Failure of care p.187
Laboratory animals must have the very best standard of care if we are to justify their use in science. As one institution is found wanting, others should look to review their animal-welfare practices.
The patent bargain p.187
An open-source patent database highlights the need for more transparency worldwide.
Gender progress (?) p.188
Despite some success, the proportions of women in Nature’s pages and as referees are still too low.
Fungus threatens top banana p.195
Fears rise for Latin American industry as devastating disease hits leading variety in Africa and Middle East.
Florida forecasts sinkhole burden p.196
Predictive model will map areas vulnerable to collapse.
Diabetes drugs ride a bumpy road p.198
Safety worries hamper emerging therapies.
Food fuelled with fungi p.199
Ecologists are starting to appreciate the power of microbes to make crops hardier.
India faces uphill battle on biodiversity p.200
Government decision to limit protection for species-rich mountains angers conservationists.
Life possible in the early Universe p.201
Planets orbiting the first stars could have been habitable, challenging arguments for a multiverse.
Radioisotopes: The medical testing crisis p.202
Earth science: Under the volcano p.206
News & Views
Neuroscience: Faster than kiss-and-run p.220
Extrasolar planets: Inner edge of the habitable zone p.221
Developmental biology: Mechanics in the embryo p.223
Cancer: A suppression switch p.225
Astrophysics: Tracking our neighbours' past p.226
Neuroscience: The highs and lows of memory p.228
Soft-matter physics: Ferromagnetic ferrofluids p.229
An archaeal origin of eukaryotes supports only two primary domains of life p.231
The discovery of the Archaea and the proposal of the three-domains ‘universal’ tree, based on ribosomal RNA and core genes mainly involved in protein translation, catalysed new ideas for cellular evolution and eukaryotic origins. However, accumulating evidence suggests that the three-domains tree may be incorrect: evolutionary trees made using newer methods place eukaryotic core genes within the Archaea, supporting hypotheses in which an archaeon participated in eukaryotic origins by founding the host lineage for the mitochondrial endosymbiont. These results provide support for only two primary domains of life—Archaea and Bacteria—because eukaryotes arose through partnership between them.
Ferromagnetism in suspensions of magnetic platelets in liquid crystal p.237
The idea that magnetic particles suspended in a liquid crystal might spontaneously orient into a ferromagnetic state has hitherto not been confirmed experimentally, but such a state has now been realized using nanometre-sized ferromagnetic platelets in a nematic liquid crystal.
Ultrafast endocytosis at mouse hippocampal synapses p.242
Sustained neurotransmission requires recycling of synaptic vesicles, but the proposed mechanisms have been controversial; here a ‘flash-and-freeze’ method for electron microscopy reveals a new ultrafast form of endocytosis that is actin- and dynamin-dependent and occurs within 100 milliseconds of stimulation.
Targeting Plasmodium PI(4)K to eliminate malaria p.248
The lipid kinase phosphatidylinositol-4-OH kinase (PI(4)K) is identified as a target of the imidazopyrazines, a new antimalarial compound class that can inhibit several Plasmodium species at each stage of the parasite life cycle; the imidazopyrazines exert their inhibitory action by interacting with the ATP-binding pocket of PI(4)K.
Structural mechanism of ligand activation in human GABAB receptor p.254
Crystallographic structural analysis of bound states of the GBR1 and GBR2 subunits of human GABAB receptor shows that both subunits adopt an open conformation at rest — represented by the apo and antagonist-bound structures — and that only GBR1 closes in the activated state — represented by the agonist-bound structure.
Baryons in the relativistic jets of the stellar-mass black-hole candidate 4U 1630-47 p.260
Accreting black holes are known to power relativistic jets, both in stellar-mass binary systems and at the centres of galaxies. The power carried away by the jets, and, hence, the feedback they provide to their surroundings, depends strongly on their composition. Jets containing a baryonic component should carry significantly more energy than electron–positron jets. Energetic considerations and circular-polarization measurements have provided conflicting circumstantial evidence for the presence or absence of baryons in jets, and the only system in which they have been unequivocally detected is the peculiar X-ray binary SS 433 (refs 4, 5). Here we report the detection of Doppler-shifted X-ray emission lines from a more typical black-hole candidate X-ray binary, 4U 1630-47, coincident with the reappearance of radio emission from the jets of the source. We argue that these lines arise from baryonic matter in a jet travelling at approximately two-thirds the speed of light, thereby establishing the presence of baryons in the jet. Such baryonic jets are more likely to be powered by the accretion disk than by the spin of the black hole, and if the baryons can be accelerated to relativistic speeds, the jets should be strong sources of γ-rays and neutrino emission.
