the nexus of a powerful disynaptic circuit linking EC input with CA1 output. Here we report a novel transgenic mouse line that enabled us to selectively examine the synaptic connections and behavioural role of the CA2 region in adult mice. Genetically targeted inactivation of CA2 pyramidal neurons caused a pronounced loss of social memory—the ability of an animal to remember a conspecific—with no change in sociability or several other hippocampus-dependent behaviours, including spatial and contextual memory. These behavioural and anatomical results thus reveal CA2 as a critical hub of sociocognitive memory processing.
The life cycles of many parasites involve transitions between disparate host species, requiring these parasites to go through multiple developmental stages adapted to each of these specialized niches. Transmission of malaria parasites (Plasmodium spp.) from humans to the mosquito vector requires differentiation from asexual stages replicating within red blood cells into non-dividing male and female gametocytes. Although gametocytes were first described in 1880, our understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in commitment to gametocyte formation is extremely limited, and disrupting this critical developmental transition remains a long-standing goal. Here we show that expression levels of the DNA-binding protein PfAP2-G correlate strongly with levels of gametocyte formation. Using independent forward and reverse genetics approaches, we demonstrate that PfAP2-G function is essential for parasite sexual differentiation. By combining genome-wide PfAP2-G cognate motif occurrence with global transcriptional changes resulting from PfAP2-G ablation, we identify early gametocyte genes as probable targets of PfAP2-G and show that their regulation by PfAP2-G is critical for their wild-type level expression. In the asexual blood-stage parasites pfap2-g appears to be among a set of epigenetically silenced loci prone to spontaneous activation. Stochastic activation presents a simple mechanism for a low baseline of gametocyte production. Overall, these findings identify PfAP2-G as a master regulator of sexual-stage development in malaria parasites and mark the first discovery of a transcriptional switch controlling a differentiation decision in protozoan parasites.
B lymphocytes have critical roles as positive and negative regulators of immunity. Their inhibitory function has been associated primarily with interleukin 10 (IL-10) because B-cell-derived IL-10 can protect against autoimmune disease and increase susceptibility to pathogens. Here we identify IL-35-producing B cells as key players in the negative regulation of immunity. Mice in which only B cells did not express IL-35 lost their ability to recover from the T-cell-mediated demyelinating autoimmune disease experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). In contrast, these mice displayed a markedly improved resistance to infection with the intracellular bacterial pathogen Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium as shown by their superior containment of the bacterial growth and their prolonged survival after primary infection, and upon secondary challenge, compared to control mice. The increased immunity found in mice lacking IL-35 production by B cells was associated with a higher activation of macrophages and inflammatory T cells, as well as an increased function of B cells as antigen-presenting cells (APCs). During Salmonella infection, IL-35- and IL-10-producing B cells corresponded to two largely distinct sets of surface-IgM+CD138hiTACI+CXCR4+CD1dintTim1int plasma cells expressing the transcription factor Blimp1 (also known as Prdm1). During EAE, CD138+ plasma cells were also the main source of B-cell-derived IL-35 and IL-10. Collectively, our data show the importance of IL-35-producing B cells in regulation of immunity and highlight IL-35 production by B cells as a potential therapeutic target for autoimmune and infectious diseases. This study reveals the central role of activated B cells, particularly plasma cells, and their production of cytokines in the regulation of immune responses in health and disease.
Commitment to and completion of sexual development are essential for malaria parasites (protists of the genus Plasmodium) to be transmitted through mosquitoes. The molecular mechanism(s) responsible for commitment have been hitherto unknown. Here we show that PbAP2-G, a conserved member of the apicomplexan AP2 (ApiAP2) family of DNA-binding proteins, is essential for the commitment of asexually replicating forms to sexual development in Plasmodium berghei, a malaria parasite of rodents. PbAP2-G was identified from mutations in its encoding gene, PBANKA_143750, which account for the loss of sexual development frequently observed in parasites transmitted artificially by blood passage. Systematic gene deletion of conserved ApiAP2 genes in Plasmodium confirmed the role of PbAP2-G and revealed a second ApiAP2 member (PBANKA_103430, here termed PbAP2-G2) that significantly modulates but does not abolish gametocytogenesis, indicating that a cascade of ApiAP2 proteins are involved in commitment to the production and maturation of gametocytes. The data suggest a mechanism of commitment to gametocytogenesis in Plasmodium consistent with a positive feedback loop involving PbAP2-G that could be exploited to prevent the transmission of this pernicious parasite.
