China’s well-handled response to outbreaks of H7N9 avian influenza belies the country’s bad reputation from its past dealings with disease. But there are still improvements to be made.
Diagnostic boundaries separating mental disorders hamper effective treatments.
Sensor-studded plots in the Amazon forest will measure the fertilizing effect of the gas.
Company clashes with International Astronomical Union over popular labels for exoplanets.
Proposed pesticide ban gathers scientific support as some experts call for more field studies.
First attempt to extract methane from frozen hydrates far beneath the ocean shows promise.
Remnants of surface rocks take long tour of planet’s interior.
Institutional review boards may need to take a closer look at some types of online research.
There are almost as many firearms in the United States as there are citizens. Garen Wintemute is one of few people studying the consequences.
Research suggests that mental illnesses lie along a spectrum — but the field's latest diagnostic manual still splits them apart.
News & Views
Physicists have come up with a way to characterize and command untrusted quantum systems. Two experts discuss the significance of these findings for fundamental science and for practical quantum computation and cryptography. See Article p.456
The ability of sodium chloride to induce enzymatic activity that leads to the generation of pathogenic TH17 immune cells implicates salt as a possible factor that might exacerbate autoimmune disease. See Letters p.513 & p.518
The discovery of a particle that looked like the Higgs boson marked a milestone for physics. Results reported since then are strikingly consistent with expectations for the Higgs particle of the minimal standard model of particle physics.
More than 30 years since the AIDS pandemic began, there is still no effective vaccine. But analysis of broadly acting, potent human antibodies obtained from single cells suggests a rational approach to vaccine development. See Article p.469
A new approach has been used to image magnetic fields in living cells of magnetotactic bacteria. The technique could be applied to study the dynamics of magnetism in other biological systems. See Letter p.486
The reported sequence of the zebrafish genome, together with the production of mutant strains representing more than one-third of all its protein-coding regions, will accelerate the characterization of human genes. See Letters p.494 & p.498
Macrophages, the most plastic cells of the haematopoietic system, are found in all tissues and show great functional diversity. They have roles in development, homeostasis, tissue repair and immunity. Although tissue macrophages are anatomically distinct from one another, and have different transcriptional profiles and functional capabilities, they are all required for the maintenance of homeostasis. However, these reparative and homeostatic functions can be subverted by chronic insults, resulting in a causal association of macrophages with disease states. In this Review, we discuss how macrophages regulate normal physiology and development, and provide several examples of their pathophysiological roles in disease. We define the ‘hallmarks’ of macrophages according to the states that they adopt during the performance of their various roles, taking into account new insights into the diversity of their lineages, identities and regulation. It is essential to understand this diversity because macrophages have emerged as important therapeutic targets in many human diseases.
A scheme is described that enables characterization and classical command of large quantum systems; it provides a test of whether a claimed quantum computer is truly quantum, and also advances towards a goal of quantum cryptography, namely the use of untrusted devices to establish a shared random key, with security based on the validity of quantum physics.
A global view of the genetic networks regulating the differentiation of TH17 cells is presented, based on temporal expression profiling, computational network reconstruction and validation of predicted interactions by nanowire-mediated siRNA perturbation.
Longitudinal sampling is used to map the evolution of an HIV-1 virus from the time of infection, and the co-evolution of a broadly neutralizing antibody in the same infected patient; the findings have important implications for HIV vaccine development.
Small-angle scattering of X-rays or neutrons is more readily applied to macromolecular complexes than is X-ray crystallography, and is particularly useful for protein complexes with high flexibility; here new quantitative metrics are presented that will allow solution-derived structures to be validated and assessed for mass, resolution and accuracy.
Microwave stimulation of a superconducting artificial three-level atom is used to demonstrate high-fidelity, non-Abelian geometric transformations, the results of which depend on the order in which they are performed.
