A burden weighed p.311Despite some shortcomings, a global study of health metrics should be applauded.
Head of the line p.312Japanese scientists deserve support in their bid for the next big collider.
2012 in review p.324This epic year for science saw the discovery of the Higgs boson and Curiosity’s arrival on Mars, but researchers also felt the sting of austerity.
Images of the year p.328Disintegrating ice, spectacular sunbursts and minuscule lizards are among 2012’s most striking pictures.
Nature's 10 p.335Ten people who mattered this year.
News & Views
2012 Editors' choice p.366Adapted extracts from selected News & Views articles published this year.
Anaemia is a chief determinant of global ill health, contributing to cognitive impairment, growth retardation and impaired physical capacity. To understand further the genetic factors influencing red blood cells, we carried out a genome-wide association study of haemoglobin concentration and related parameters in up to 135,367 individuals. Here we identify 75 independent genetic loci associated with one or more red blood cell phenotypes at P < 10
In mammals, enlargement of the heart during embryonic development is primarily dependent on the increase in cardiomyocyte numbers. Shortly after birth, however, cardiomyocytes stop proliferating and further growth of the myocardium occurs through hypertrophic enlargement of the existing myocytes. As a consequence of the minimal renewal of cardiomyocytes during adult life, repair of cardiac damage through myocardial regeneration is very limited. Here we show that the exogenous administration of selected microRNAs (miRNAs) markedly stimulates cardiomyocyte proliferation and promotes cardiac repair. We performed a high-content microscopy, high-throughput functional screening for human miRNAs that promoted neonatal cardiomyocyte proliferation using a whole-genome miRNA library. Forty miRNAs strongly increased both DNA synthesis and cytokinesis in neonatal mouse and rat cardiomyocytes. Two of these miRNAs (hsa-miR-590 and hsa-miR-199a) were further selected for testing and were shown to promote cell cycle re-entry of adult cardiomyocytes ex vivo and to promote cardiomyocyte proliferation in both neonatal and adult animals. After myocardial infarction in mice, these miRNAs stimulated marked cardiac regeneration and almost complete recovery of cardiac functional parameters. The miRNAs identified hold great promise for the treatment of cardiac pathologies consequent to cardiomyocyte loss.
Fragile X syndrome (FXS) is a multi-organ disease that leads to mental retardation, macro-orchidism in males and premature ovarian insufficiency in female carriers. FXS is also a prominent monogenic disease associated with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). FXS is typically caused by the loss of fragile X mental retardation 1 (FMR1) expression, which codes for the RNA-binding protein FMRP. Here we report the discovery of distinct RNA-recognition elements that correspond to the two independent RNA-binding domains of FMRP, in addition to the binding sites within the messenger RNA targets for wild-type and I304N mutant FMRP isoforms and the FMRP paralogues FXR1P and FXR2P (also known as FXR1 and FXR2). RNA-recognition-element frequency, ratio and distribution determine target mRNA association with FMRP. Among highly enriched targets, we identify many genes involved in ASD and show that FMRP affects their protein levels in human cell culture, mouse ovaries and human brain. Notably, we discovered that these targets are also dysregulated in Fmr1
Protease-activated receptor 1 (PAR1) is the prototypical member of a family of G-protein-coupled receptors that mediate cellular responses to thrombin and related proteases. Thrombin irreversibly activates PAR1 by cleaving the amino-terminal exodomain of the receptor, which exposes a tethered peptide ligand that binds the heptahelical bundle of the receptor to affect G-protein activation. Here we report the 2.2-Å-resolution crystal structure of human PAR1 bound to vorapaxar, a PAR1 antagonist. The structure reveals an unusual mode of drug binding that explains how a small molecule binds virtually irreversibly to inhibit receptor activation by the tethered ligand of PAR1. In contrast to deep, solvent-exposed binding pockets observed in other peptide-activated G-protein-coupled receptors, the vorapaxar-binding pocket is superficial but has little surface exposed to the aqueous solvent. Protease-activated receptors are important targets for drug development. The structure reported here will aid the development of improved PAR1 antagonists and the discovery of antagonists to other members of this receptor family.
A prefrontal cortex–brainstem neuronal projection that controls response to behavioural challenge p.428High-speed tracking of effortful responses and neuronal activity in rats during a forced swim test identifies medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) neurons that respond during escape-related swimming but not normal locomotion, and optogenetics shows that mPFC neurons projecting to the brainstem dorsal raphe nucleus, which is implicated in depression, modulate this behavioural response to challenge.
Ventral tegmental area GABA projections pause accumbal cholinergic interneurons to enhance associative learning p.452GABA-releasing neurons from the ventral tegmental area that project to the nucleus accumbens are shown to block the firing of cholinergic accumbal interneurons, affecting learning in mice.