Human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) have the capability of revolutionizing research and therapy of liver diseases by providing a source of hepatocytes for autologous cell therapy and disease modelling. However, despite progress in advancing the differentiation of iPSCs into hepatocytes (iPSC-Heps) in vitro, cells that replicate the ability of human primary adult hepatocytes (aHeps) to proliferate extensively in vivo have not been reported. This deficiency has hampered efforts to recreate human liver diseases in mice, and has cast doubt on the potential of iPSC-Heps for liver cell therapy. The reason is that extensive post-transplant expansion is needed to establish and sustain a therapeutically effective liver cell mass in patients, a lesson learned from clinical trials of aHep transplantation. Here, as a solution to this problem, we report the generation of human fibroblast-derived hepatocytes that can repopulate mouse livers. Unlike current protocols for deriving hepatocytes from human fibroblasts, ours did not generate iPSCs but cut short reprogramming to pluripotency to generate an induced multipotent progenitor cell (iMPC) state from which endoderm progenitor cells and subsequently hepatocytes (iMPC-Heps) could be efficiently differentiated. For this purpose we identified small molecules that aided endoderm and hepatocyte differentiation without compromising proliferation. After transplantation into an immune-deficient mouse model of human liver failure, iMPC-Heps proliferated extensively and acquired levels of hepatocyte function similar to those of aHeps. Unfractionated iMPC-Heps did not form tumours, most probably because they never entered a pluripotent state. Our results establish the feasibility of significant liver repopulation of mice with human hepatocytes generated in vitro, which removes a long-standing roadblock on the path to autologous liver cell therapy.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a significant public health concern with approximately 160 million people infected worldwide. HCV infection often results in chronic hepatitis, liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. No vaccine is available and current therapies are effective against some, but not all, genotypes. HCV is an enveloped virus with two surface glycoproteins (E1 and E2). E2 binds to the host cell through interactions with scavenger receptor class B type I (SR-BI) and CD81, and serves as a target for neutralizing antibodies. Little is known about the molecular mechanism that mediates cell entry and membrane fusion, although E2 is predicted to be a class II viral fusion protein. Here we describe the structure of the E2 core domain in complex with an antigen-binding fragment (Fab) at 2.4 Å resolution. The E2 core has a compact, globular domain structure, consisting mostly of β-strands and random coil with two small α-helices. The strands are arranged in two, perpendicular sheets (A and B), which are held together by an extensive hydrophobic core and disulphide bonds. Sheet A has an IgG-like fold that is commonly found in viral and cellular proteins, whereas sheet B represents a novel fold. Solution-based studies demonstrate that the full-length E2 ectodomain has a similar globular architecture and does not undergo significant conformational or oligomeric rearrangements on exposure to low pH. Thus, the IgG-like fold is the only feature that E2 shares with class II membrane fusion proteins. These results provide unprecedented insights into HCV entry and will assist in developing an HCV vaccine and new inhibitors.
Tumour metastasis is the primary cause of mortality in cancer patients and remains the key challenge for cancer therapy. New therapeutic approaches to block inhibitory pathways of the immune system have renewed hopes for the utility of such therapies. Here we show that genetic deletion of the E3 ubiquitin ligase Cbl-b (casitas B-lineage lymphoma-b) or targeted inactivation of its E3 ligase activity licenses natural killer (NK) cells to spontaneously reject metastatic tumours. The TAM tyrosine kinase receptors Tyro3, Axl and Mer (also known as Mertk) were identified as ubiquitylation substrates for Cbl-b. Treatment of wild-type NK cells with a newly developed small molecule TAM kinase inhibitor conferred therapeutic potential, efficiently enhancing anti-metastatic NK cell activity in vivo. Oral or intraperitoneal administration using this TAM inhibitor markedly reduced murine mammary cancer and melanoma metastases dependent on NK cells. We further report that the anticoagulant warfarin exerts anti-metastatic activity in mice via Cbl-b/TAM receptors in NK cells, providing a molecular explanation for a 50-year-old puzzle in cancer biology. This novel TAM/Cbl-b inhibitory pathway shows that it might be possible to develop a‘pill’ that awakens the innate immune system to kill cancer metastases.