Magnetic imaging is a powerful tool for probing biological and physical systems. However, existing techniques either have poor spatial resolution compared to optical microscopy and are hence not generally applicable to imaging of sub-cellular structure (for example, magnetic resonance imaging), or entail operating conditions that preclude application to living biological samples while providing submicrometre resolution (for example, scanning superconducting quantum interference device microscopy, electron holography and magnetic resonance force microscopy). Here we demonstrate magnetic imaging of living cells (magnetotactic bacteria) under ambient laboratory conditions and with sub-cellular spatial resolution (400 nanometres), using an optically detected magnetic field imaging array consisting of a nanometre-scale layer of nitrogen–vacancy colour centres implanted at the surface of a diamond chip. With the bacteria placed on the diamond surface, we optically probe the nitrogen–vacancy quantum spin states and rapidly reconstruct images of the vector components of the magnetic field created by chains of magnetic nanoparticles (magnetosomes) produced in the bacteria. We also spatially correlate these magnetic field maps with optical images acquired in the same apparatus. Wide-field microscopy allows parallel optical and magnetic imaging of multiple cells in a population with submicrometre resolution and a field of view in excess of 100 micrometres. Scanning electron microscope images of the bacteria confirm that the correlated optical and magnetic images can be used to locate and characterize the magnetosomes in each bacterium. Our results provide a new capability for imaging bio-magnetic structures in living cells under ambient conditions with high spatial resolution, and will enable the mapping of a wide range of magnetic signals within cells and cellular networks.
Basaltic lavas erupted at some oceanic intraplate hotspot volcanoes are thought to sample ancient subducted crustal materials. However, the residence time of these subducted materials in the mantle is uncertain and model-dependent, and compelling evidence for their return to the surface in regions of mantle upwelling beneath hotspots is lacking. Here we report anomalous sulphur isotope signatures indicating mass-independent fractionation (MIF) in olivine-hosted sulphides from 20-million-year-old ocean island basalts from Mangaia, Cook Islands (Polynesia), which have been suggested to sample recycled oceanic crust. Terrestrial MIF sulphur isotope signatures (in which the amount of fractionation does not scale in proportion with the difference in the masses of the isotopes) were generated exclusively through atmospheric photochemical reactions until about 2.45 billion years ago. Therefore, the discovery of MIF sulphur in these young plume lavas suggests that sulphur—probably derived from hydrothermally altered oceanic crust—was subducted into the mantle before 2.45 billion years ago and recycled into the mantle source of Mangaia lavas. These new data provide evidence for ancient materials, with negative Δ33S values, in the mantle source for Mangaia lavas. Our data also complement evidence for recycling of the sulphur content of ancient sedimentary materials to the subcontinental lithospheric mantle that has been identified in diamond-hosted sulphide inclusions. This Archaean age for recycled oceanic crust also provides key constraints on the length of time that subducted crustal material can survive in the mantle, and on the timescales of mantle convection from subduction to upwelling beneath hotspots.
Since the publication of the human reference genome, the identities of specific genes associated with human diseases are being discovered at a rapid rate. A central problem is that the biological activity of these genes is often unclear. Detailed investigations in model vertebrate organisms, typically mice, have been essential for understanding the activities of many orthologues of these disease-associated genes. Although gene-targeting approaches and phenotype analysis have led to a detailed understanding of nearly 6,000 protein-coding genes, this number falls considerably short of the more than 22,000 mouse protein-coding genes. Similarly, in zebrafish genetics, one-by-one gene studies using positional cloning, insertional mutagenesis, antisense morpholino oligonucleotides, targeted re-sequencing, and zinc finger and TAL endonucleases have made substantial contributions to our understanding of the biological activity of vertebrate genes, but again the number of genes studied falls well short of the more than 26,000 zebrafish protein-coding genes. Importantly, for both mice and zebrafish, none of these strategies are particularly suited to the rapid generation of knockouts in thousands of genes and the assessment of their biological activity. Here we describe an active project that aims to identify and phenotype the disruptive mutations in every zebrafish protein-coding gene, using a well-annotated zebrafish reference genome sequence, high-throughput sequencing and efficient chemical mutagenesis. So far we have identified potentially disruptive mutations in more than 38% of all known zebrafish protein-coding genes. We have developed a multi-allelic phenotyping scheme to efficiently assess the effects of each allele during embryogenesis and have analysed the phenotypic consequences of over 1,000 alleles. All mutant alleles and data are available to the community and our phenotyping scheme is adaptable to phenotypic analysis beyond embryogenesis.
Zebrafish have become a popular organism for the study of vertebrate gene function. The virtually transparent embryos of this species, and the ability to accelerate genetic studies by gene knockdown or overexpression, have led to the widespread use of zebrafish in the detailed investigation of vertebrate gene function and increasingly, the study of human genetic disease. However, for effective modelling of human genetic disease it is important to understand the extent to which zebrafish genes and gene structures are related to orthologous human genes. To examine this, we generated a high-quality sequence assembly of the zebrafish genome, made up of an overlapping set of completely sequenced large-insert clones that were ordered and oriented using a high-resolution high-density meiotic map. Detailed automatic and manual annotation provides evidence of more than 26,000 protein-coding genes, the largest gene set of any vertebrate so far sequenced. Comparison to the human reference genome shows that approximately 70% of human genes have at least one obvious zebrafish orthologue. In addition, the high quality of this genome assembly provides a clearer understanding of key genomic features such as a unique repeat content, a scarcity of pseudogenes, an enrichment of zebrafish-specific genes on chromosome 4 and chromosomal regions that influence sex determination.
