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Table of Contents for this page:

  • Current Issue
  • Advanced Online Publications Articles

  • Current Issue of Nature

    Nature - Issue - nature.com science feeds

  • Diversity challenge

  • There is growing evidence that embracing diversity— in all its senses — is key to doing good science. But there is still work to be done to ensure that inclusivity is the default, not the exception.

  • A worthy ambition

  • Finalizing the European Research Area is still a vibrant and relevant goal.

  • Amped-up plants

  • Bacterial enzyme supercharges photosynthesis, promising increased yields for crops.

  • UN sustainability goals need quantified targets

  • Scientists must step up and secure meaningful objectives if they are to protect both people and planet, says Mark Stafford-Smith.

  • Ecology: Bird diversity at risk from farming

  • Birds that have the longest evolutionary history are also the most threatened by agriculture.Luke Frishkoff at Stanford University in California, Daniel Karp at the University of California, Berkeley, and their team studied 12 years of bird survey data, covering nearly 500 species from three

  • Virology: Wide area of Ebola risk in Africa

  • The region in Africa at risk of an outbreak of the Ebola virus is larger than previously thought.Simon Hay at the University of Oxford, UK, and his team mapped data from 23 Ebola outbreaks in humans, including the current one, and 51 reports of

  • Palaeontology: How a shark used its saw-like jaw

  • Despite having a set of teeth shaped like a circular saw, an extinct shark probably devoured only soft-bodied prey.The spiral-shaped tooth arrangement (pictured) of Helicoprion davisii, an animal some 300 million years old, has puzzled palaeontologists for more than a century.

  • Glaciology: Surface heat led to ice-shelf demise

  • The collapse of Antarctica's giant Larsen B Ice Shelf in 2002 was probably caused by warming at the surface rather than by instability at the bottom of the ice sheet.Eugene Domack at the University of South Florida in St Petersburg and his colleagues mapped

  • Immunology: The gut improves vaccine effects

  • Bacterial residents of the gut boost immune responses to vaccination in mice.Humans vaccinated against the influenza virus ramp up expression of a protein called TLR5, which is involved in detecting certain types of bacterium. To see how this protein and gut bacteria might affect

  • Particle physics: Better estimate of Higgs mass

  • Researchers have decreased the uncertainty of their estimate of the mass of the Higgs boson, the particle thought to bestow mass to matter.The ATLAS collaboration, one of two teams that detected the Higgs at the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland, reanalysed data and

  • Infectious disease: Mosquitoes awaken malaria

  • Mosquitoes biting a malaria-carrying host coax the malaria parasite to come out of hiding, resulting in greater disease transmission.Sylvain Gandon at the National Centre of Scientific Research in Montpellier, France, and his colleagues infected canaries (Serinus canaria) with a malaria parasite that

  • Microbiology: Vaginal microbe makes drug

  • A bacterium that lives in the human vagina produces an antibiotic, suggesting how the microbiome could be mined for possible drug candidates.Michael Fischbach at the University of California, San Francisco, and his colleagues trained a computer program to recognize genes that are known to

  • Ecology: Sneaky ants steal in plain sight

  • A recently discovered parasitic ant species steals food from colonies of another ant by disguising itself as the host.Scott Powell at George Washington University in Washington DC and his co-workers discovered the parasitic ant, Cephalotes specularis (pictured right), in the Brazilian

  • High retraction rates raise eyebrows

  • Amid a wave of recent retractions, researchers are taking to social media to discuss a perennial favourite: a three-year-old paper looking at the relationship between a journal's impact factor and its retraction frequency (F. C. Fang et al. Infect. Immun.79, 3855–3859; 2011

  • Seven days: 12–18 September 2014

  • The week in science: Swiss scientists regain access to EU grants, Canadian archaeologists find long-lost ship, and Japanese regulators move to restart nuclear power.

  • Japan stem-cell trial stirs envy

  • Researchers elsewhere can’t wait to test iPS cells in humans.

  • Lander to aim for comet’s ‘head’

  • Touchdown site for Rosetta probe chosen unanimously.

  • Climate summit previews push for new global treaty

  • United Nations meeting aims to spark enthusiasm for a 2015 emissions pact.

  • Sugar substitutes linked to obesity

  • Artificial sweetener seems to change gut microbiome.

  • Indian Mars craft prepares for orbit

  • Mangalyaan aims to be Asia’s first successful Martian mission.

  • Cross-bred crops get fit faster

  • Genetic engineering lags behind conventional breeding in efforts to create drought-resistant maize.

  • Invasive-species control: Bounty hunters

  • Destructive lionfish are invading coral reefs in the Americas, but fishing competitions can help to keep the problem species in check.

  • Diversity: Pride in science

  • The sciences can be a sanctuary for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals, but biases may still discourage many from coming out.

  • Medical research: Missing patients

  • Effective clinical studies must consider all ethnicities— exclusion can endanger populations, says Esteban G. Burchard.

  • Developing world: Discuss inequality

  • Confront economic differences to strengthen global research, urge P. Wenzel Geissler and Ferdinand Okwaro.

  • Mental health: Tailor informed-consent processes

  • The first step in studying mental-health interventions across cultures is to adjust procedures to participants' needs, says Mónica Ruiz-Casares.

  • Collaboration: Strength in diversity

  • Richard B. Freeman and Wei Huang reflect on a link between a team's ethnic mix and highly cited papers.

  • Genetics: Under the skin

  • Nathaniel Comfort wonders at the enduring trend of misrepresenting race.

  • Physics: In thrall to uncertainty

  • A history of how quantum theory has permeated Western culture refreshes Jim Baggott.

  • New in paperback

  • Highlights of this season's releases

  • Linguistics: The write stuff

  • Steven Pinker's provocative treatise on language use and abuse would benefit from more data, finds Paul Raeburn.

  • Evolution: Tribes like us

  • Tim Lenton is intrigued by E. O. Wilson's sweeping perspective on humanity's past— and possible futures.

  • Climate policy: A societal sea change

  • Nico Stehr ponders Naomi Klein's call for strategic mass action on climate change.

  • Internet: Technology and its discontents

  • Jaron Lanier surveys four studies probing the vexed nexus of mind and digisphere.

  • Africa: Ebola virus control needs local buy-in

  • International guidelines describe effective measures for the prevention and control of the Ebola virus. But we need more practical information on how to implement these measures, including potential therapies and a safe vaccine, in non-Western settings (Nature513, 13–14;10.1038/513013a

  • Climate models: sunk by humans?

  • Paul Palmer and Matthew Smith's argument that human adaptation to climate change should be incorporated into climate-projection models is entirely reasonable (Nature512, 365–366;10.1038/512365a2014). However, I suspect that doing so could render such models essentially useless.Climate

  • Climate models: use archaeology record

  • Archaeologists and historians have long investigated societal responses to climate change (see P.Palmer and M.SmithNature512, 365–366;10.1038/512365a2014). These records are an underused resource in current climate-adaptation research, but offer scope for highly integrative meta-analyses

  • Aquarium trade: Monitor Brazil's fish sampling closely

  • Brazil's aquaculture and fisheries secretary decreed last month that 2,000 different species of ornamental fish can be legally removed from the Brazilian Amazon. The fish will be farmed to supply the aquarium trade. This raises concerns about over-exploitation and threats to biodiversity, particularly given the

  • China: Shale gas is a fraught solution to emissions

  • Qiang Wang suggests that shale gas might be used as a bridging fuel to cap China's carbon emissions (Nature512, 115; 10.1038/512115a2014). Extraction and development problems could make this difficult.The greenhouse-gas footprint of shale gas is much bigger than

  • Sampling errors: Aristotle's suspect statistical skills

  • In his review of Armand Marie Leroi's book The Lagoon (Nature512, 250–251;10.1038/512250a2014), Roberto Lo Presti rightly praises Aristotle's observational skills. But the philosopher may not have been as adroit in numeracy as he was in

  • Early-career funding: Big introductions

  • Europe's Starting Grants are ideal for young researchers with big ideas and what it takes to bring them to life.

  • Career progression: Europe on track

  • Europe's universities are adopting tenure to draw recruits.

  • Education: Degrees of difference

  • Degree-level education is rare in many nations, says report.

  • Research and development: Falls in funding

  • US research and development still suffering from budget battles.

  • Exoplanets

  • It is hard to imagine now, and the younger people in the field will not remember this, but there was a period when the search for exoplanets had rather a bad reputation, based on a number of high-profile claims that were subsequently disproved. Although there

  • Doppler spectroscopy as a path to the detection of Earth-like planets

  • Doppler spectroscopy was the first technique used to reveal the existence of extrasolar planetary systems hosted by solar-type stars. Radial-velocity surveys led to the detection of a rich population of super-Earths and Neptune-type planets. The numerous detected systems revealed a remarkable diversity. Combining Doppler measurements

  • Advances in exoplanet science from Kepler

  • Numerous telescopes and techniques have been used to find and study extrasolar planets, but none has been more successful than NASA's Kepler space telescope. Kepler has discovered most of the known exoplanets, the smallest planets to orbit normal stars and the planets most likely to

  • Highlights in the study of exoplanet atmospheres

  • Exoplanets are now being discovered in profusion. To understand their character, however, we require spectral models and data. These elements of remote sensing can yield temperatures, compositions and even weather patterns, but only if significant improvements in both the parameter retrieval process and measurements are

  • The role of space telescopes in the characterization of transiting exoplanets

  • Characterization studies now have a dominant role in the field of exoplanets. Such studies include the measurement of an exoplanet's bulk density, its brightness temperature and the chemical composition of its atmosphere. The use of space telescopes has played a key part in the characterization

  • Instrumentation for the detection and characterization of exoplanets

  • In no other field of astrophysics has the impact of new instrumentation been as substantial as in the domain of exoplanets. Before 1995 our knowledge of exoplanets was mainly based on philosophical and theoretical considerations. The years that followed have been marked, instead, by surprising

  • Extraction

  • Total recall.

  • GATM gene variants and statin myopathy risk

  • Arising from L. M. Mangravite et al. Nature502,377–380 (2013); doi:10.1038/nature12508Mangravite et al. identified six expression quantitative loci (eQTLs) that interacted with simvastatin exposure by using 480 lymphoblastoid cell lines exposed to β-hydroxy simvastatin acid in vitro. One of these SNPs (rs9806699) within the glycine amidinotransferase (GATM) gene was shown to have an association with statin-induced myopathy in two independent cohorts (n = 172 myopathy cases), conferring a protective effect (odds ratio = 0.61, 95% confidence interval = 0.39–0.95, P = 0.03). Our genotyping results from statin myopathy patients do not appear to replicate this finding. There is a Reply to this Brief Communication Arising by Mangravite, L. M. et al. Nature513,http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature13630 (2014).