A core promoter is a stretch of DNA surrounding the transcription start site (TSS) that integrates regulatory inputs and recruits general transcription factors to initiate transcription. The nature and causative relationship of the DNA sequence and chromatin signals that govern the selection of most TSSs by RNA polymerase II remain unresolved. Maternal to zygotic transition represents the most marked change of the transcriptome repertoire in the vertebrate life cycle. Early embryonic development in zebrafish is characterized by a series of transcriptionally silent cell cycles regulated by inherited maternal gene products: zygotic genome activation commences at the tenth cell cycle, marking the mid-blastula transition. This transition provides a unique opportunity to study the rules of TSS selection and the hierarchy of events linking transcription initiation with key chromatin modifications. We analysed TSS usage during zebrafish early embryonic development at high resolution using cap analysis of gene expression, and determined the positions of H3K4me3-marked promoter-associated nucleosomes. Here we show that the transition from the maternal to zygotic transcriptome is characterized by a switch between two fundamentally different modes of defining transcription initiation, which drive the dynamic change of TSS usage and promoter shape. A maternal-specific TSS selection, which requires an A/T-rich (W-box) motif, is replaced with a zygotic TSS selection grammar characterized by broader patterns of dinucleotide enrichments, precisely aligned with the first downstream (+1) nucleosome. The developmental dynamics of the H3K4me3-marked nucleosomes reveal their DNA-sequence-associated positioning at promoters before zygotic transcription and subsequent transcription-independent adjustment to the final position downstream of the zygotic TSS. The two TSS-defining grammars coexist, often physically overlapping, in core promoters of constitutively expressed genes to enable their expression in the two regulatory environments. The dissection of overlapping core promoter determinants represents a framework for future studies of promoter structure and function across different regulatory contexts.
Studies of experimental grassland communities have demonstrated that plant diversity can stabilize productivity through species asynchrony, in which decreases in the biomass of some species are compensated for by increases in others. However, it remains unknown whether these findings are relevant to natural ecosystems, especially those for which species diversity is threatened by anthropogenic global change. Here we analyse diversity–stability relationships from 41 grasslands on five continents and examine how these relationships are affected by chronic fertilization, one of the strongest drivers of species loss globally. Unmanipulated communities with more species had greater species asynchrony, resulting in more stable biomass production, generalizing a result from biodiversity experiments to real-world grasslands. However, fertilization weakened the positive effect of diversity on stability. Contrary to expectations, this was not due to species loss after eutrophication but rather to an increase in the temporal variation of productivity in combination with a decrease in species asynchrony in diverse communities. Our results demonstrate separate and synergistic effects of diversity and eutrophication on stability, emphasizing the need to understand how drivers of global change interactively affect the reliable provisioning of ecosystem services in real-world systems.
In cancer patients, visual identification of sentinel lymph nodes (LNs) is achieved by the injection of dyes that bind avidly to endogenous albumin, targeting these compounds to LNs, where they are efficiently filtered by resident phagocytes. Here we translate this‘albumin hitchhiking’ approach to molecular vaccines, through the synthesis of amphiphiles (amph-vaccines) comprising an antigen or adjuvant cargo linked to a lipophilic albumin-binding tail by a solubility-promoting polar polymer chain. Administration of structurally optimized CpG-DNA/peptide amph-vaccines in mice resulted in marked increases in LN accumulation and decreased systemic dissemination relative to their parent compounds, leading to 30-fold increases in T-cell priming and enhanced anti-tumour efficacy while greatly reducing systemic toxicity. Amph-vaccines provide a simple, broadly applicable strategy to simultaneously increase the potency and safety of subunit vaccines.