An exactly solvable model for quantum communications p.263
Information theory establishes the ultimate limits on performance for noisy communication systems. Accurate models of physical communication devices must include quantum effects, but these typically make the theory intractable. As a result, communication capacities—the maximum possible rates of data transmission—are not known, even for transmission between two users connected by an electromagnetic waveguide with Gaussian noise. Here we present an exactly solvable model of communication with a fully quantum electromagnetic field. This gives explicit expressions for all point-to-point capacities of noisy quantum channels, with implications for quantum key distribution and fibre-optic communications. We also develop a theory of quantum communication networks by solving some rudimentary models including broadcast and multiple-access channels. We compare the predictions of our model with the orthodox Gaussian model and in all cases find agreement to within a few bits. At high signal-to-noise ratios, our simple model captures the relevant physics while remaining amenable to exact solution.
Increased insolation threshold for runaway greenhouse processes on Earth-like planets p.268
The increase in solar luminosity over geological timescales should warm the Earth’s climate, increasing water evaporation, which will in turn enhance the atmospheric greenhouse effect. Above a certain critical insolation, this destabilizing greenhouse feedback can ‘run away’ until the oceans have completely evaporated. Through increases in stratospheric humidity, warming may also cause evaporative loss of the oceans to space before the runaway greenhouse state occurs. The critical insolation thresholds for these processes, however, remain uncertain because they have so far been evaluated using one-dimensional models that cannot account for the dynamical and cloud feedback effects that are key stabilizing features of the Earth’s climate. Here we use a three-dimensional global climate model to show that the insolation threshold for the runaway greenhouse state to occur is about 375 W m−2, which is significantly higher than previously thought. Our model is specifically developed to quantify the climate response of Earth-like planets to increased insolation in hot and extremely moist atmospheres. In contrast with previous studies, we find that clouds have a destabilizing feedback effect on the long-term warming. However, subsident, unsaturated regions created by the Hadley circulation have a stabilizing effect that is strong enough to shift the runaway greenhouse limit to higher values of insolation than are inferred from one-dimensional models. Furthermore, because of wavelength-dependent radiative effects, the stratosphere remains sufficiently cold and dry to hamper the escape of atmospheric water, even at large fluxes. This has strong implications for the possibility of liquid water existing on Venus early in its history, and extends the size of the habitable zone around other stars.
Parvalbumin-expressing basket-cell network plasticity induced by experience regulates adult learning p.272
Learning and memory processes can be influenced by recent experience, but the mechanisms involved are poorly understood. Enhanced plasticity during critical periods of early life is linked to differentiating parvalbumin (PV)-interneuron networks, suggesting that recent experience may modulate learning by targeting the differentiation state of PV neurons in the adult. Here we show that environmental enrichment and Pavlovian contextual fear conditioning induce opposite, sustained and reversible hippocampal PV-network configurations in adult mice. Specifically, enrichment promotes the emergence of large fractions of low-differentiation (low PV and GAD67 expression) basket cells with low excitatory-to-inhibitory synaptic-density ratios, whereas fear conditioning leads to large fractions of high-differentiation (high PV and GAD67 expression) basket cells with high excitatory-to-inhibitory synaptic-density ratios. Pharmacogenetic inhibition or activation of PV neurons was sufficient to induce such opposite low-PV-network or high-PV-network configurations, respectively. The low-PV-network configuration enhanced structural synaptic plasticity, and memory consolidation and retrieval, whereas these were reduced by the high-PV-network configuration. We then show that maze navigation learning induces a hippocampal low-PV-network configuration paralleled by enhanced memory and structural synaptic plasticity throughout training, followed by a shift to a high-PV-network configuration after learning completion. The shift to a low-PV-network configuration specifically involved increased vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP)-positive GABAergic boutons and synaptic transmission onto PV neurons. Closely comparable low- and high-PV-network configurations involving VIP boutons were specifically induced in primary motor cortex upon rotarod motor learning. These results uncover a network plasticity mechanism induced after learning through VIP–PV microcircuit modulation, and involving large, sustained and reversible shifts in the configuration of PV basket-cell networks in the adult. This novel form of experience-related plasticity in the adult modulates memory consolidation, retrieval and learning, and might be harnessed for therapeutic strategies to promote cognitive enhancement and neuroprotection.