  • GATM locus does not replicate in rhabdomyolysis study

  • Arising from L. M. Mangravite et al. Nature502,377–380 (2013); doi:10.1038/nature12508All HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors (statins) can cause muscle injury ranging from asymptomatic elevations in creatine kinase levels to severe muscle breakdown (rhabdomyolysis) leading to kidney failure and death, and the genetic variants responsible for this uncommon adverse drug reaction remain largely undiscovered. Mangravite et al. reported a new locus in the gene GATM (rs9806699) that was associated with a decreased risk of muscle injury in two case-control studies of myopathy (odds ratio, 0.60). In a larger case-control study of statin-related rhabdomyolysis, a more severe form of muscle injury, we were unable to replicate this finding. This failure to replicate raises questions about the role of GATM in statin-related muscle injury. There is a Reply to this Brief Communication Arising by Mangravite, L. M. et al. Nature513,http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature13630 (2014).

  • Mangravite et al. reply

  • Replying to D. F. Carr et al.Nature513, http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature13628 (2014); J. S. Floyd et al.Nature513, http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature13629 (2014)Our study tested for associations of single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) at the GATM loci with statin-induced myopathy based on the finding that one of these SNPs (rs986699) was associated with statin-induced expression of GATM in a panel of human lymphoblastoid cell lines, and the fact that GATM encodes the enzyme responsible for synthesis of creatine, a major source of energy in skeletal muscle. Significant associations with incidence of myopathy were found for rs9806699 in statin users from the Marshfield Clinic cohort. Furthermore, significant association was reported in both the Marshfield cohort and in the SEARCH clinical trial of simvastatin treatment for two SNPs in linkage disequilibrium with the index SNP (rs1719247 and rs1346268, r2 ggt; 0.7) that were genotyped in each of these groups. We have extended our meta-analysis to include the study data reported in the accompanying Comments by Carr et al. and Floyd et al., two studies that individually failed to replicate this association.

  • Corrections

  • The News Feature‘Survival of the fittest’ (Nature513, 157–159; 2014) referred to the wrong Possession Island. The penguin work was done on the French Base d’Alfred Faure in the Crozet archipelago. The World View by Casparus J. Crous (Nature513,

  • Evolutionary biology: Radiating genomes

  • Genome sequences and gene-expression data from representatives of five distinct lineages of African cichlid fish reveal signatures of the genomic changes that underlie the astounding cichlid diversity seen today. See Article p.375

  • Condensed-matter physics: Catching relativistic electrons

  • Low-energy electrons have been found to mimic relativistic high-energy particles in cadmium arsenide. This defines the first stable '3D Dirac semimetal', which holds promise for fundamental-physics exploration and practical applications.

  • Animal behaviour: The evolutionary roots of lethal conflict

  • A comprehensive analysis of lethal coalitionary aggression in chimpanzees convincingly demonstrates that such aggression is an adaptive behaviour, not one that has emerged in response to human impacts. See Letter p.414

  • Astrophysics: Giant black hole in a stripped galaxy

  • An oversized, supermassive black hole has been discovered at the centre of a densely packed conglomeration of stars. The finding suggests that the system is the stripped nucleus of a once-larger galaxy. See Letter p.398

  • 50 aamp; 100 Years Ago

  • 50 Years AgoJourney to the Jade Sea. By John Hillaby— Books by writers who go to Africa in search of their souls are always interesting to us who went there in search of wages; this book is fascinating. “Essentially, I walked into

  • Neuroscience: Shedding light on a change of mind

  • Sophisticated genetic tools that make brain cells responsive to light have now been used in mice to trigger a memory connected with a particular place, and to switch its association from negative to positive, or vice versa. See Letter p.426

  • Organic chemistry: Reactivity tamed one bond at a time

  • A catalyst that couples together three reactants to form just one compound out of several possibilities, as a single mirror-image isomer, should simplify the synthesis of biologically relevant molecules. See Article p.367

  • Multifunctional organoboron compounds for scalable natural product synthesis

  • Efficient catalytic reactions that can generate C–C bonds enantioselectively, and ones that can produce trisubstituted alkenes diastereoselectively, are central to research in organic chemistry. Transformations that accomplish these two tasks simultaneously are in high demand, particularly if the catalysts, substrates and reagents are inexpensive and

  • The genomic substrate for adaptive radiation in African cichlid fish

  • Cichlid fishes are famous for large, diverse and replicated adaptive radiations in the Great Lakes of East Africa. To understand the molecular mechanisms underlying cichlid phenotypic diversity, we sequenced the genomes and transcriptomes of five lineages of African cichlids: the Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus

  • Proteogenomic characterization of human colon and rectal cancer

  • Extensive genomic characterization of human cancers presents the problem of inference from genomic abnormalities to cancer phenotypes. To address this problem, we analysed proteomes of colon and rectal tumours characterized previously by The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) and perform integrated proteogenomic analyses. Somatic variants displayed

  • Molecular architecture and mechanism of the anaphase-promoting complex

  • The ubiquitination of cell cycle regulatory proteins by the anaphase-promoting complex/cyclosome (APC/C) controls sister chromatid segregation, cytokinesis and the establishment of the G1 phase of the cell cycle. The APC/C is an unusually large multimeric cullin-RING ligase. Its activity is strictly dependent on regulatory coactivator

  • A massive galaxy in its core formation phase three billion years after the Big Bang

  • Most massive galaxies are thought to have formed their dense stellar cores in early cosmic epochs. Previous studies have found galaxies with high gas velocity dispersions or small apparent sizes, but so far no objects have been identified with both the stellar structure and the gas dynamics of a forming core. Here we report a candidate core in the process of formation 11 billion years ago, at redshift z = 2.3. This galaxy, GOODS-N-774, has a stellar mass of 100 billion solar masses, a half-light radius of 1.0 kiloparsecs and a star formation rate of  solar masses per year. The star-forming gas has a velocity dispersion of 317 ± 30 kilometres per second. This is similar to the stellar velocity dispersions of the putative descendants of GOODS-N-774, which are compact quiescent galaxies at z ≈ 2(refs 8, 9, 10, 11) and giant elliptical galaxies in the nearby Universe. Galaxies such as GOODS-N-774 seem to be rare; however, from the star formation rate and size of this galaxy we infer that many star-forming cores may be heavily obscured, and could be missed in optical and near-infrared surveys.

  • A supermassive black hole in an ultra-compact dwarf galaxy

  • Ultra-compact dwarf galaxies are among the densest stellar systems in the Universe. These systems have masses of up to 2 × 108 solar masses, but half-light radii of just 3–50 parsecs. Dynamical mass estimates show that many such dwarfs are more massive than expected from their luminosity. It remains unclear whether these high dynamical mass estimates arise because of the presence of supermassive black holes orresult from a non-standard stellar initial mass function that causes the average stellar mass to be higher than expected. Here we report adaptive optics kinematic data of the ultra-compact dwarf galaxy M60-UCD1 that show a central velocity dispersion peak exceeding 100 kilometres per second and modest rotation. Dynamical modelling of these data reveals the presence of a supermassive black hole with a mass of 2.1 × 107 solar masses. This is 15 per cent of the object’s total mass. The high black hole mass and mass fraction suggest that M60-UCD1 is the stripped nucleus of a galaxy. Our analysis also shows that M60-UCD1’s stellar mass is consistent with its luminosity, implying a large population of previously unrecognized supermassive black holes in other ultra-compact dwarf galaxies.

  • Aridification of the Sahara desert caused by Tethys Sea shrinkage during the Late Miocene

  • It is widely believed that the Sahara desert is no more than∼2–3 million years (Myr) old, with geological evidence showing a remarkable aridification of north Africa at the onset of the Quaternary ice ages. Before that time, north African aridity was mainly controlled by the African summer monsoon (ASM), which oscillated with Earth’s orbital precession cycles. Afterwards, the Northern Hemisphere glaciation added an ice volume forcing on the ASM, which additionally oscillated with glacial–interglacial cycles. These findings led to the idea that the Sahara desert came into existence when the Northern Hemisphere glaciated ∼2–3 Myr ago. The later discovery, however, of aeolian dune deposits ∼7 Myr old suggested a much older age, although this interpretation is hotly challenged and there is no clear mechanism for aridification around this time. Here we use climate model simulations to identify the Tortonian stage (∼7–11 Myr ago)of the Late Miocene epoch as the pivotal period for triggering north African aridity and creating the Sahara desert. Through a set of experiments with the Norwegian Earth System Model and the Community Atmosphere Model, we demonstrate that the African summer monsoon was drastically weakened by the Tethys Sea shrinkage during the Tortonian, allowing arid, desert conditions to expand across north Africa. Not only did the Tethys shrinkage alter the mean climate of the region, it also enhanced the sensitivity of the African monsoon to orbital forcing, which subsequently became the major driver ofSahara extent fluctuations. These important climatic changes probably caused the shifts in Asian and African flora and fauna observed during the same period, with possible links to the emergence of early hominins in north Africa.

  • Spreading continents kick-started plate tectonics

  • Stresses acting on cold, thick and negatively buoyant oceanic lithosphere are thought to be crucial to the initiation of subduction and the operation of plate tectonics, which characterizes the present-day geodynamics of the Earth. Because the Earth’s interior was hotter in the Archaean eon, the oceanic crust may have been thicker, thereby making the oceanic lithosphere more buoyant than at present, and whether subduction and plate tectonics occurred during this time is ambiguous, both in the geological record and in geodynamic models. Herewe show that because the oceanic crust was thick and buoyant, early continents may have produced intra-lithospheric gravitational stresses large enough to drive their gravitational spreading, to initiate subduction at their margins and to trigger episodes of subduction. Our model predicts the co-occurrence of deep to progressively shallower mafic volcanics and arc magmatism within continents in a self-consistent geodynamic framework, explaining the enigmatic multimodal volcanism and tectonic record of Archaean cratons. Moreover, our model predicts a petrological stratification and tectonic structure of the sub-continental lithospheric mantle, two predictions that are consistent with xenolith and seismic studies, respectively, and consistent with the existence of a mid-lithospheric seismic discontinuity. The slow gravitational collapse of early continents could have kick-started transient episodes of plate tectonics until, as the Earth’s interior cooled and oceanic lithosphere became heavier, plate tectonics became self-sustaining.