The rapid turnover of the mammalian intestinal epithelium is supported by stem cells located around the base of the crypt. In addition to the Lgr5 marker, intestinal stem cells have been associated with other markers that are expressed heterogeneously within the crypt base region. Previous quantitative clonal fate analyses have led to the proposal that homeostasis occurs as the consequence of neutral competition between dividing stem cells. However, the short-term behaviour of individual Lgr5+ cells positioned at different locations within the crypt base compartment has not been resolved. Here we establish the short-term dynamics of intestinal stem cells using the novel approach of continuous intravital imaging of Lgr5-Confetti mice. We find that Lgr5+ cells in the upper part of the niche (termed‘border cells’) can be passively displaced into the transit-amplifying domain, after the division of proximate cells, implying that the determination of stem-cell fate can be uncoupled from division. Through quantitative analysis of individual clonal lineages, we show that stem cells at the crypt base, termed ‘central cells’, experience a survival advantage over border stem cells. However, through the transfer of stem cells between the border and central regions, all Lgr5+ cells are endowed with long-term self-renewal potential. These findings establish a novel paradigm for stem-cell maintenance in which a dynamically heterogeneous cell population is able to function long term as a single stem-cell pool.
RNA interference is widely distributed in eukaryotes and has a variety of functions, including antiviral defence and gene regulation. All RNA interference pathways use small single-stranded RNA (ssRNA) molecules that guide proteins of the Argonaute (Ago) family to complementary ssRNA targets: RNA-guided RNA interference. The role of prokaryotic Ago variants has remained elusive, although bioinformatics analysis has suggested their involvement in host defence. Here we demonstrate that Ago of the bacterium Thermus thermophilus (TtAgo) acts as a barrier for the uptake and propagation of foreign DNA. In vivo, TtAgo is loaded with 5′-phosphorylated DNA guides, 13–25 nucleotides in length, that are mostly plasmid derived and have a strong bias for a 5′-end deoxycytidine. These small interfering DNAs guide TtAgo to cleave complementary DNA strands. Hence, despite structural homology to its eukaryotic counterparts, TtAgo functions in host defence by DNA-guided DNA interference.
Zoonotic infectious diseases such as influenza continue to pose a grave threat to human health. However, the factors that mediate the emergence of RNA viruses such as influenza A virus (IAV) are still incompletely understood. Phylogenetic inference is crucial to reconstructing the origins and tracing the flow of IAV within and between hosts. Here we show that explicitly allowing IAV host lineages to have independent rates of molecular evolution is necessary for reliable phylogenetic inference of IAV and that methods that do not do so, including ‘relaxed’ molecular clock models, can be positively misleading. A phylogenomic analysis using a host-specific local clock model recovers extremely consistent evolutionary histories across all genomic segments and demonstrates that the equine H7N7 lineage is a sister clade to strains from birds—as well as those from humans, swine and the equine H3N8 lineage—sharing an ancestor with them in the mid to late 1800s. Moreover, major western and eastern hemisphere avian influenza lineages inferred for each gene coalesce in the late 1800s. On the basis of these phylogenies and the synchrony of these key nodes, we infer that the internal genes of avian influenza virus (AIV) underwent a global selective sweep beginning in the late 1800s, a process that continued throughout the twentieth century and up to the present. The resulting western hemispheric AIV lineage subsequently contributed most of the genomic segments to the 1918 pandemic virus and, independently, the 1963 equine H3N8 panzootic lineage. This approach provides a clear resolution of evolutionary patterns and processes in IAV, including the flow of viral genes and genomes within and between host lineages.
Extant vertebrates form two clades, the jawless Cyclostomata (lampreys and hagfishes) and the jawed Gnathostomata (all other vertebrates), with contrasting facial architectures. These arise during development from just a few key differences in the growth patterns of the cranial primordia: notably, the nasal sacs and hypophysis originate from a single placode in cyclostomes but from separate placodes in gnathostomes, and infraoptic ectomesenchyme migrates forward either side of the single placode in cyclostomes but between the placodes in gnathostomes. Fossil stem gnathostomes preserve cranial anatomies rich in landmarks that provide proxies for developmental processes and allow the transition from jawless to jawed vertebrates to be broken down into evolutionary steps. Here we use propagation phase contrast synchrotron microtomography to image the cranial anatomy of the primitive placoderm (jawed stem gnathostome) Romundina, and show that it combines jawed vertebrate architecture with cranial and cerebral proportions resembling those of cyclostomes and the galeaspid (jawless stem gnathostome) Shuyu. This combination seems to be primitive for jawed vertebrates, and suggests a decoupling between ectomesenchymal growth trajectory, ectomesenchymal proliferation, and cerebral shape change during the origin of gnathostomes.