Distinct fibroblast lineages determine dermal architecture in skin development and repair p.277
Fibroblasts are the major mesenchymal cell type in connective tissue and deposit the collagen and elastic fibres of the extracellular matrix (ECM). Even within a single tissue, fibroblasts exhibit considerable functional diversity, but it is not known whether this reflects the existence of a differentiation hierarchy or is a response to different environmental factors. Here we show, using transplantation assays and lineage tracing in mice, that the fibroblasts of skin connective tissue arise from two distinct lineages. One forms the upper dermis, including the dermal papilla that regulates hair growth and the arrector pili muscle, which controls piloerection. The other forms the lower dermis, including the reticular fibroblasts that synthesize the bulk of the fibrillar ECM, and the preadipocytes and adipocytes of the hypodermis. The upper lineage is required for hair follicle formation. In wounded adult skin, the initial wave of dermal repair is mediated by the lower lineage and upper dermal fibroblasts are recruited only during re-epithelialization. Epidermal β-catenin activation stimulates the expansion of the upper dermal lineage, rendering wounds permissive for hair follicle formation. Our findings explain why wounding is linked to formation of ECM-rich scar tissue that lacks hair follicles. They also form a platform for discovering fibroblast lineages in other tissues and for examining fibroblast changes in ageing and disease.
Derivation of novel human ground state naive pluripotent stem cells p.282
Mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells are isolated from the inner cell mass of blastocysts, and can be preserved in vitro in a naive inner-cell-mass-like configuration by providing exogenous stimulation with leukaemia inhibitory factor (LIF) and small molecule inhibition of ERK1/ERK2 and GSK3β signalling (termed 2i/LIF conditions). Hallmarks of naive pluripotency include driving Oct4 (also known as Pou5f1) transcription by its distal enhancer, retaining a pre-inactivation X chromosome state, and global reduction in DNA methylation and in H3K27me3 repressive chromatin mark deposition on developmental regulatory gene promoters. Upon withdrawal of 2i/LIF, naive mouse ES cells can drift towards a primed pluripotent state resembling that of the post-implantation epiblast. Although human ES cells share several molecular features with naive mouse ES cells, they also share a variety of epigenetic properties with primed murine epiblast stem cells (EpiSCs). These include predominant use of the proximal enhancer element to maintain OCT4 expression, pronounced tendency for X chromosome inactivation in most female human ES cells, increase in DNA methylation and prominent deposition of H3K27me3 and bivalent domain acquisition on lineage regulatory genes. The feasibility of establishing human ground state naive pluripotency in vitro with equivalent molecular and functional features to those characterized in mouse ES cells remains to be defined. Here we establish defined conditions that facilitate the derivation of genetically unmodified human naive pluripotent stem cells from already established primed human ES cells, from somatic cells through induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell reprogramming or directly from blastocysts. The novel naive pluripotent cells validated herein retain molecular characteristics and functional properties that are highly similar to mouse naive ES cells, and distinct from conventional primed human pluripotent cells. This includes competence in the generation of cross-species chimaeric mouse embryos that underwent organogenesis following microinjection of human naive iPS cells into mouse morulas. Collectively, our findings establish new avenues for regenerative medicine, patient-specific iPS cell disease modelling and the study of early human development in vitro and in vivo.
A chain mechanism for flagellum growth p.287
Bacteria swim by means of long flagella extending from the cell surface. These are assembled from thousands of protein subunits translocated across the cell membrane by an export machinery at the base of each flagellum. Unfolded subunits then transit through a narrow channel at the core of the growing flagellum to the tip, where they crystallize into the nascent structure. As the flagellum lengthens outside the cell, the rate of flagellum growth does not change. The mystery is how subunit transit is maintained at a constant rate without a discernible energy source in the channel of the external flagellum. We present evidence for a simple physical mechanism for flagellum growth that harnesses the entropic force of the unfolded subunits themselves. We show that a subunit docked at the export machinery can be captured by a free subunit through head-to-tail linkage of juxtaposed amino (N)- and carboxy (C)-terminal helices. We propose that sequential rounds of linkage would generate a multisubunit chain that pulls successive subunits into and through the channel to the flagellum tip, and by isolating filaments growing on bacterial cells we reveal the predicted chain of head-to-tail linked subunits in the transit channel of flagella. Thermodynamic analysis confirms that links in the subunit chain can withstand the pulling force generated by rounds of subunit crystallization at the flagellum tip, and polymer theory predicts that as the N terminus of each unfolded subunit crystallizes, the entropic force at the subunit C terminus would increase, rapidly overcoming the threshold required to pull the next subunit from the export machinery. This pulling force would adjust automatically over the increasing length of the growing flagellum, maintaining a constant rate of subunit delivery to the tip.