  • Ancient human genomes suggest three ancestral populations for present-day Europeans

  • We sequenced the genomes of a∼7,000-year-old farmer from Germany and eight ∼8,000-year-old hunter-gatherers from Luxembourg and Sweden. We analysed these and other ancient genomes with 2,345 contemporary humans to show that most present-day Europeans derive from at least three highly differentiated populations: west European hunter-gatherers, who contributed ancestry to all Europeans but not to Near Easterners; ancient north Eurasians related to Upper Palaeolithic Siberians, who contributed to both Europeans and Near Easterners; and early European farmers, who were mainly of Near Eastern origin but also harboured west European hunter-gatherer related ancestry. We model these populations’ deep relationships and show that early European farmers had ∼44% ancestry from a ‘basal Eurasian’ population that split before the diversification of other non-African lineages.

  • Lethal aggression in Pan is better explained by adaptive strategies than human impacts

  • Observations of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and bonobos (Pan paniscus) provide valuable comparative data for understanding the significance of conspecific killing. Two kinds of hypothesis have been proposed. Lethal violence is sometimes concluded to be the result of adaptive strategies, such that killers ultimately gain fitness benefits by increasing their access to resources such as food or mates. Alternatively, it could be a non-adaptive result of human impacts, such as habitat change or food provisioning. To discriminate between these hypotheses we compiled information from 18 chimpanzee communities and 4 bonobo communities studied over five decades. Our data include 152 killings (n = 58 observed, 41 inferred, and 53 suspected killings) by chimpanzees in 15 communities and one suspected killing by bonobos. We found that males were the most frequent attackers (92% of participants) and victims (73%); most killings (66%) involved intercommunity attacks; and attackers greatly outnumbered their victims (median 8:1 ratio). Variation in killing rates was unrelated to measures of human impacts. Our results are compatible with previously proposed adaptive explanations for killing by chimpanzees, whereas the human impact hypothesis is not supported.

  • Optimization of lag time underlies antibiotic tolerance in evolved bacterial populations

  • The great therapeutic achievements of antibiotics have been dramatically undercut by the evolution of bacterial strategies that overcome antibiotic stress. These strategies fall into two classes.‘Resistance’ makes it possible for a microorganism to grow in the constant presence of the antibiotic, provided that the concentration of the antibiotic is not too high. ‘Tolerance’ allows a microorganism to survive antibiotic treatment, even at high antibiotic concentrations, as long as the duration of the treatment is limited. Although both resistance and tolerance are important reasons for the failure of antibiotic treatments, the evolution of resistance is much better understood than that of tolerance. Here we followed the evolution of bacterial populations under intermittent exposure to the high concentrations of antibiotics used in the clinic and characterized the evolved strains in terms of both resistance and tolerance. We found that all strains adapted by specific genetic mutations, which became fixed in the evolved populations. By monitoring the phenotypic changes at the population and single-cell levels, we found that the first adaptive change to antibiotic stress was the development of tolerance through a major adjustment in the single-cell lag-time distribution, without a change in resistance. Strikingly, we found that the lag time of bacteria before regrowth was optimized to match the duration of the antibiotic-exposure interval. Whole genome sequencing of the evolved strains and restoration of the wild-type alleles allowed us to identify target genes involved in this antibiotic-driven phenotype: ‘tolerance by lag’ (tbl). Better understanding of lag-time evolution as a key determinant of the survival of bacterial populations under high antibiotic concentrations could lead to new approaches to impeding the evolution of antibiotic resistance.

  • Genome sequencing of normal cells reveals developmental lineages and mutational processes

  • The somatic mutations present in the genome of a cell accumulate over the lifetime of a multicellular organism. These mutations can provide insights into the developmental lineage tree, the number of divisions that each cell has undergone and the mutational processes that have been operative. Here we describe whole genomes of clonal lines derived from multiple tissues of healthy mice. Using somatic base substitutions, we reconstructed the early cell divisions of each animal, demonstrating the contributions of embryonic cells to adult tissues. Differences were observed between tissues in the numbers and types of mutations accumulated by each cell, which likely reflect differences in the number of cell divisions they have undergone and varying contributions of different mutational processes. If somatic mutation rates are similar to those in mice, the results indicate that precise insights into development and mutagenesis of normal human cells will be possible.

  • Bidirectional switch of the valence associated with a hippocampal contextual memory engram

  • The valence of memories is malleable because of their intrinsic reconstructive property. This property of memory has been used clinically to treat maladaptive behaviours. However, the neuronal mechanisms and brain circuits that enable the switching of the valence of memories remain largely unknown. Here we investigated these mechanisms by applying the recently developed memory engram cell- manipulation technique. We labelled with channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) a population of cells in either the dorsal dentate gyrus (DG) of the hippocampus or the basolateral complex of the amygdala (BLA) that were specifically activated during contextual fear or reward conditioning. Both groups of fear-conditioned mice displayed aversive light-dependent responses in an optogenetic place avoidance test, whereas both DG- and BLA-labelled mice that underwent reward conditioning exhibited an appetitive response in an optogenetic place preference test. Next, in an attempt to reverse the valence of memory within a subject, mice whose DG or BLA engram had initially been labelled by contextual fear or reward conditioning were subjected to a second conditioning of the opposite valence while their original DG or BLA engram was reactivated by blue light. Subsequent optogenetic place avoidance and preference tests revealed that although the DG-engram group displayed a response indicating a switch of the memory valence, the BLA-engram group did not. This switch was also evident at the cellular level by a change in functional connectivity between DG engram-bearing cells and BLA engram-bearing cells. Thus, we found that in the DG, the neurons carrying the memory engram of a given neutral context have plasticity such that the valence of a conditioned response evoked by their reactivation can be reversed by re-associating this contextual memory engram with a new unconditioned stimulus of an opposite valence. Our present work provides new insight into the functional neural circuits underlying the malleability of emotional memory.

  • Exonuclease-mediated degradation of nascent RNA silences genes linked to severe malaria

  • Antigenic variation of the Plasmodium falciparum multicopy var gene family enables parasite evasion of immune destruction by host antibodies. Expression of a particular var subgroup, termed upsA, is linked to the obstruction of blood vessels in the brain and to the pathogenesis of human cerebral malaria. The mechanism determining upsA activation remains unknown. Here we show that an entirely new type of gene silencing mechanism involving an exonuclease-mediated degradation of nascent RNA controls the silencing of genes linked to severe malaria. We identify a novel chromatin-associated exoribonuclease, termed PfRNase II, that controls the silencing of upsAvar genes by marking their transcription start site and intron-promoter regions leading to short-lived cryptic RNA. Parasites carrying a deficient PfRNase II gene produce full-length upsAvar transcripts and intron-derived antisense long non-coding RNA. The presence of stable upsAvar transcripts overcomes monoallelic expression, resulting in the simultaneous expression of both upsA and upsC type PfEMP1 proteins on the surface of individual infected red blood cells. In addition, we observe an inverse relationship between transcript levels of PfRNase IIand upsA-type var genes in parasites from severe malaria patients, implying a crucial role of PfRNase II in severe malaria. Our results uncover a previously unknown type of post-transcriptional gene silencing mechanism in malaria parasites with repercussions for other organisms. Additionally, the identification of RNase II as a parasite protein controlling the expression of virulence genes involved in pathogenesis in patients with severe malaria may provide new strategies for reducing malaria mortality.

  • Endocrinization of FGF1 produces a neomorphic and potent insulin sensitizer

  • Fibroblast growth factor 1 (FGF1) is an autocrine/paracrine regulator whose binding to heparan sulphate proteoglycans effectively precludes its circulation. Although FGF1 is known as a mitogenic factor, FGF1 knockout mice develop insulin resistance when stressed by a high-fat diet, suggesting a potential role in nutrienthomeostasis. Here we show that parenteral delivery of a single dose of recombinant FGF1 (rFGF1) results in potent, insulin-dependent lowering of glucose levels in diabetic mice that is dose-dependent but does not lead to hypoglycaemia. Chronic pharmacological treatment with rFGF1 increases insulin-dependent glucose uptake in skeletal muscle and suppresses the hepatic production of glucose to achieve whole-body insulin sensitization. The sustained glucose lowering and insulin sensitization attributed to rFGF1 are not accompanied by the side effects of weight gain, liver steatosis and bone lossassociated with current insulin-sensitizing therapies. We also show that the glucose-lowering activity of FGF1 can be dissociated from its mitogenic activity and is mediated predominantly via FGF receptor 1 signalling. Thus we have uncovered an unexpected, neomorphic insulin-sensitizing action for exogenous non-mitogenic human FGF1 with therapeutic potential for the treatment of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

  • Coordinated regulation of protein synthesis and degradation by mTORC1

  • Eukaryotic cells coordinately control anabolic and catabolic processes to maintain cell and tissue homeostasis. Mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) promotes nutrient-consuming anabolic processes, such as protein synthesis. Here we show that as well as increasing protein synthesis, mTORC1 activation in mouse and human cells also promotes an increased capacity for protein degradation. Cells with activated mTORC1 exhibited elevated levels of intact and active proteasomes through a global increase in the expression of genes encoding proteasome subunits. The increase in proteasome gene expression, cellular proteasome content, and rates of protein turnover downstream of mTORC1 were all dependent on induction of the transcription factor nuclear factor erythroid-derived 2-related factor 1 (NRF1; also known as NFE2L1). Genetic activation of mTORC1 through loss of the tuberous sclerosis complex tumour suppressors, TSC1 or TSC2, or physiological activation of mTORC1 in response to growth factors or feeding resulted in increased NRF1 expression in cells and tissues. We find that this NRF1-dependent elevation in proteasome levels serves to increase the intracellular pool of amino acids, which thereby influences rates of new protein synthesis. Therefore, mTORC1 signalling increases the efficiency of proteasome-mediated protein degradation for both quality control and as a mechanism to supply substrate for sustained protein synthesis.

  • Retraction: Genomic organization of human transcription initiation complexes

  • Nature502, 53–58 (2013); doi:10.1038/nature12535We reported the presence of degenerate versions of four well known core promoter elements (BREu, TATA, BREd and INR) at most measured TFIIB binding locations found across the human genome.