Inference of colour patterning in extinct dinosaurs has been based on the relationship between the morphology of melanin-containing organelles (melanosomes) and colour in extant bird feathers. When this relationship evolved relative to the origin of feathers and other novel integumentary structures, such as hair and filamentous body covering in extinct archosaurs, has not been evaluated. Here we sample melanosomes from the integument of 181 extant amniote taxa and 13 lizard, turtle, dinosaur and pterosaur fossils from the Upper-Jurassic and Lower-Cretaceous of China. We find that in the lineage leading to birds, the observed increase in the diversity of melanosome morphologies appears abruptly, near the origin of pinnate feathers in maniraptoran dinosaurs. Similarly, mammals show an increased diversity of melanosome form compared to all ectothermic amniotes. In these two clades, mammals and maniraptoran dinosaurs including birds, melanosome form and colour are linked and colour reconstruction may be possible. By contrast, melanosomes in lizard, turtle and crocodilian skin, as well as the archosaurian filamentous body coverings (dinosaur‘protofeathers’ and pterosaur ‘pycnofibres’), show a limited diversity of form that is uncorrelated with colour in extant taxa. These patterns may be explained by convergent changes in the key melanocortin system of mammals and birds, which is known to affect pleiotropically both melanin-based colouration and energetic processes such as metabolic rate in vertebrates, and may therefore support a significant physiological shift in maniraptoran dinosaurs.
It has been theorized for decades that mitochondria act as the biological clock of ageing, but the evidence is incomplete. Here we show a strong coupling between mitochondrial function and ageing by in vivo visualization of the mitochondrial flash (mitoflash), a frequency-coded optical readout reflecting free-radical production and energy metabolism at the single-mitochondrion level. Mitoflash activity in Caenorhabditis elegans pharyngeal muscles peaked on adult day 3 during active reproduction and on day 9 when animals started to die off. A plethora of genetic mutations and environmental factors inversely modified the lifespan and the day-3 mitoflash frequency. Even within an isogenic population, the day-3 mitoflash frequency was negatively correlated with the lifespan of individual animals. Furthermore, enhanced activity of the glyoxylate cycle contributed to the decreased day-3 mitoflash frequency and the longevity of daf-2 mutant animals. These results demonstrate that the day-3 mitoflash frequency is a powerful predictor of C. elegans lifespan across genetic, environmental and stochastic factors. They also support the notion that the rate of ageing, although adjustable in later life, has been set to a considerable degree before reproduction ceases.
The reorganization of patterns of species diversity driven by anthropogenic climate change, and the consequences for humans, are not yet fully understood or appreciated. Nevertheless, changes in climate conditions are useful for predicting shifts in species distributions at global and local scales. Here we use the velocity of climate change to derive spatial trajectories for climatic niches from 1960 to 2009 (ref. 7) and from 2006 to 2100, and use the properties of these trajectories to infer changes in species distributions. Coastlines act as barriers and locally cooler areas act as attractors for trajectories, creating source and sink areas for local climatic conditions. Climate source areas indicate where locally novel conditions are not connected to areas where similar climates previously occurred, and are thereby inaccessible to climate migrants tracking isotherms: 16% of global surface area for 1960 to 2009, and 34% of ocean for the‘business as usual’ climate scenario (representative concentration pathway (RCP) 8.5) representing continued use of fossil fuels without mitigation. Climate sink areas are where climate conditions locally disappear, potentially blocking the movement of climate migrants. Sink areas comprise 1.0%of ocean area and 3.6% of land and are prevalent on coasts and high ground. Using this approach to infer shifts in species distributions gives global and regional maps of the expected direction and rate of shifts of climate migrants, and suggests areas of potential loss of species richness.
Innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) specialize in the rapid secretion of polarized sets of cytokines and chemokines to combat infection and promote tissue repair at mucosal barriers. Their diversity and similarities with previously characterized natural killer (NK) cells and lymphoid tissue inducers (LTi) have prompted a provisional classification of all innate lymphocytes into groups 1, 2 and 3 solely on the basis of cytokine properties, but their developmental pathways and lineage relationships remain elusive. Here we identify and characterize a novel subset of lymphoid precursors in mouse fetal liver and adult bone marrow that transiently express high amounts of PLZF, a transcription factor previously associated with NK T cell development, by using lineage tracing and transfer studies. PLZFhigh cells were committed ILC progenitors with multiple ILC1, ILC2 and ILC3 potential at the clonal level. They excluded classical LTi and NK cells, but included a peculiar subset of NK1.1+DX5− ‘NK-like’ cells residing in the liver. Deletion of PLZF markedly altered the development of several ILC subsets, but not LTi or NK cells. PLZFhigh precursors also expressed high amounts of ID2 and GATA3, as well as TOX, a known regulator of PLZF-independent NK and LTi lineages. These findings establish novel lineage relationships between ILC, NK and LTi cells, and identify the common precursor to ILCs, termed ILCP. They also reveal the broad, defining role of PLZF in the differentiation of innate lymphocytes.