Dengue is a systemic viral infection transmitted between humans by Aedes mosquitoes. For some patients, dengue is a life-threatening illness. There are currently no licensed vaccines or specific therapeutics, and substantial vector control efforts have not stopped its rapid emergence and global spread. The contemporary worldwide distribution of the risk of dengue virus infection and its public health burden are poorly known. Here we undertake an exhaustive assembly of known records of dengue occurrence worldwide, and use a formal modelling framework to map the global distribution of dengue risk. We then pair the resulting risk map with detailed longitudinal information from dengue cohort studies and population surfaces to infer the public health burden of dengue in 2010. We predict dengue to be ubiquitous throughout the tropics, with local spatial variations in risk influenced strongly by rainfall, temperature and the degree of urbanization. Using cartographic approaches, we estimate there to be 390 million (95% credible interval 284–528) dengue infections per year, of which 96 million (67–136) manifest apparently (any level of disease severity). This infection total is more than three times the dengue burden estimate of the World Health Organization. Stratification of our estimates by country allows comparison with national dengue reporting, after taking into account the probability of an apparent infection being formally reported. The most notable differences are discussed. These new risk maps and infection estimates provide novel insights into the global, regional and national public health burden imposed by dengue. We anticipate that they will provide a starting point for a wider discussion about the global impact of this disease and will help to guide improvements in disease control strategies using vaccine, drug and vector control methods, and in their economic evaluation.
Membranes allow the compartmentalization of biochemical processes and are therefore fundamental to life. The conservation of the cellular membrane, combined with its accessibility to secreted proteins, has made it a common target of factors mediating antagonistic interactions between diverse organisms. Here we report the discovery of a diverse superfamily of bacterial phospholipase enzymes. Within this superfamily, we defined enzymes with phospholipase A1 and A2 activity, which are common in host-cell-targeting bacterial toxins and the venoms of certain insects and reptiles. However, we find that the fundamental role of the superfamily is to mediate antagonistic bacterial interactions as effectors of the type VI secretion system (T6SS) translocation apparatus; accordingly, we name these proteins type VI lipase effectors. Our analyses indicate that PldA of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a eukaryotic-like phospholipase D, is a member of the type VI lipase effector superfamily and the founding substrate of the haemolysin co-regulated protein secretion island II T6SS (H2-T6SS). Although previous studies have specifically implicated PldA and the H2-T6SS in pathogenesis, we uncovered a specific role for the effector and its secretory machinery in intra- and interspecies bacterial interactions. Furthermore, we find that this effector achieves its antibacterial activity by degrading phosphatidylethanolamine, the major component of bacterial membranes. The surprising finding that virulence-associated phospholipases can serve as specific antibacterial effectors suggests that interbacterial interactions are a relevant factor driving the continuing evolution of pathogenesis.
TH17 cells (interleukin-17 (IL-17)-producing helper T cells) are highly proinflammatory cells that are critical for clearing extracellular pathogens and for inducing multiple autoimmune diseases. IL-23 has a critical role in stabilizing and reinforcing the TH17 phenotype by increasing expression of IL-23 receptor (IL-23R) and endowing TH17 cells with pathogenic effector functions. However, the precise molecular mechanism by which IL-23 sustains the TH17 response and induces pathogenic effector functions has not been elucidated. Here we used transcriptional profiling of developing TH17 cells to construct a model of their signalling network and nominate major nodes that regulate TH17 development. We identified serum glucocorticoid kinase 1 (SGK1), a serine/threonine kinase, as an essential node downstream of IL-23 signalling. SGK1 is critical for regulating IL-23R expression and stabilizing the TH17 cell phenotype by deactivation of mouse Foxo1, a direct repressor of IL-23R expression. SGK1 has been shown to govern Na+ transport and salt (NaCl) homeostasis in other cells. We show here that a modest increase in salt concentration induces SGK1 expression, promotes IL-23R expression and enhances TH17 cell differentiation in vitro and in vivo, accelerating the development of autoimmunity. Loss of SGK1 abrogated Na+-mediated TH17 differentiation in an IL-23-dependent manner. These data demonstrate that SGK1 has a critical role in the induction of pathogenic TH17 cells and provide a molecular insight into a mechanism by which an environmental factor such as a high salt diet triggers TH17 development and promotes tissue inflammation.