  • Corrigendum: Systems survey of endocytosis by multiparametric image analysis

  • Nature464, 243–249 (2010); doi:10.1038/nature08779Readers alerted us to a technical mistake (a shift of one row) made during the compilation of Supplementary Table 4, resulting in the assignment of 455 gene symbols to the wrong gene IDs. For

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

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

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

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

  • Lithium–antimony–lead liquid metal battery for grid-level energy storage

  • The ability to store energy on the electric grid would greatly improve its efficiency and reliability while enabling the integration of intermittent renewable energy technologies (such as wind and solar) into baseload supply. Batteries have long been considered strong candidate solutions owing to their small spatial footprint, mechanical simplicity and flexibility in siting. However, the barrier to widespread adoption of batteries is their high cost. Here we describe a lithium–antimony–lead liquid metal battery that potentially meets the performance specifications for stationary energy storage applications. This Li||Sb–Pb battery comprises a liquid lithium negative electrode, a molten salt electrolyte, and a liquid antimony–lead alloy positive electrode, which self-segregate by density into three distinct layers owing to the immiscibility of the contiguous salt and metal phases. The all-liquid construction confers the advantages of higher current density, longer cycle life and simpler manufacturing of large-scale storage systems (because no membranes or separators are involved) relative to those of conventional batteries. At charge–discharge current densities of 275 milliamperes per square centimetre, the cells cycled at 450 degrees Celsius with 98 per cent Coulombic efficiency and 73 per cent round-trip energy efficiency. To provide evidence of their high power capability, the cells were discharged and charged at current densities as high as 1,000 milliamperes per square centimetre. Measured capacity loss after operation for 1,800 hours (more than 450 charge–discharge cycles at 100 per cent depth of discharge) projects retention of over85 per cent of initial capacity after ten years of daily cycling. Our results demonstrate that alloying a high-melting-point, high-voltage metal (antimony) with a low-melting-point, low-cost metal (lead) advantageously decreases the operating temperature while maintaining a high cell voltage. Apartfrom the fact that this finding puts us on a desirable cost trajectory, this approach may well be more broadly applicable to other battery chemistries.

  • Health: The weighty costs of non-caloric sweeteners

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

  • Inorganic chemistry: How calcium affects oxygen formation

  • Calcium is an essential component of the catalyst that forms oxygen from water during photosynthesis. It seems that part of calcium's job is to enable the release of oxygen from this catalyst.

  • Disease models: Statins give bone growth a boost

  • The development of stem-cell-based models of two diseases that cause dwarfism reveals that statins— drugs that are used to treat high levels of blood cholesterol — may also promote cartilage formation and bone growth.

  • Plant science: Towards turbocharged photosynthesis

  • The development of tobacco plants that are genetically engineered to produce a more efficient form of Rubisco, an enzyme involved in photosynthesis, marks a step towards increasing crop yields.

  • DNA repair: Making the cut

  • Analysis of the first step in repairing double-stranded-DNA breaks reveals that the Mre11 enzyme makes a DNA nick at a point separate from the break ends, creating an entry site for further processing by exonuclease enzymes.

  • Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota

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

  • Statin treatment rescues FGFR3 skeletal dysplasia phenotypes

  • This study reprograms fibroblasts from thanatophoric dysplasia type I (TD1) and achondroplasia (ACH) patients into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), finding that chondrogenic differentiation results in the formation of degraded cartilage; statin treatment led to significant recovery of bone growth in a mouse model of ACH.

  • Sae2 promotes dsDNA endonuclease activity within Mre11–Rad50–Xrs2 to resect DNA breaks

  • To repair double-strand DNA breaks by homologous recombination, the 5′-terminated DNA strand must first be resected, which generates 3′ single-stranded DNA overhangs. Genetic evidence suggests that this process is initiated by the Mre11–Rad50–Xrs2 (MRX) complex. However, its involvement was puzzling, as the complex possesses exonuclease activity with the opposite (3′ to 5′) polarity from that required for homologous recombination. Consequently, a bidirectional model has been proposed whereby dsDNA is first incised endonucleolytically and MRX then proceeds back to the dsDNA end using its 3′ to 5′ exonuclease. The endonuclease creates entry sitesfor Sgs1–Dna2 and/or Exo1, which then carry out long-range resection in the 5′ to 3′ direction. However, the identity of the endonuclease remained unclear. Using purified Saccharomyces cerevisiae proteins, we show that Sae2 promotes dsDNA-specific endonuclease activity by the Mre11 subunit within the MRX complex. The endonuclease preferentially cleaves the 5′-terminated dsDNA strand, which explains the polarity paradox. The dsDNA end clipping is strongly stimulated by protein blocks at the DNA end, and requires the ATPase activity of Rad50 and physical interactions between MRX and Sae2. Our results suggest that MRX initiates dsDNA break processing by dsDNA endonuclease rather than exonuclease activity, and that Sae2 is the key regulator of this process. These findings demonstrate a probable mechanism for the initiation of dsDNA break processing in both vegetative and meiotic cells.

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

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

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

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

  • A faster Rubisco with potential to increase photosynthesis in crops

  • In photosynthetic organisms, d-ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (Rubisco) is the major enzyme assimilating atmospheric CO2 into the biosphere. Owing to the wasteful oxygenase activity and slow turnover of Rubisco, the enzyme is among the most important targets for improving the photosynthetic efficiency of vascular plants. It has been anticipated that introducing the CO2-concentrating mechanism (CCM) from cyanobacteria into plants could enhance crop yield. However, the complex nature of Rubisco’s assembly has made manipulation of the enzyme extremely challenging, and attempts to replace it in plants with the enzymes from cyanobacteria and red algae have not been successful. Here we report two transplastomic tobacco lines with functional Rubisco from the cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus PCC7942 (Se7942). We knocked out the native tobacco gene encoding the large subunit of Rubisco by inserting the large and small subunit genes of the Se7942 enzyme, in combination with either the corresponding Se7942 assembly chaperone, RbcX, or an internal carboxysomal protein, CcmM35, which incorporates three small subunit-like domains. Se7942 Rubisco and CcmM35 formed macromolecular complexes within the chloroplast stroma, mirroring an early step in the biogenesis of cyanobacterial β-carboxysomes. Both transformed lines were photosynthetically competent, supporting autotrophic growth, and their respective forms of Rubisco had higher rates of CO2 fixation per unit of enzyme than the tobacco control. These transplastomic tobacco lines represent an important step towards improved photosynthesis in plants and will be valuable hosts for future addition of the remaining components ofthe cyanobacterial CCM, such as inorganic carbon transporters and the β-carboxysome shell proteins.

  • Prevalence of viscoelastic relaxation after the 2011 Tohoku-oki earthquake

  • After a large subduction earthquake, crustal deformation continues to occur, with a complex pattern of evolution. This postseismic deformation is due primarily to viscoelastic relaxation of stresses induced by the earthquake rupture and continuing slip (afterslip) or relocking of different parts of the fault. When postseismic geodetic observations are used to study Earth’s rheology and fault behaviour, it is commonly assumed that short-term (a few years) deformation near the rupture zone is caused mainly by afterslip, and that viscoelasticity is important only for longer-term deformation. However, it is difficult to test the validity of this assumption against conventional geodetic data. Here we show that new seafloor GPS (Global Positioning System) observations immediately after the great Tohoku-oki earthquake provide unambiguous evidence for the dominant role of viscoelastic relaxation in short-term postseismic deformation. These data reveal fast landward motion of the trench area, opposing the seaward motion of GPS sites on land. Using numerical models of transient viscoelastic mantle rheology, we demonstrate that the landward motion is a consequence of relaxation of stresses induced by the asymmetric rupture of the thrust earthquake, a process previously unknown because of the lack of near-field observations. Our findings indicate that previous models assuming an elastic Earth will have substantially overestimated afterslip downdip of the rupture zone, and underestimated afterslip updip of the rupture zone; our knowledge of fault friction based on these estimates therefore needs to be revised.

  • Asian monsoons in a late Eocene greenhouse world

  • Asian monsoons were strongly active 40 million years ago and were enhanced by high atmospheric CO2 content. They were significantly weakened when CO2 levels decreased 34 million years ago and then reinitiated several million years later.

  • Large, non-saturating magnetoresistance in WTe2

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

  • Epigenetic reprogramming that prevents transgenerational inheritance of the vernalized state

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

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

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

  • A Hox regulatory network of hindbrain segmentation is conserved to the base of vertebrates

  • A defining feature governing head patterning of jawed vertebrates is a highly conserved gene regulatory network that integrates hindbrain segmentation with segmentally restricted domains of Hox gene expression. Although non-vertebrate chordates display nested domains of axial Hox expression, they lack hindbrain segmentation. The sea lamprey, a jawless fish, can provide unique insights into vertebrate origins owing to its phylogenetic position at the base of the vertebrate tree. It has been suggested that lamprey may represent an intermediate state where nested Hox expression has not been coupled to the process of hindbrain segmentation. However, little is known about the regulatory network underlying Hox expression in lamprey or its relationship to hindbrain segmentation. Here, using a novel tool that allows cross-species comparisons of regulatory elements between jawed and jawless vertebrates, we report deep conservation of both upstream regulators and segmental activity of enhancer elements across these distant species. Regulatory regions from diverse gnathostomes drive segmental reporter expression in the lamprey hindbrain and require the same transcriptional inputs (for example, Kreisler (also known as Mafba), Krox20 (also known as Egr2a)) in both lamprey and zebrafish. We find that lamprey hox genes display dynamic segmentally restricted domains of expression; we also isolated a conserved exonic hox2 enhancer from lamprey that drives segmental expression in rhombomeres 2 and 4. Our results show that coupling of Hox gene expression to segmentation of the hindbrain is an ancient trait with origin at the base of vertebrates that probably led to the formation of rhombomeric compartments with an underlying Hox code.

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

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

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

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

  • Structural biology: Ribosome revelations

  • Proteins are synthesized in cells by the ribosome apparatus. A report of 16 yeast ribosome structures, each bound by a different inhibitor, broadens our understanding of how drugs affect ribosome activity.

  • Three new Jurassic euharamiyidan species reinforce early divergence of mammals

  • Three new euharamiyidan species from the Jurassic period of China are described, cementing the alliance with multituberculates and showing that the initial divergence between groups of extant mammals—monotremes on the one side, marsupials and placentals on the other—goes back to the Triassic period.

  • Structural basis for the inhibition of the eukaryotic ribosome

  • Whereas previous structural investigation of ribosome inhibitors has been done using the prokaryotic ribosome, this work presents X-ray crystal structures of the yeast ribosome in complex with 16 inhibitors including eukaryotic-specific inhibitors; the inhibitors all bind the mRNA or tRNA binding sites, larger molecules appear to target specifically the first elongation cycle.