The transcription factors c-Myc and N-Myc—encoded by Myc and Mycn, respectively—regulate cellular growth and are required for embryonic development. A third paralogue, Mycl1, is dispensable for normal embryonic development but its biological function has remained unclear. To examine the in vivo function of Mycl1 in mice, we generated an inactivating Mycl1gfp allele that also reports Mycl1 expression. We find that Mycl1 is selectively expressed in dendritic cells (DCs) of the immune system and controlled by IRF8, and that during DC development, Mycl1 expression is initiated in the common DC progenitor concurrent with reduction inc-Myc expression. Mature DCs lack expression of c-Myc and N-Myc but maintain L-Myc expression even in the presence of inflammatory signals such as granulocyte–macrophage colony-stimulating factor. All DC subsets develop in Mycl1-deficient mice, but some subsets such as migratory CD103+ conventional DCs in the lung and liver are greatly reduced at steady state. Importantly, loss of L-Myc by DCs causes a significant decrease in in vivo T-cell priming during infection by Listeria monocytogenes and vesicular stomatitis virus. The replacement of c-Myc by L-Myc in immature DCs may provide for Myctranscriptional activity in the setting of inflammation that is required for optimal T-cell priming.
Computational protein design methods are used to generate new candidates for a human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine; artificial protein scaffolds that mimic the structure of a RSV epitope are shown to induce RSV-specific neutralizing antibodies in macaques.
Lung alveoli are lined by two types of alveolar epithelial cells, squamous alveolar type (AT) 1 cells that mediate gas exchange and cuboidal AT2 cells that secrete surfactant to prevent alveolar collapse during breathing; here alveolar markers, genetic lineage tracing and clonal analysis are used in mice to identify alveolar progenitor and stem cells in vivo, and to map their locations and potential during lung development, maintenance and cancer.
Cervical propriospinal neurons (PNs) form a genetically accessible subclass of V2a interneurons that convey both premotor output and precerebellar copy signals; their ablation in mice impairs reaching movements selectively, and activation of their internal copy projection recruits a rapid cerebellar feedback loop that modulates forelimb movement.
The authors use a combination of viral tracing and genetics to characterize the diversity of neurons projecting from mouse brainstem to motor neurons that control limb movements; in particular they discover that the medullary reticular formation ventral part (MdV) is functionally specialized for skilled forelimb motor control.
Hunger is a hard-wired motivational state essential for survival. Agouti-related peptide (AgRP)-expressing neurons in the arcuate nucleus (ARC) at the base of the hypothalamus are crucial to the control of hunger. They are activated by caloric deficiency and, when naturally or artificially stimulated, they potently induce intense hunger and subsequent food intake. Consistent with their obligatory role in regulating appetite, genetic ablation or chemogenetic inhibition of AgRP neurons decreases feeding. Excitatory input to AgRP neurons is important in caloric-deficiency-induced activation, and is notable for its remarkable degree of caloric-state-dependent synaptic plasticity. Despite the important role of excitatory input, its source(s) has been unknown. Here, through the use of Cre-recombinase-enabled, cell-specific neuron mapping techniques in mice, we have discovered strong excitatory drive that, unexpectedly, emanates from the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus, specifically from subsets of neurons expressing thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) and pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP, also known as ADCYAP1). Chemogenetic stimulation of these afferent neurons in sated mice markedly activates AgRP neurons and induces intense feeding. Conversely, acute inhibition in mice with caloric-deficiency-induced hunger decreases feeding. Discovery of these afferent neurons capable of triggering hunger advances understanding of how this intense motivational state is regulated.
