Volume 509 Issue 7499

Editorials

Tribal gathering p.133

Success in synthetic biology will depend on better collaboration.

doi: 10.1038/509133a

A cosmic history p.134

Millions of hours of processing time yield the best picture so far of how the Universe evolved.

doi: 10.1038/509134a

The game is on p.134

Amoeba races demonstrate a fun way to promote interest in science.

doi: 10.1038/509134b

News

News Features

Beyond divisions p.151

Since the birth of synthetic biology nearly 15 years ago, the field has splintered into diverse tribes of scientists, all attempting to bestow cells with new abilities.

doi: 10.1038/509151a

Cultural divide p.152

Synthetic biology is facing a tug of war over whether to patent its discoveries or embrace open-source innovation.

doi: 10.1038/509152a

News & Views

Engineering explored p.166

Synthetic biology involves the creation of biological systems for new applications by modifying and reassembling biological components. Two views are presented here on the best way to engineer these components so that they reliably generate organisms with desired traits.

doi: 10.1038/509166a

The origin of regional Arctic warming p.167

Observational data and modelling show that the rapid warming of the northeastern Canada and Greenland sector of the Arctic over the past three decades has been strongly driven by cooling in the tropical Pacific Ocean. See Letter p.209

doi: 10.1038/509167a

Construction of a yeast chromosome p.168

One aim of synthetic biology is to generate complex synthetic organisms. Now, a stage in this process has been achieved in yeast cells — an entire yeast chromosome has been converted to a synthetic sequence in a stepwise manner.

doi: 10.1038/509168a

A virtual Universe p.170

A numerical simulation of cosmic structure formation reproduces both large- and smaller-scale features of a representative volume of the Universe from early in its history to the present day. See Article p.177

doi: 10.1038/509170a

Supply and demand p.171

Data from Himalayan songbirds suggest that the rate-limiting step in biodiversity production may not be the speed of speciation, but rather the speed at which new niches are created. See Letter p.222

doi: 10.1038/nature13332

Diversity in the afterlife p.173

Field experiments that varied the composition of both plant litter and the organisms that break it down have revealed that, across ecosystems, lower biodiversity slows the rate of litter decomposition. See Letter p.218

doi: 10.1038/509173a

Action at a distance in a light receptor p.174

A tour de force of X-ray scattering has yielded structures of a phytochrome photoreceptor in its dark and illuminated states, showing how localized protein refolding magnifies a light signal to form a cellular message. See Letter p.245

doi: 10.1038/nature13331

Articles

Properties of galaxies reproduced by a hydrodynamic simulation p.177

A simulation that starts 12 million years after the Big Bang and traces 13 billion years of cosmic evolution yields a reasonable population of elliptical and spiral galaxies, reproduces the observed distribution of galaxies in clusters and the characteristics of hydrogen on large scales, and at the same time matches the ‘metal’ and hydrogen content of galaxies on small scales.

doi: 10.1038/nature13316

FXR is a molecular target for the effects of vertical sleeve gastrectomy p.183

Bariatric surgical procedures, such as vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG), are the most effective therapy for the treatment of obesity; now bile acids, and the presence of the nuclear bile acid receptor FXR, are shown to underpin the mechanism of VSG action, and the ability of VSG to reduce body weight and improve glucose tolerance is substantially reduced if FXR is absent.

doi: 10.1038/nature13135

Astrocyte-encoded positional cues maintain sensorimotor circuit integrity p.189

Populations of astrocytes in the spinal cord are shown to express region-specific genes, with ventral astrocyte-encoded Sema3a necessary for proper motor neuron circuit organization and typical sensory afferent projection patterns; these findings suggest that astrocytes provide a positional cue for maintaining proper circuit formation and refinement.

doi: 10.1038/nature13161

Letters

Circular polarization in the optical afterglow of GRB 121024A p.201

Circularly polarized light is unexpectedly detected in the afterglow of γ-ray burst GRB 121024A measured 0.15 days after the burst, and is shown to be intrinsic to the afterglow and unlikely to be produced by dust scattering or plasma propagation effects.

doi: 10.1038/nature13237

Classical shear cracks drive the onset of dry frictional motion p.205

The transition between ‘static’ and ‘dynamic’ friction in a model system is found to be quantitatively captured by the same theoretical framework as is used to describe brittle fracture, but deviations from this correspondence are observed as the rupture velocity approaches the speed at which sound waves propagate along the interface.

doi: 10.1038/nature13202

Consequences of biodiversity loss for litter decomposition across biomes p.218

Field experiments across aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems show that biodiversity positively affects carbon and nitrogen cycling in leaf litter decomposition, indicating that reduced decomposition caused by biodiversity loss would modify the global carbon cycle and limit the nitrogen supply to the organisms at the base of the food chain.

doi: 10.1038/nature13247

Signal amplification and transduction in phytochrome photosensors p.245

The solution and crystal structures of a bacterial phytochrome photosensory core in both its resting and activated states are determined; switching between closed (resting) and open (activated) forms is found to be mediated by a conserved ‘tongue’, and the structures indicate that smaller changes in the vicinity of the chromophore are amplified in scale as they are transmitted through the tongue and beyond.

doi: 10.1038/nature13310