  • The drivers of tropical speciation

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

  • Evanescent-wave and ambient chiral sensing by signal-reversing cavity ringdown polarimetry

  • Detecting and quantifying chirality is important in fields ranging from analytical and biological chemistry to pharmacology and fundamental physics: it can aid drug design and synthesis, contribute to protein structure determination, and help detect parity violation of the weak force. Recent developments employ microwaves, femtosecond pulses, superchiral light or photoionization to determine chirality, yet the most widely used methods remain the traditional methods of measuring circular dichroism and optical rotation. However, these signals are typically very weak against larger time-dependent backgrounds. Cavity-enhanced optical methods can be used to amplify weak signals by passing them repeatedly through an optical cavity, and two-mirror cavities achieving up to 105 cavity passes have enabled absorption and birefringence measurements with record sensitivities. But chiral signals cancel when passing back and forth through a cavity, while the ubiquitous spurious linear birefringence background is enhanced. Even when intracavity optics overcome these problems, absolute chirality measurements remain difficult and sometimes impossible. Here we use a pulsed-laser bowtie cavity ringdown polarimeter with counter-propagating beams to enhance chiral signals by a factor equal to the number of cavity passes (typically ggt;103); to suppress the effects of linear birefringence by means of a large induced intracavity Faraday rotation; and to effect rapid signal reversals by reversing the Faraday rotation and subtracting signals from the counter-propagating beams. These features allow absolute chiral signal measurements in environments where background subtraction is not feasible: we determine optical rotation fromα-pinene vapour in open air, and from maltodextrin and fructose solutions in the evanescent wave produced by total internal reflection at a prism surface. The limits of the present polarimeter, when using a continuous-wave laser locked to a stable, high-finesse cavity, should match the sensitivityof linear birefringence measurements (3 × 10−13 radians), which is several orders of magnitude more sensitive than current chiral detection limits and is expected to transform chiral sensing in many fields.

  • Architecture of mammalian respiratory complex I

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

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

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

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

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

  • Placing an upper limit on cryptic marine sulphur cycling

  • A quantitative understanding of sources and sinks of fixed nitrogen in low-oxygen waters is required to explain the role of oxygen-minimum zones (OMZs) in controlling the fixed nitrogen inventory of the global ocean. Apparent imbalances in geochemical nitrogen budgets have spurred numerous studies to measure the contributions of heterotrophic and autotrophic N2-producing metabolisms (denitrification and anaerobic ammonia oxidation, respectively). Recently,‘cryptic’ sulphur cycling was proposed as a partial solution to the fundamental biogeochemical problem of closing marine fixed-nitrogen budgets in intensely oxygen-deficient regions. The degree to which the cryptic sulphur cycle can fuel a loss of fixed nitrogen in the modern ocean requires thequantification of sulphur recycling in OMZ settings. Here we provide a new constraint for OMZ sulphate reduction based on isotopic profiles of oxygen (18O/16O) and sulphur (33S/32S, 34S/32S) in seawater sulphate through oxygenated open-ocean and OMZ-bearing water columns. When coupled with observations and models of sulphate isotope dynamics and data-constrained model estimates of OMZ water-mass residence time, we find that previous estimates for sulphur-driven remineralization and loss of fixed nitrogen from the oceans are near the upper limit for what is possible given in situ sulphate isotope data.

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

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

  • Producing more grain with lower environmental costs

  • Agriculture faces great challenges to ensure global food security by increasing yields while reducing environmental costs. Here we address this challenge by conducting a total of 153 site-year field experiments covering the main agro-ecological areas for rice, wheat and maize production in China. A set of integrated soil–crop system management practices based on a modern understanding of crop ecophysiology and soil biogeochemistry increases average yields for rice, wheat and maize from 7.2 million grams per hectare (Mg ha−1), 7.2 Mg ha−1 and 10.5 Mg ha−1 to 8.5 Mg ha−1, 8.9 Mg ha−1 and 14.2 Mg ha−1, respectively, without any increase in nitrogen fertilizer. Model simulation and life-cycle assessment show that reactive nitrogen losses and greenhouse gas emissions are reduced substantially by integrated soil–crop system management. If farmers in China could achieve average grain yields equivalent to 80% of this treatment by 2030, over the same planting area as in 2012, total production of rice, wheat and maize in China would be more than enough to meet the demand for direct human consumption and a substantially increased demand for animal feed, while decreasing the environmental costs of intensive agriculture.

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

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

  • Transcript-RNA-templated DNA recombination and repair

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

  • Stochasticity of metabolism and growth at the single-cell level

  • Elucidating the role of molecular stochasticity in cellular growth is central to understanding phenotypic heterogeneity and the stability of cellular proliferation. The inherent stochasticity of metabolic reaction events should have negligible effect, because of averaging over the many reaction events contributing to growth. Indeed, metabolism and growth are often considered to be constant for fixed conditions. Stochastic fluctuations in the expression level of metabolic enzymes could produce variations in the reactions they catalyse. However, whether such molecular fluctuations can affect growth is unclear, given the various stabilizing regulatory mechanisms, the slow adjustment of key cellular components such as ribosomes, and the secretion and buffering of excess metabolites. Here we use time-lapse microscopy to measure fluctuations in the instantaneous growth rate of single cells of Escherichia coli, and quantify time-resolved cross-correlations with the expression of lac genes and enzymes in central metabolism. We show that expression fluctuations of catabolically active enzymes can propagate and cause growth fluctuations, with transmission depending on the limitation of the enzyme to growth. Conversely, growth fluctuations propagate back to perturb expression. Accordingly, enzymes were found to transmit noise to other unrelated genes via growth. Homeostasis is promoted by a noise-cancelling mechanism that exploits fluctuations in the dilution of proteins by cell-volume expansion. The results indicate that molecular noise is propagated not only by regulatory proteins but also by metabolic reactions. They also suggest that cellular metabolism is inherently stochastic, and a generic source of phenotypic heterogeneity.

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

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

  • Early turbulent mixing as the origin of chemical homogeneity in open star clusters

  • The abundances of elements in stars are critical clues to stars’ origins. Observed star-to-star variations in logarithmic abundance within an open star cluster—a gravitationally bound ensemble of stars in the Galactic plane—are typically only about 0.01 to 0.05 over many elements, which is noticeably smaller than the variation of about 0.06 to 0.3 seen in the interstellar medium from which the stars form. It is unknown why star clusters are so homogenous, and whether homogeneity should also prevail in regions of lower star formation efficiency that do not produce bound clusters. Here we report simulations that trace the mixing of chemical elements as star-forming clouds assemble and collapse. We show that turbulent mixing during cloud assembly naturally produces a stellar abundance scatter at least five times smaller than that in the gas, which is sufficient to explain the observed chemical homogeneity of stars. Moreover, mixing occurs very early, so that regions with star formation efficiencies of about 10 per cent are nearly as well mixed as those with formation efficiencies of about 50 per cent. This implies that even regions that do not form bound clusters are likely to be well mixed, and improves the prospects of using ‘chemical tagging’ to reconstruct (via their unique chemical signatures, or tags) star clusters whose constituent stars have become unbound from one another and spread across the Galactic disk.

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

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

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

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

  • High-fat-diet-mediated dysbiosis promotes intestinal carcinogenesis independently of obesity

  • Several features common to a Western lifestyle, including obesity and low levels of physical activity, are known risk factors for gastrointestinal cancers. There is substantial evidence suggesting that diet markedly affects the composition of the intestinal microbiota. Moreover, there is now unequivocal evidence linking dysbiosis to cancer development. However, the mechanisms by which high-fat diet (HFD)-mediated changes in the microbial community affect the severity of tumorigenesis in the gut remain to be determined. Here we demonstrate that an HFD promotes tumour progression in the small intestine of genetically susceptible, K-rasG12Dint, mice independently of obesity. HFD consumption, in conjunction with K-ras mutation, mediated a shift in the composition of the gut microbiota, and this shift was associated with a decrease in Paneth-cell-mediated antimicrobial host defence that compromised dendritic cell recruitment and MHC class II molecule presentation in the gut-associated lymphoid tissues. When butyrate was administered to HFD-fed K-rasG12Dint mice, dendritic cell recruitment in the gut-associated lymphoid tissues was normalized, and tumour progression was attenuated. Importantly, deficiency in MYD88, a signalling adaptor for pattern recognition receptors and Toll-like receptors, blocked tumour progression. The transfer of faecal samples from HFD-fed mice with intestinal tumours to healthy adult K-rasG12Dint mice was sufficient to transmit disease in the absence of an HFD. Furthermore, treatment with antibiotics completely blocked HFD-induced tumour progression, suggesting that distinct shifts in the microbiota have a pivotal role in aggravating disease. Collectively, these data underscore the importance of the reciprocal interaction between host and environmental factors in selecting a microbiota that favours carcinogenesis, and they suggest that tumorigenesis is transmissible among genetically predisposed individuals.

  • OSCA1 mediates osmotic-stress-evoked Ca2+ increases vital for osmosensing in Arabidopsis

  • Water is crucial to plant growth and development. Environmental water deficiency triggers an osmotic stress signalling cascade, which induces short-term cellular responses to reduce water loss and long-term responses to remodel the transcriptional network and physiological and developmental processes. Several signalling components that have been identified by extensive genetic screens for altered sensitivities to osmotic stress seem to function downstream of the perception of osmotic stress. It is known that hyperosmolality and various other stimuli trigger increases in cytosolic free calcium concentration ([Ca2+]i). Considering that in bacteria and animals osmosensing Ca2+ channels serve as osmosensors, hyperosmolality-induced [Ca2+]i increases have been widely speculated to be involved in osmosensing in plants. However, the molecular nature of corresponding Ca2+ channels remain unclear. Here we describe a hyperosmolality-gated calcium-permeable channel and its function in osmosensing in plants. Using calcium-imaging-based unbiased forward genetic screens we isolated Arabidopsis mutants that exhibit low hyperosmolality-induced [Ca2+]i increases. These mutants were rescreened for their cellular, physiological and developmental responses to osmotic stress, and those with clear combined phenotypes were selected for further physical mapping. One of the mutants, reduced hyperosmolality-induced [Ca2+]i increase 1 (osca1), displays impaired osmotic Ca2+ signalling in guard cells and root cells, and attenuated water transpiration regulation and root growth in response to osmotic stress. OSCA1 is identified as a previously unknown plasma membrane protein and forms hyperosmolality-gated calcium-permeable channels, revealing that OSCA1 may be an osmosensor. OSCA1 represents a channel responsible for [Ca2+]i increases induced by a stimulus in plants, opening up new avenues for studying Ca2+ machineries for other stimuli and providing potential molecular genetic targets for engineering drought-resistant crops.

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

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

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

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

  • PLETHORA gradient formation mechanism separates auxin responses

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

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

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

  • Nodal signalling determines biradial asymmetry in Hydra

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

  • Pre-Columbian mycobacterial genomes reveal seals as a source of New World human tuberculosis

  • Modern strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis from the Americas are closely related to those from Europe, supporting the assumption that human tuberculosis was introduced post-contact. This notion, however, is incompatible with archaeological evidence of pre-contact tuberculosis in the New World. Comparative genomics of modern isolates suggests that M. tuberculosis attained its worldwide distribution following human dispersals out of Africa during the Pleistocene epoch, although this has yet to be confirmed with ancient calibration points. Here we present three 1,000-year-old mycobacterial genomes from Peruvian human skeletons, revealing that a member of the M. tuberculosis complex caused human disease before contact. The ancient strains are distinct from known human-adapted forms and are most closely related to those adapted to seals and sea lions. Two independent dating approaches suggest a most recent common ancestor for the M. tuberculosis complex less than 6,000 years ago, which supports a Holocene dispersal of the disease. Our results implicate sea mammals as having played a role in transmitting the disease to humans across the ocean.