A new high-throughput sequencing method to determine mRNA poly(A)-tail length enabled studies of individual RNAs across species and developmental stages to investigate the role of poly(A) length in translational regulation; the relationship between poly(A) length and translational efficiency shown in early embryo systems does not occur later in development, a finding that explains different regulatory consequences of microRNAs acting at different developmental times.
This paper reports integrative molecular analyses of urothelial bladder carcinoma at the DNA, RNA, and protein levels performed as part of The Cancer Genome Atlas project; recurrent mutations were found in 32 genes, including those involved in cell-cycle regulation, chromatin regulation and kinase signalling pathways; chromatin regulatory genes were more frequently mutated in urothelial carcinoma than in any other common cancer studied so far.
Genomic studies have shown that Neanderthals interbred with modern humans, and that non-Africans today are the products of this mixture. The antiquity of Neanderthal gene flow into modern humans means that genomic regions that derive from Neanderthals in any one human today are usually less than a hundred kilobases in size. However, Neanderthal haplotypes are also distinctive enough that several studies have been able to detect Neanderthal ancestry at specific loci. We systematically infer Neanderthal haplotypes in the genomes of 1,004 present-day humans. Regions that harbour a high frequency of Neanderthal alleles are enriched for genes affecting keratin filaments, suggesting that Neanderthal alleles may have helped modern humans to adapt to non-African environments. We identify multiple Neanderthal-derived alleles that confer risk for disease, suggesting that Neanderthal alleles continue to shape human biology. An unexpected finding is that regions with reduced Neanderthal ancestry are enriched in genes, implying selection to remove genetic material derived from Neanderthals. Genes that are more highly expressed in testes than in any other tissue are especially reduced in Neanderthal ancestry, and there is an approximately fivefold reduction of Neanderthal ancestry on the X chromosome, which is known from studies of diverse species to be especially dense in male hybrid sterility genes. These results suggest that part of the explanation for genomic regions of reduced Neanderthal ancestry is Neanderthal alleles that caused decreased fertility in males when moved to a modern human genetic background.
Ancient genomic sequences have started to reveal the origin and the demographic impact of farmers from the Neolithic period spreading into Europe. The adoption of farming, stock breeding and sedentary societies during the Neolithic may have resulted in adaptive changes in genes associated with immunity and diet. However, the limited data available from earlier hunter-gatherers preclude an understanding of the selective processes associated with this crucial transition to agriculture in recent human evolution. Here we sequence an approximately 7,000-year-old Mesolithic skeleton discovered at the La Braña-Arintero site in León, Spain, to retrieve a complete pre-agricultural European human genome. Analysis of this genome in the context of other ancient samples suggests the existence of a common ancient genomic signature across western and central Eurasia from the Upper Paleolithic to the Mesolithic. The La Braña individual carries ancestral alleles in several skin pigmentation genes, suggesting that the light skin of modern Europeans was not yet ubiquitous in Mesolithic times. Moreover, we provide evidence that a significant number of derived, putatively adaptive variants associated with pathogen resistance in modern Europeans were already present in this hunter-gatherer.
In immune responses, activated T cells migrate to B-cell follicles and develop into follicular T-helper (TFH) cells, a recently identified subset of CD4+ T cells specialized in providing help to B lymphocytes in the induction of germinal centres. Although Bcl6 has been shown to be essential in TFH-cell function, it may not regulate the initial migration of T cells or the induction of the TFH program, as exemplified by C-X-C chemokine receptor type 5 (CXCR5) upregulation. Here we show that expression of achaete-scute homologue 2 (Ascl2)—a basic helix–loop–helix (bHLH) transcription factor—is selectively upregulated in TFH cells. Ectopic expression of Ascl2 upregulates CXCR5 but not Bcl6, and downregulates C-C chemokine receptor 7 (CCR7) expression in T cells in vitro, as well as accelerating T-cell migration to the follicles and TFH-cell development in vivo in mice. Genome-wide analysis indicates that Ascl2 directly regulates TFH-related genes whereas it inhibits expression of T-helper cell 1 (TH1) and TH17 signature genes. Acute deletion of Ascl2, as well as blockade of its function with the Id3 protein in CD4+ T cells, results in impaired TFH-cell development and germinal centre response. Conversely, mutation of Id3, known to cause antibody-mediated autoimmunity, greatly enhances TFH-cell generation. Thus, Ascl2 directly initiates TFH-cell development.