There has been a marked increase in the incidence of autoimmune diseases in the past half-century. Although the underlying genetic basis of this class of diseases has recently been elucidated, implicating predominantly immune-response genes, changes in environmental factors must ultimately be driving this increase. The newly identified population of interleukin (IL)-17-producing CD4+ helper T cells (TH17 cells) has a pivotal role in autoimmune diseases. Pathogenic IL-23-dependent TH17 cells have been shown to be critical for the development of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), an animal model for multiple sclerosis, and genetic risk factors associated with multiple sclerosis are related to the IL-23–TH17 pathway. However, little is known about the environmental factors that directly influence TH17 cells. Here we show that increased salt (sodium chloride, NaCl) concentrations found locally under physiological conditions in vivo markedly boost the induction of murine and human TH17 cells. High-salt conditions activate the p38/MAPK pathway involving nuclear factor of activated T cells 5 (NFAT5; also called TONEBP) and serum/glucocorticoid-regulated kinase 1 (SGK1) during cytokine-induced TH17 polarization. Gene silencing or chemical inhibition of p38/MAPK, NFAT5 or SGK1 abrogates the high-salt-induced TH17 cell development. The TH17 cells generated under high-salt conditions display a highly pathogenic and stable phenotype characterized by the upregulation of the pro-inflammatory cytokines GM-CSF, TNF-α and IL-2. Moreover, mice fed with a high-salt diet develop a more severe form of EAE, in line with augmented central nervous system infiltrating and peripherally induced antigen-specific TH17 cells. Thus, increased dietary salt intake might represent an environmental risk factor for the development of autoimmune diseases through the induction of pathogenic TH17 cells.
Germinal centres support antibody affinity maturation and memory formation. Follicular T-helper cells promote proliferation and differentiation of antigen-specific B cells inside the follicle. A genetic deficiency in the inducible co-stimulator (ICOS), a classic CD28 family co-stimulatory molecule highly expressed by follicular T-helper cells, causes profound germinal centre defects, leading to the view that ICOS specifically co-stimulates the follicular T-helper cell differentiation program. Here we show that ICOS directly controls follicular recruitment of activated T-helper cells in mice. This effect is independent from ICOS ligand (ICOSL)-mediated co-stimulation provided by antigen-presenting dendritic cells or cognate B cells, and does not rely on Bcl6-mediated programming as an intermediate step. Instead, it requires ICOSL expression by follicular bystander B cells, which do not present cognate antigen to T-helper cells but collectively form an ICOS-engaging field. Dynamic imaging reveals ICOS engagement drives coordinated pseudopod formation and promotes persistent T-cell migration at the border between the T-cell zone and the B-cell follicle in vivo. When follicular bystander B cells cannot express ICOSL, otherwise competent T-helper cells fail to develop into follicular T-helper cells normally, and fail to promote optimal germinal centre responses. These results demonstrate a co-stimulation-independent function of ICOS, uncover a key role for bystander B cells in promoting the development of follicular T-helper cells, and reveal unsuspected sophistication in dynamic T-cell positioning in vivo.
Saccharomyces cerevisiae is engineered to produce high concentrations of artemisinic acid, a precursor of the artemisinin used in combination therapies for malaria treatment; an efficient and practical chemical process to convert artemisinic acid to artemisinin is also developed.
Phosphate is crucial for structural and metabolic needs, including nucleotide and lipid synthesis, signalling and chemical energy storage. Proton-coupled transporters of the major facilitator superfamily (MFS) are essential for phosphate uptake in plants and fungi, and also have a function in sensing external phosphate levels as transceptors. Here we report the 2.9 Å structure of a fungal (Piriformospora indica) high-affinity phosphate transporter, PiPT, in an inward-facing occluded state, with bound phosphate visible in the membrane-buried binding site. The structure indicates both proton and phosphate exit pathways and suggests a modified asymmetrical ‘rocker-switch’ mechanism of phosphate transport. PiPT is related to several human transporter families, most notably the organic cation and anion transporters of the solute carrier family (SLC22), which are implicated in cancer-drug resistance. We modelled representative cation and anion SLC22 transporters based on the PiPT structure to surmise the structural basis for substrate binding and charge selectivity in this important family. The PiPT structure demonstrates and expands on principles of substrate transport by the MFS transporters and illuminates principles of phosphate uptake in particular.