  • Diabetes recovery by age-dependent conversion of pancreaticδ-cells into insulin producers

  • Total or near-total loss of insulin-producingβ-cells occurs in type 1 diabetes. Restoration of insulin production in type 1 diabetes is thus a major medical challenge. We previously observed in mice in which β-cells are completely ablated that the pancreas reconstitutes new insulin-producing cells in the absence of autoimmunity. The processinvolves the contribution of islet non-β-cells; specifically, glucagon-producing α-cells begin producing insulin by a process of reprogramming (transdifferentiation) without proliferation. Here we show the influence of age on β-cell reconstitution from heterologous islet cells after near-total β-cell loss in mice. We found that senescence does not alter α-cell plasticity: α-cells can reprogram to produce insulin from puberty through to adulthood, and also in aged individuals, even a long time after β-cell loss. In contrast, before puberty there is no detectable α-cell conversion, although β-cell reconstitution after injury is more efficient, always leading to diabetes recovery. This process occurs through a newly discovered mechanism: the spontaneous en masse reprogramming of somatostatin-producing δ-cells. The juveniles display ‘somatostatin-to-insulin’ δ-cell conversion, involving dedifferentiation, proliferation and re-expression of islet developmental regulators. This juvenile adaptability relies, at least in part, upon the combined action of FoxO1 and downstream effectors. Restoration of insulin producing-cells from non-β-cell origins is thus enabled throughout life via δ- or α-cell spontaneous reprogramming. A landscape with multiple intra-islet cell interconversion events is emerging, offering new perspectives for therapy.

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

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

  • Contrasting roles of histone 3 lysine 27 demethylases in acute lymphoblastic leukaemia

  • T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (T-ALL) is a haematological malignancy with a dismal overall prognosis, including a relapse rate of up to 25%, mainly because of the lack of non-cytotoxic targeted therapy options. Drugs that target the function of key epigenetic factors have been approved in the context of haematopoietic disorders, and mutations that affect chromatin modulators in a variety of leukaemias have recently been identified; however,‘epigenetic’ drugs are not currently used for T-ALL treatment. Recently, we described that the polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) has a tumour-suppressor role in T-ALL. Here we delineated the role of the histone 3 lysine 27 (H3K27) demethylases JMJD3 and UTX in T-ALL. We show that JMJD3 is essential for the initiation and maintenance of T-ALL, as it controls important oncogenic gene targets by modulating H3K27 methylation. By contrast, we found that UTX functions as a tumour suppressor and is frequently genetically inactivated in T-ALL. Moreover, we demonstrated that the small molecule inhibitor GSKJ4 (ref. 5) affects T-ALL growth, by targeting JMJD3 activity. These findings show that two proteins with a similar enzymatic function can have opposing roles in the context of the same disease, paving the way for treating haematopoietic malignancies with a new category of epigenetic inhibitors.

  • Hallucigenia’s onychophoran-like claws and the case for Tactopoda

  • The Palaeozoic form-taxon Lobopodia encompasses a diverse range of soft-bodied‘legged worms’ known from exceptional fossil deposits. Although lobopodians occupy a deep phylogenetic position within Panarthropoda, a shortage of derived characters obscures their evolutionary relationships with extant phyla (Onychophora, Tardigrada and Euarthropoda). Here we describe a complex feature in the terminal claws of the mid-Cambrian lobopodian Hallucigenia sparsa—their construction from a stack of constituent elements—and demonstrate that equivalent elements make up the jaws and claws of extant Onychophora. A cladistic analysis, informed by developmental data on panarthropod head segmentation, indicates that the stacked sclerite components in these two taxa are homologous—resolving hallucigeniid lobopodians as stem-group onychophorans. The results indicate a sister-group relationship between Tardigrada and Euarthropoda, adding palaeontological support to the neurological and musculoskeletal evidence uniting these disparate clades. These findings elucidate the evolutionary transformations that gave rise to the panarthropod phyla, and expound the lobopodian-like morphology of the ancestral panarthropod.

  • Structure and mechanism of Zn2+-transporting P-type ATPases

  • Zinc is an essential micronutrient for all living organisms. It is required for signalling and proper functioning of a range of proteins involved in, for example, DNA binding and enzymatic catalysis. In prokaryotes and photosynthetic eukaryotes, Zn2+-transporting P-type ATPases of class IB (ZntA) are crucial for cellular redistribution and detoxification of Zn2+ and related elements. Here we present crystal structures representing the phosphoenzyme ground state (E2P) and a dephosphorylation intermediate (E2·Pi) of ZntA from Shigella sonnei, determined at 3.2 Å and 2.7 Å resolution, respectively. The structures reveal a similar fold to Cu+-ATPases, with an amphipathic helix at the membrane interface. A conserved electronegative funnel connects this region to the intramembranous high-affinity ion-binding site and may promote specific uptake of cellular Zn2+ ions by the transporter. The E2P structure displays a wide extracellular release pathway reaching the invariant residues at the high-affinity site, including C392, C394 and D714. The pathway closes in the E2·Pi state, in which D714 interacts with the conserved residue K693, which possibly stimulates Zn2+ release as a built-in counter ion, as has been proposed for H+-ATPases. Indeed, transport studies in liposomes provide experimental support for ZntA activity without counter transport. These findings suggest a mechanistic link between PIB-type Zn2+-ATPases and PIII-type H+-ATPases and at the same time show structural features of the extracellular release pathway that resemble PII-type ATPases such as the sarcoplasmic/endoplasmic reticulum Ca2+-ATPase (SERCA) and Na+, K+-ATPase. These findings considerably increase our understanding of zinc transport in cells and represent new possibilities for biotechnology and biomedicine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Antiviral immunity via RIG-I-mediated recognition of RNA bearing 5′-diphosphates

  • Mammalian cells possess mechanisms to detect and defend themselves from invading viruses. In the cytosol, the RIG-I-like receptors (RLRs), RIG-I (retinoic acid-inducible gene I; encoded by DDX58) and MDA5 (melanoma differentiation-associated gene 5; encoded by IFIH1) sense atypical RNAs associated with virus infection. Detection triggers a signalling cascade via the adaptor MAVS that culminates in the production of type I interferons (IFN-α and β; hereafter IFN), which are key antiviral cytokines. RIG-I and MDA5 are activated by distinct viral RNA structures and much evidence indicates that RIG-I responds to RNAs bearing a triphosphate (ppp) moiety in conjunction with a blunt-ended, base-paired region at the 5′-end (reviewed in refs 1, 2, 3). Here we show that RIG-I also mediates antiviral responses to RNAs bearing 5′-diphosphates (5′pp). Genomes from mammalian reoviruses with 5′pp termini, 5′pp-RNA isolated from yeast L-A virus, and base-paired 5′pp-RNAs made by in vitro transcription or chemical synthesis, all bind to RIG-I and serve as RIG-I agonists. Furthermore, a RIG-I-dependent response to 5′pp-RNA is essential for controlling reovirus infection in cultured cells and in mice. Thus, the minimal determinant for RIG-I recognition is a base-paired RNA with 5′pp. Such RNAs are found in some viruses but not in uninfected cells, indicating that recognition of 5′pp-RNA, like that of 5′ppp-RNA, acts as a powerful means of self/non-self discrimination by the innate immune system.

  • A long noncoding RNA protects the heart from pathological hypertrophy

  • The role of long noncoding RNA (lncRNA) in adult hearts is unknown; also unclear is how lncRNA modulates nucleosome remodelling. An estimated 70% of mouse genes undergo antisense transcription, including myosin heavy chain 7 (Myh7), which encodes molecular motor proteins for heart contraction. Here we identify a cluster of lncRNA transcripts from Myh7 loci and demonstrate a new lncRNA–chromatin mechanism for heart failure. In mice, these transcripts, which we named myosin heavy-chain-associated RNA transcripts (Myheart, or Mhrt), are cardiac-specific and abundant in adult hearts. Pathological stress activates the Brg1–Hdac–Parp chromatin repressor complex to inhibit Mhrt transcription in the heart. Such stress-induced Mhrt repression is essential for cardiomyopathy to develop: restoring Mhrt to the pre-stress level protects the heart from hypertrophy and failure. Mhrt antagonizes the function of Brg1, a chromatin-remodelling factor that is activated by stress to trigger aberrant gene expression and cardiac myopathy. Mhrt prevents Brg1 from recognizing its genomic DNA targets, thus inhibiting chromatin targeting and gene regulation by Brg1. It does so by binding to the helicase domain of Brg1, a domain that is crucial for tethering Brg1 to chromatinized DNA targets. Brg1 helicase has dual nucleic-acid-binding specificities: it is capable of binding lncRNA (Mhrt) and chromatinized—but not naked—DNA. This dual-binding feature of helicase enables a competitive inhibition mechanism by which Mhrt sequesters Brg1 from its genomic DNA targets to prevent chromatin remodelling. A Mhrt–Brg1 feedback circuit is thus crucial for heart function. Human MHRT also originates from MYH7 loci and is repressed in various types of myopathic hearts, suggesting a conserved lncRNA mechanism in human cardiomyopathy. Our studies identify a cardioprotective lncRNA, define a new targeting mechanism for ATP-dependent chromatin-remodelling factors, and establish a new paradigm for lncRNA–chromatin interaction.

  • Piezo1 integration of vascular architecture with physiological force

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

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

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

  • Inflammatory caspases are innate immune receptors for intracellular LPS

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

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

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

  • Noncoding RNA transcription targets AID to divergently transcribed loci in B cells

  • The vast majority of the mammalian genome has the potential to express noncoding RNA (ncRNA). The 11-subunit RNA exosome complex is the main source of cellular 3′–5′ exoribonucleolytic activity and potentially regulates the mammalian noncoding transcriptome. Here we generated a mouse model in which the essential subunit Exosc3 of the RNA exosome complex can be conditionally deleted. Exosc3-deficient B cells lack the ability to undergo normal levels of class switch recombination and somatic hypermutation, two mutagenic DNA processes used to generate antibody diversity via the B-cell mutator protein activation-induced cytidine deaminase (AID). The transcriptome of Exosc3-deficient B cells has revealed the presence of many novel RNA exosome substrate ncRNAs. RNA exosome substrate RNAs include xTSS-RNAs, transcription start site (TSS)-associated antisense transcripts that can exceed 500 base pairs in length and are transcribed divergently from cognate coding gene transcripts. xTSS-RNAs are most strongly expressed at genes that accumulate AID-mediated somatic mutations and/or are frequent translocation partners of DNA double-strand breaks generated at Igh in B cells. Strikingly, translocations near TSSs or within gene bodies occur over regions of RNA exosome substrate ncRNA expression. These RNA exosome-regulated, antisense-transcribed regions of the B-cell genome recruit AID and accumulate single-strand DNA structures containing RNA–DNA hybrids. We propose that RNA exosome regulation of ncRNA recruits AID to single-strand DNA-forming sites of antisense and divergent transcription in the B-cell genome, thereby creating a link between ncRNA transcription and overall maintenance of B-cell genomic integrity.