High-content genome-wide RNAi screens identify regulators of parkin upstream of mitophagy p.291
An increasing body of evidence points to mitochondrial dysfunction as a contributor to the molecular pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease. Recent studies of the Parkinson’s disease associated genes PINK1 (ref. 2) and parkin (PARK2, ref. 3) indicate that they may act in a quality control pathway preventing the accumulation of dysfunctional mitochondria. Here we elucidate regulators that have an impact on parkin translocation to damaged mitochondria with genome-wide small interfering RNA (siRNA) screens coupled to high-content microscopy. Screening yielded gene candidates involved in diverse cellular processes that were subsequently validated in low-throughput assays. This led to characterization of TOMM7 as essential for stabilizing PINK1 on the outer mitochondrial membrane following mitochondrial damage. We also discovered that HSPA1L (HSP70 family member) and BAG4 have mutually opposing roles in the regulation of parkin translocation. The screens revealed that SIAH3, found to localize to mitochondria, inhibits PINK1 accumulation after mitochondrial insult, reducing parkin translocation. Overall, our screens provide a rich resource to understand mitochondrial quality control.
p53 status determines the role of autophagy in pancreatic tumour development p.296
Macroautophagy (hereafter referred to as autophagy) is a process in which organelles termed autophagosomes deliver cytoplasmic constituents to lysosomes for degradation. Autophagy has a major role in cellular homeostasis and has been implicated in various forms of human disease. The role of autophagy in cancer seems to be complex, with reports indicating both pro-tumorigenic and tumour-suppressive roles. Here we show, in a humanized genetically-modified mouse model of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), that autophagy’s role in tumour development is intrinsically connected to the status of the tumour suppressor p53. Mice with pancreases containing an activated oncogenic allele of Kras (also called Ki-Ras)—the most common mutational event in PDAC—develop a small number of pre-cancerous lesions that stochastically develop into PDAC over time. However, mice also lacking the essential autophagy genes Atg5 or Atg7 accumulate low-grade, pre-malignant pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia lesions, but progression to high-grade pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasias and PDAC is blocked. In marked contrast, in mice containing oncogenic Kras and lacking p53, loss of autophagy no longer blocks tumour progression, but actually accelerates tumour onset, with metabolic analysis revealing enhanced glucose uptake and enrichment of anabolic pathways, which can fuel tumour growth. These findings provide considerable insight into the role of autophagy in cancer and have important implications for autophagy inhibition in cancer therapy. In this regard, we also show that treatment of mice with the autophagy inhibitor hydroxychloroquine, which is currently being used in several clinical trials, significantly accelerates tumour formation in mice containing oncogenic Kras but lacking p53.
Mechanism of farnesylated CAAX protein processing by the intramembrane protease Rce1 p.301
CAAX proteins have essential roles in multiple signalling pathways, controlling processes such as proliferation, differentiation and carcinogenesis. The ∼120 mammalian CAAX proteins function at cellular membranes and include the Ras superfamily of small GTPases, nuclear lamins, the γ-subunit of heterotrimeric GTPases, and several protein kinases and phosphatases. The proper localization of CAAX proteins to cell membranes is orchestrated by a series of post-translational modifications of the carboxy-terminal CAAX motifs (where C is cysteine, A is an aliphatic amino acid and X is any amino acid). These reactions involve prenylation of the cysteine residue, cleavage at the AAX tripeptide and methylation of the carboxyl-prenylated cysteine residue. The major CAAX protease activity is mediated by Rce1 (Ras and a-factor converting enzyme 1), an intramembrane protease (IMP) of the endoplasmic reticulum. Information on the architecture and proteolytic mechanism of Rce1 has been lacking. Here we report the crystal structure of a Methanococcus maripaludis homologue of Rce1, whose endopeptidase specificity for farnesylated peptides mimics that of eukaryotic Rce1. Its structure, comprising eight transmembrane α-helices, and catalytic site are distinct from those of other IMPs. The catalytic residues are located ∼10 Å into the membrane and are exposed to the cytoplasm and membrane through a conical cavity that accommodates the prenylated CAAX substrate. We propose that the farnesyl lipid binds to a site at the opening of two transmembrane α-helices, which results in the scissile bond being positioned adjacent to a glutamate-activated nucleophilic water molecule. This study suggests that Rce1 is the founding member of a novel IMP family, the glutamate IMPs.