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

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

  • CRISPR-mediated direct mutation of cancer genes in the mouse liver

  • The study of cancer genes in mouse models has traditionally relied on genetically-engineered strains made via transgenesis or gene targeting in embryonic stem cells. Here we describe a new method of cancer model generation using the CRISPR/Cas (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats/CRISPR-associated proteins) system in vivo in wild-type mice. We used hydrodynamic injection to deliver a CRISPR plasmid DNA expressing Cas9 and single guide RNAs (sgRNAs) to the liver that directly target the tumour suppressor genes Pten (ref. 5) and p53 (also known as TP53 and Trp53) (ref. 6), alone and in combination. CRISPR-mediated Pten mutation led to elevated Akt phosphorylation and lipid accumulation in hepatocytes, phenocopying the effects of deletion of the gene using Cre–LoxP technology. Simultaneous targeting of Pten and p53 induced liver tumours that mimicked those caused by Cre–loxP-mediated deletion of Pten and p53. DNA sequencing of liver and tumour tissue revealed insertion or deletion mutations of the tumour suppressor genes, including bi-allelic mutations of both Pten and p53 in tumours. Furthermore, co-injection of Cas9 plasmids harbouring sgRNAs targeting the β-catenin gene and a single-stranded DNA oligonucleotide donor carrying activating point mutations led to the generation of hepatocytes with nuclear localization of β-catenin. This studydemonstrates the feasibility of direct mutation of tumour suppressor genes and oncogenes in the liver using the CRISPR/Cas system, which presents a new avenue for rapid development of liver cancer models and functional genomics.

  • Structural mechanism of glutamate receptor activation and desensitization

  • Cryo-electron microscopy is used to visualize the AMPA receptor GluA2 and the kainate receptor GluK2 in several functional states— having access to so many different structural states has enabled the authors to propose a molecular model for the gating cycle of glutamate receptors.

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

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

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

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

  • Inappropriate p53 activation during development induces features of CHARGE syndrome

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

  • Promoter sequences direct cytoplasmic localization and translation of mRNAs during starvation in yeast

  • A universal feature of the response to stress and nutrient limitation is transcriptional upregulation of genes that encode proteins important for survival. Under many such conditions, the overall protein synthesis level is reduced, thereby dampening the stress response at the level of protein expression. For example, during glucose starvation in Saccharomyces cerevisiae (yeast), translation is rapidly repressed, yet the transcription of many stress- and glucose-repressed genes is increased. Here we show, using ribosomal profiling and microscopy, that this transcriptionally upregulated gene set consists of two classes: one class produces messenger RNAs that are translated during glucose starvation and are diffusely localized in the cytoplasm, including many heat-shock protein mRNAs; and the other class produces mRNAs that are not efficiently translated during glucose starvation and are concentrated in foci that co-localize with P bodies and stress granules, a class that is enriched for mRNAs involved in glucose metabolism. Surprisingly, the information specifying the differential localization and protein production of these two classes of mRNA is encoded in the promoter sequence: promoter responsiveness to heat-shock factor 1 (Hsf1) specifies diffuse cytoplasmic localization and higher protein production on glucose starvation. Thus, promoter sequences can influence not only the levels of mRNAs but also the subcellular localization of mRNAs and the efficiency with which they are translated, enabling cells to tailor protein production to the environmental conditions.

  • Evolution: Tooth structure re-engineered

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

  • Replaying evolutionary transitions from the dental fossil record

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

  • Non-cell-autonomous driving of tumour growth supports sub-clonal heterogeneity

  • To investigate the role of sub-clonal tumour heterogeneity in cancer progression, a mouse xenograft model was used which revealed that tumour growth can be driven by a minor cell subpopulation by a non-cell-autonomous mechanism, although this minor subpopulation can be outcompeted by faster proliferating competitors.

  • Structural basis of PAM-dependent target DNA recognition by the Cas9 endonuclease

  • The CRISPR-associated protein Cas9 is an RNA-guided endonuclease that cleaves double-stranded DNA bearing sequences complementary to a 20-nucleotide segment in the guide RNA. Cas9 has emerged as a versatile molecular tool for genome editing and gene expression control. RNA-guided DNA recognition and cleavage strictly require the presence of a protospacer adjacent motif (PAM) in the target DNA. Here we report a crystal structure of Streptococcus pyogenes Cas9 in complex with a single-molecule guide RNA and a target DNA containing a canonical 5′-NGG-3′ PAM. The structure reveals that the PAM motif resides in a base-paired DNA duplex. The non-complementary strand GG dinucleotide is read out via major-groove interactions with conserved arginine residues from the carboxy-terminal domain of Cas9. Interactions with the minor groove of thePAM duplex and the phosphodiester group at the +1 position in the target DNA strand contribute to local strand separation immediately upstream of the PAM. These observations suggest a mechanism for PAM-dependent target DNA melting and RNA–DNA hybrid formation. Furthermore, this study establishes a framework for the rational engineering of Cas9 enzymes with novel PAM specificities.

  • Antifungal drug resistance evoked via RNAi-dependent epimutations

  • Microorganisms evolve via a range of mechanisms that may include or involve sexual/parasexual reproduction, mutators, aneuploidy, Hsp90 and even prions. Mechanisms that may seem detrimental can be repurposed to generate diversity. Here we show that the human fungal pathogen Mucor circinelloides develops spontaneous resistance to the antifungal drug FK506 (tacrolimus) via two distinct mechanisms. One involves Mendelian mutations that confer stable drug resistance; the other occurs via an epigenetic RNA interference (RNAi)-mediated pathway resulting in unstable drug resistance. The peptidylprolyl isomerase FKBP12 interacts with FK506 forming a complex that inhibits the protein phosphatase calcineurin. Calcineurin inhibition by FK506 blocks M. circinelloides transition to hyphae and enforces yeast growth. Mutations in the fkbA gene encoding FKBP12 or the calcineurin cnbR or cnaA genes confer FK506 resistance and restore hyphal growth. In parallel, RNAi is spontaneously triggered to silence the fkbA gene, giving rise to drug-resistant epimutants. FK506-resistant epimutants readily reverted to the drug-sensitive wild-type phenotype when grown without exposure to the drug. The establishment of these epimutants is accompanied by generation of abundant fkbA small RNAs and requires the RNAi pathway as well as other factors that constrain or reverse the epimutant state. Silencing involves the generation of a double-stranded RNA trigger intermediate using the fkbA mature mRNA as a template to produce antisense fkbA RNA. This study uncovers a novel epigenetic RNAi-based epimutation mechanism controlling phenotypic plasticity, with possible implications for antimicrobial drug resistance and RNAi-regulatory mechanisms in fungi and other eukaryotes.

  • The neurotrophic factor receptor RET drives haematopoietic stem cell survival and function

  • Haematopoiesis is a developmental cascade that generates all blood cell lineages in health and disease. This process relies on quiescent haematopoietic stem cells capable of differentiating, self renewing and expanding upon physiological demand. However, the mechanisms that regulate haematopoietic stem cell homeostasis and function remain largely unknown. Here we show that the neurotrophic factor receptor RET (rearranged during transfection) drives haematopoietic stem cell survival, expansion and function. We find that haematopoietic stem cells express RET and that its neurotrophic factor partners are produced in the haematopoietic stem cell environment. Ablation of Ret leads to impaired survival and reduced numbers of haematopoietic stem cells with normal differentiation potential, but loss of cell-autonomous stress response and reconstitution potential. Strikingly, RET signals provide haematopoietic stem cells with critical Bcl2 and Bcl2l1 surviving cues, downstream of p38 mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase and cyclic-AMP-response element binding protein (CREB) activation. Accordingly, enforced expression of RET downstream targets, Bcl2 or Bcl2l1, is sufficient to restore the activity of Ret null progenitors in vivo. Activation of RET results in improved haematopoietic stem cell survival, expansion and in vivo transplantation efficiency. Remarkably, human cord-blood progenitor expansion and transplantation is also improved by neurotrophic factors, opening the way for exploration of RET agonists in human haematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Our work shows that neurotrophic factors are novel components of the haematopoietic stem cell microenvironment, revealing that haematopoietic stem cells and neurons are regulated by similar signals.

  • Glial origin of mesenchymal stem cells in a tooth model system

  • Mesenchymal stem cells occupy niches in stromal tissues where they provide sources of cells for specialized mesenchymal derivatives during growth and repair. The origins of mesenchymal stem cells have been the subject of considerable discussion, and current consensus holds that perivascular cells form mesenchymal stem cells in most tissues. The continuously growing mouse incisor tooth offers an excellent model to address the origin of mesenchymal stem cells. These stem cells dwell in a niche at the tooth apex where they produce a variety of differentiated derivatives. Cells constituting the tooth are mostly derived from two embryonic sources: neural crest ectomesenchyme and ectodermal epithelium. It has been thought for decades that the dental mesenchymal stem cells giving rise to pulp cells and odontoblasts derive from neural crest cells after their migration in the early head and formation of ectomesenchymal tissue. Here we show that a significant population of mesenchymal stem cells during development, self-renewal and repair of a tooth are derived from peripheral nerve-associated glia. Glial cells generate multipotent mesenchymal stem cells that produce pulp cells and odontoblasts. By combining a clonal colour-coding technique with tracing of peripheral glia, we provide new insights into the dynamics of tooth organogenesis and growth.

  • DNA-damage-induced differentiation of leukaemic cells as an anti-cancer barrier

  • Self-renewal is the hallmark feature both of normal stem cells and cancer stem cells. Since the regenerative capacity of normal haematopoietic stem cells is limited by the accumulation of reactive oxygen species and DNA double-strand breaks, we speculated that DNA damage might also constrain leukaemic self-renewal and malignant haematopoiesis. Here we show that the histone methyl-transferase MLL4, a suppressor of B-cell lymphoma, is required for stem-cell activity and an aggressive form of acute myeloid leukaemia harbouring the MLL–AF9 oncogene. Deletion of MLL4 enhances myelopoiesis and myeloid differentiation of leukaemic blasts, which protects mice from death related to acute myeloid leukaemia. MLL4 exerts its function by regulating transcriptional programs associated with the antioxidant response. Addition of reactive oxygen species scavengers or ectopic expression of FOXO3 protects MLL4−/− MLL–AF9 cells from DNA damage and inhibits myeloid maturation. Similar to MLL4 deficiency, loss of ATM or BRCA1 sensitizes transformed cells to differentiation, suggesting that myeloid differentiation is promoted by lossof genome integrity. Indeed, we show that restriction-enzyme-induced double-strand breaks are sufficient to induce differentiation of MLL–AF9 blasts, which requires cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21Cip1 (Cdkn1a) activity. In summary, we have uncovered an unexpected tumour-promoting role of genome guardians in enforcing the oncogene-induced differentiation blockade in acute myeloid leukaemia.

  • Endothelial-cell FAK targeting sensitizes tumours to DNA-damaging therapy

  • Chemoresistance is a serious limitation of cancer treatment. Until recently, almost all the work done to study this limitation has been restricted to tumour cells. Here we identify a novel molecular mechanism by which endothelial cells regulate chemosensitivity. We establish that specific targeting of focal adhesion kinase (FAK; also known as PTK2) in endothelial cells is sufficient to induce tumour-cell sensitization to DNA-damaging therapies and thus inhibit tumour growth in mice. The clinical relevance of this work is supported by our observations that low blood vessel FAK expression is associated with complete remission in human lymphoma. Our study shows that deletion of FAK in endothelial cells has no apparent effect on blood vessel function per se, but induces increased apoptosis and decreased proliferation within perivascular tumour-cell compartments of doxorubicin- and radiotherapy-treated mice. Mechanistically, we demonstrate that endothelial-cell FAK is required for DNA-damage-induced NF-κB activation in vivo and in vitro, and the production of cytokines from endothelial cells. Moreover, loss of endothelial-cell FAK reduces DNA-damage-induced cytokine production, thus enhancing chemosensitization of tumour cells to DNA-damaging therapies in vitro and in vivo. Overall, our data identify endothelial-cell FAK as a regulator of tumour chemosensitivity. Furthermore, we anticipate that this proof-of-principle data will be a starting point for the development of new possible strategies to regulate chemosensitization by targeting endothelial-cell FAK specifically.

  • Cancer: Directions for the drivers

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

  • Putative cis-regulatory drivers in colorectal cancer

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

  • Parent-of-origin-specific allelic associations among 106 genomic loci for age at menarche

  • Age at menarche is a marker of timing of puberty in females. It varies widely between individuals, is a heritable trait and is associated with risks for obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer and all-cause mortality. Studies of rare human disorders of puberty and animal models point to a complex hypothalamic-pituitary-hormonal regulation, but the mechanisms that determine pubertal timing and underlie its links to disease risk remain unclear. Here, using genome-wide and custom-genotyping arrays in up to 182,416 women of European descent from 57 studies, we found robust evidence (P llt; 5 × 10−8) for 123 signals at 106 genomic loci associated with age at menarche. Many loci were associated with other pubertal traits in both sexes, and there was substantial overlap with genes implicated in body mass index and various diseases, including rare disorders of puberty. Menarche signals were enriched in imprinted regions, with three loci (DLK1-WDR25, MKRN3-MAGEL2 and KCNK9) demonstrating parent-of-origin-specific associations concordant with known parental expression patterns. Pathway analyses implicated nuclear hormone receptors, particularly retinoic acid and γ-aminobutyric acid-B2 receptor signalling, among novel mechanisms that regulate pubertal timing in humans. Our findings suggest a genetic architecture involving at least hundreds of common variants in the coordinated timing of the pubertal transition.

  • HIV: Early treatment may not be early enough

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

  • Loss of oncogenic Notch1 with resistance to a PI3K inhibitor in T-cell leukaemia

  • Mutations that dysregulate Notch1 and Ras/PI3K signalling are common in T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia; here, treatment with a PI3K inhibitor is shown to induce drug resistance that is associated with downregulation of activated Notch1 signalling, suggesting that inhibition of both Notch1 and PI3K could promote drug resistance.

  • Convergence of terrestrial plant production across global climate gradients

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

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

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

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

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

  • Brain structure resolves the segmental affinity of anomalocaridid appendages

  • Despite being among the most celebrated taxa from Cambrian biotas, anomalocaridids (order Radiodonta) have provoked intense debate about their affinities within the moulting-animal clade that includes Arthropoda. Current alternatives identify anomalocaridids as either stem-group euarthropods, crown-group euarthropods near the ancestry of chelicerates, or a segmented ecdysozoan lineage with convergent similarity to arthropods in appendage construction. Determining unambiguous affinities has been impeded by uncertainties about the segmental affiliation of anomalocaridid frontal appendages. These structures are variably homologized with jointed appendages of the second (deutocerebral) head segment, including antennae and‘great appendages’ of Cambrian arthropods, or with the paired antenniform frontal appendages of living Onychophora and some Cambrian lobopodians. Here we describe Lyrarapax unguispinus, a new anomalocaridid from the early Cambrian Chengjiang biota, southwest China, nearly complete specimens of which preserve traces of muscles, digestive tract and brain. The traces of brain provide the first direct evidence for the segmental composition of the anomalocaridid head and its appendicular organization. Carbon-rich areas in the head resolve paired pre-protocerebral ganglia at the origin of paired frontal appendages. The ganglia connect to areas indicative of a bilateral pre-oral brain that receives projections from the eyestalk neuropils and compound retina. The dorsal, segmented brain of L. unguispinus reinforces an alliance between anomalocaridids and arthropods rather than cycloneuralians. Correspondences in brain organization between anomalocaridids and Onychophora resolve pre-protocerebral ganglia, associated with pre-ocular frontal appendages, as characters of the last common ancestor of euarthropods and onychophorans. A position of Radiodonta on the euarthropod stem-lineage implies the transformation of frontal appendages to another structure in crown-group euarthropods, with gene expression and neuroanatomy providing strong evidence that the paired, pre-oral labrum is the remnant of paired frontal appendages.

  • The alarmin IL-33 promotes regulatory T-cell function in the intestine

  • FOXP3+ regulatory T cells (Treg cells) are abundant in the intestine, where they prevent dysregulated inflammatory responses to self and environmental stimuli. It is now appreciated that Treg cells acquire tissue-specific adaptations that facilitate their survival and function; however, key host factors controlling the Treg response in the intestine are poorly understood. The interleukin (IL)-1 family member IL-33 is constitutively expressed in epithelial cells at barrier sites, where it functions as an endogenous danger signal, or alarmin, in response to tissue damage. Recent studies in humans have described high levels of IL-33 in inflamed lesions of inflammatory bowel disease patients, suggesting a role for this cytokine in disease pathogenesis. In the intestine, both protective and pathological roles for IL-33 have been described in murine models of acute colitis, but its contribution to chronic inflammation remains ill defined. Here we show in mice that the IL-33 receptor ST2 is preferentially expressed on colonic Treg cells, where it promotes Treg function and adaptation to the inflammatory environment. IL-33 signalling in T cells stimulates Treg responses in several ways. First, it enhances transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1-mediated differentiation of Treg cells and, second, it provides a necessary signal for Treg-cell accumulation and maintenance in inflamed tissues. Strikingly, IL-23, a key pro-inflammatory cytokine in the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease, restrained Treg responses through inhibition of IL-33 responsiveness. These results demonstrate a hitherto unrecognized link between an endogenous mediator of tissue damage and a major anti-inflammatory pathway, and suggest that the balance between IL-33 and IL-23 may be a key controller of intestinal immune responses.

  • Functional polarization of tumour-associated macrophages by tumour-derived lactic acid

  • Macrophages have an important role in the maintenance of tissue homeostasis. To perform this function, macrophages must have the capacity to monitor the functional states of their‘client cells’: namely, the parenchymal cells in the various tissues in which macrophages reside. Tumours exhibit many features of abnormally developed organs, including tissue architecture and cellular composition. Similarly to macrophages in normal tissues and organs, macrophages in tumours (tumour-associated macrophages) perform some key homeostatic functions that allow tumour maintenance and growth. However, the signals involved in communication between tumours and macrophages are poorly defined. Here we show that lactic acid produced by tumour cells, as a by-product of aerobic or anaerobic glycolysis, has a critical function in signalling, through inducing the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor and the M2-like polarization of tumour-associated macrophages. Furthermore, we demonstrate that this effect of lactic acid is mediated by hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF1α). Finally, we show that the lactate-induced expression of arginase 1 by macrophages has an important role in tumour growth. Collectively, these findings identify a mechanism of communication between macrophages and their client cells, including tumour cells. This communication most probably evolved to promote homeostasis in normal tissues but can also be engaged in tumours to promote their growth.

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

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

  • Molecular basis of adaptation to high soil boron in wheat landraces and elite cultivars

  • Environmental constraints severely restrict crop yields in most production environments, and expanding the use of variation will underpin future progress in breeding. In semi-arid environments boron toxicity constrains productivity, and genetic improvement is the only effective strategy for addressing the problem. Wheat breeders have sought and used available genetic diversity from landraces to maintain yield in these environments; however, the identity of the genes at the major tolerance loci was unknown. Here we describe the identification of near-identical, root-specific boron transporter genes underlying the two major-effect quantitative trait loci for boron tolerance in wheat, Bo1 and Bo4 (ref. 2). We show that tolerance to a high concentration of boron is associated with multiple genomic changes including tetraploid introgression, dispersed gene duplication, and variation in gene structure and transcript level. An allelic series was identified from a panel of bread and durum wheat cultivars and landraces originating from diverse agronomic zones. Our results demonstrate that, during selection, breeders have matched functionally different boron tolerance alleles to specific environments. The characterization of boron tolerance in wheat illustrates the power of the new wheat genomic resources to define key adaptive processes that have underpinned crop improvement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • PVT1 dependence in cancer with MYC copy-number increase

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

  • Quantum computing: Powered by magic

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

  • Cancer: Natural-born killers unleashed

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

  • Contextuality supplies the‘magic’ for quantum computation

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

  • The genome of Eucalyptus grandis

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

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

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

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

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

  • Population health: Immaturity in the gut microbial community

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

  • Cell biology: Balancing act

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

  • The mitochondrial deubiquitinase USP30 opposes parkin-mediated mitophagy

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

  • Persistent gut microbiota immaturity in malnourished Bangladeshi children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Ribosomal oxygenases are structurally conserved from prokaryotes to humans

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

  • CFIm25 links alternative polyadenylation to glioblastoma tumour suppression

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

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

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

  • PTEN action in leukaemia dictated by the tissue microenvironment

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