Chromatin connectivity maps reveal dynamic promoter–enhancer long-range associations p.306
In multicellular organisms, transcription regulation is one of the central mechanisms modelling lineage differentiation and cell-fate determination. Transcription requires dynamic chromatin configurations between promoters and their corresponding distal regulatory elements. It is believed that their communication occurs within large discrete foci of aggregated RNA polymerases termed transcription factories in three-dimensional nuclear space. However, the dynamic nature of chromatin connectivity has not been characterized at the genome-wide level. Here, through a chromatin interaction analysis with paired-end tagging approach using an antibody that primarily recognizes the pre-initiation complexes of RNA polymerase II, we explore the transcriptional interactomes of three mouse cells of progressive lineage commitment, including pluripotent embryonic stem cells, neural stem cells and neurosphere stem/progenitor cells. Our global chromatin connectivity maps reveal approximately 40,000 long-range interactions, suggest precise enhancer–promoter associations and delineate cell-type-specific chromatin structures. Analysis of the complex regulatory repertoire shows that there are extensive colocalizations among promoters and distal-acting enhancers. Most of the enhancers associate with promoters located beyond their nearest active genes, indicating that the linear juxtaposition is not the only guiding principle driving enhancer target selection. Although promoter–enhancer interactions exhibit high cell-type specificity, promoters involved in interactions are found to be generally common and mostly active among different cells. Chromatin connectivity networks reveal that the pivotal genes of reprogramming functions are transcribed within physical proximity to each other in embryonic stem cells, linking chromatin architecture to coordinated gene expression. Our study sets the stage for the full-scale dissection of spatial and temporal genome structures and their roles in orchestrating development.
Primary cilia are specialized calcium signalling organelles p.311
Primary cilia are solitary, non-motile extensions of the centriole found on nearly all nucleated eukaryotic cells between cell divisions. Only ∼200–300 nm in diameter and a few micrometres long, they are separated from the cytoplasm by the ciliary neck and basal body. Often called sensory cilia, they are thought to receive chemical and mechanical stimuli and initiate specific cellular signal transduction pathways. When activated by a ligand, hedgehog pathway proteins, such as GLI2 and smoothened (SMO), translocate from the cell into the cilium. Mutations in primary ciliary proteins are associated with severe developmental defects. The ionic conditions, permeability of the primary cilia membrane, and effectiveness of the diffusion barriers between the cilia and cell body are unknown. Here we show that cilia are a unique calcium compartment regulated by a heteromeric TRP channel, PKD1L1–PKD2L1, in mice and humans. In contrast to the hypothesis that polycystin (PKD) channels initiate changes in ciliary calcium that are conducted into the cytoplasm, we show that changes in ciliary calcium concentration occur without substantially altering global cytoplasmic calcium. PKD1L1–PKD2L1 acts as a ciliary calcium channel controlling ciliary calcium concentration and thereby modifying SMO-activated GLI2 translocation and GLI1 expression.
Direct recording and molecular identification of the calcium channel of primary cilia p.315
A primary cilium is a solitary, slender, non-motile protuberance of structured microtubules (9+0) enclosed by plasma membrane. Housing components of the cell division apparatus between cell divisions, primary cilia also serve as specialized compartments for calcium signalling and hedgehog signalling pathways. Specialized sensory cilia such as retinal photoreceptors and olfactory cilia use diverse ion channels. An ion current has been measured from primary cilia of kidney cells, but the responsible genes have not been identified. The polycystin proteins (PC and PKD), identified in linkage studies of polycystic kidney disease, are candidate channels divided into two structural classes: 11-transmembrane proteins (PKD1, PKD1L1 and PKD1L2) remarkable for a large extracellular amino terminus of putative cell adhesion domains and a G-protein-coupled receptor proteolytic site, and the 6-transmembrane channel proteins (PKD2, PKD2L1 and PKD2L2; TRPPs). Evidence indicates that the PKD1 proteins associate with the PKD2 proteins via coiled-coil domains. Here we use a transgenic mouse in which only cilia express a fluorophore and use it to record directly from primary cilia, and demonstrate that PKD1L1 and PKD2L1 form ion channels at high densities in several cell types. In conjunction with an accompanying manuscript, we show that the PKD1L1–PKD2L1 heteromeric channel establishes the cilia as a unique calcium compartment within cells that modulates established hedgehog pathways.