Volume 520 Issue 7546


Seeds of change p.131

The European Union faces a fresh battle over next-generation plant-breeding techniques.

doi: 10.1038/520131b

All that glitters p.131

A review of the United Kingdom’s progress towards ‘gold’ open-access research is instructive — for funders, publishers and scientists both at home and abroad.

doi: 10.1038/520131a

Lunar affairs p.132

A study in Nature adds a dramatic twist to the backstory of a neighbour we thought we knew.

doi: 10.1038/520132a


News Features

The future of the postdoc p.144

There is a growing number of postdocs and few places in academia for them to go. But change could be on the way.

doi: 10.1038/520144a

The hole story p.148

Swiss-cheese-like materials called metal–organic frameworks have long promised to improve gas storage, separation and catalysis. Now they are coming of age.

doi: 10.1038/520148a

News & Views

Race for healthy hearts p.160

Transplantation experiments in mice reveal that the increased risk of congenital heart disease in the pups of older mothers is not conferred by ageing eggs, but by the mothers' age, and can be mitigated by exercise. See Letter p.230

doi: 10.1038/nature14379

Prebiotic chemistry on the rocks p.161

Organic compounds called nitriles have been detected in material surrounding a young star. The finding hints at a vast reservoir of ice and volatile species that can seed the surfaces of young rocky planets or moons. See Letter p.198

doi: 10.1038/520161a

RNA interference hangs by a thread p.162

The Paf1 protein complex in fission yeast has been found to protect protein-coding genes from inhibition by RNA-mediated silencing of transcription, by stimulating the release of nascent transcripts from DNA. See Letter p.248

doi: 10.1038/nature14376

Unique wrinkles as identity tags p.164

Spontaneously generated, random wrinkles of coatings on microscale particles have been found to be analogous to fingerprints — unique patterns with a wavy topography that can serve as unclonable tags for anti-counterfeiting purposes.

doi: 10.1038/nature14380

Growth in the fat lane p.165

Analysis of endothelial cells, which are involved in blood-vessel formation, unexpectedly reveals that proliferation in this cell type depends on fatty-acid oxidation to support DNA synthesis. See Article p.192

doi: 10.1038/nature14375

Lawrencium bridges a knowledge gap p.166

The heavy element lawrencium is available in only tiny quantities. Measurement of one of its atomic properties was thus an experimental challenge, but indispensably validates theoretical models of heavy elements. See Letter p.209

doi: 10.1038/520166a

Binge drinking and brain stress systems p.168

The discovery that interactions between two stress-associated neuropeptide hormones regulate binge drinking in mice provides insight into the biological mechanisms that underpin the bingeing cycle.

doi: 10.1038/520168a

An incredible likeness of being p.169

Earth and the Moon share many puzzling chemical similarities. New analyses show that the last planet-sized body to hit Earth could have been similar enough to Earth to yield a Moon with an Earth-like composition. See Letter p.212

doi: 10.1038/520169a


Climate change and the permafrost carbon feedback p.171

A large amount of organic carbon stored in frozen Arctic soils (permafrost) could be released as carbon dioxide and methane in a warming climate, which would accelerate the pace of climate change; this review suggests that release of greenhouse gas emissions will be gradual but prolonged.

doi: 10.1038/nature14338


Branch-specific dendritic Ca2+ spikes cause persistent synaptic plasticity p.180

Ca2+ spikes are generated on different dendritic branches in the primary motor cortex of mice performing different motor learning tasks, causing long-lasting potentiation of postsynaptic dendritic spines; inactivation of a population of interneurons disrupts the spatial separation of Ca2+ spikes and persistent dendritic spine potentiation, suggesting that the generation of Ca2+ spikes on different dendritic branches is crucial for storing information in individual neurons.

doi: 10.1038/nature14251

In vivo genome editing using Staphylococcus aureus Cas9 p.186

The physical size of the commonly used Cas9 from Streptococcus pyogenes poses challenges for CRISPR-Cas genome editing systems that use the adeno-associated virus as a delivery vehicle; here, smaller Cas9 orthologues are characterized, and Cas9 from Staphylococcus aureus allowed targeting of the cholesterol regulatory gene Pcsk9 in the mouse liver.

doi: 10.1038/nature14299

Fatty acid carbon is essential for dNTP synthesis in endothelial cells p.192

This study identifies a crucial role for fatty acid oxidation (FAO) in endothelial cells during angiogenesis, and reveals that fatty-acid-derived carbons are used for the de novo synthesis of nucleotides, and hence FAO stimulates vessel sprouting by increasing endothelial cell proliferation.

doi: 10.1038/nature14362


Saturn’s fast spin determined from its gravitational field and oblateness p.202

The alignment of Saturn’s magnetic pole with its rotation axis precludes the use of magnetic field measurements to determine its rotation period. The period was previously determined from radio measurements by the Voyager spacecraft to be 10 h 39 min 22.4 s (ref. 2). When the Cassini spacecraft measured a period of 10 h 47 min 6 s, which was additionally found to change between sequential measurements, it became clear that the radio period could not be used to determine the bulk planetary rotation period. Estimates based upon Saturn’s measured wind fields have increased the uncertainty even more, giving numbers smaller than the Voyager rotation period, and at present Saturn’s rotation period is thought to be between 10 h 32 min and 10 h 47 min, which is unsatisfactory for such a fundamental property. Here we report a period of 10 h 32 min 45 s ± 46 s, based upon an optimization approach using Saturn’s measured gravitational field and limits on the observed shape and possible internal density profiles. Moreover, even when solely using the constraints from its gravitational field, the rotation period can be inferred with a precision of several minutes. To validate our method, we applied the same procedure to Jupiter and correctly recovered its well-known rotation period.

doi: 10.1038/nature14278

A primordial origin for the compositional similarity between the Earth and the Moon p.212

The Moon is thought to have formed mainly from a giant impactor striking the Earth but it has seemed odd that the Earth and its impactor (and hence the Moon) had such similar compositions; here simulations of planetary accretion show that although the different planets have distinct compositions, the composition of each giant impactor is indeed often very similar to that of the planet it strikes.

doi: 10.1038/nature14333

Distinct relationships of parietal and prefrontal cortices to evidence accumulation p.220

A method to measure the precise relationship between neuronal firing rates and the representation of accumulated evidence is described; results in the parietal and prefrontal cortex of rats, together with transient optogenetic inactivation of the prefrontal cortex, challenge the prevailing view that the prefrontal cortex is part of the neural circuit for accumulating evidence, and suggest that neurons in parietal and prefrontal areas have distinct relationships to evidence accumulation in decision-making.

doi: 10.1038/nature14066

Common genetic variants influence human subcortical brain structures p.224

Genome-wide association studies are used to identify common genetic variants that affect the structure of selected subcortical regions of the human brain; their identification provides insight into the causes of variability in brain development and may help to determine mechanisms of neuropsychiatric dysfunction.

doi: 10.1038/nature14101

The maternal-age-associated risk of congenital heart disease is modifiable p.230

Increased maternal age is known to increase the risk of congenital heart disease in offspring; here, this link is investigated by transplanting ovaries between young and old mice, revealing that the maternal-age-associated risk is independent of the age of the ovaries but depends on the age of the mother, and that this risk can be mitigated by maternal genetic background or exercise.

doi: 10.1038/nature14361

The Paf1 complex represses small-RNA-mediated epigenetic gene silencing p.248

The fission yeast is shown to have a mechanism to prevent small RNAs from inducing heterochromatin and epigenetic gene silencing; this protective model involves the highly conserved Paf1 complex, which is known to promote transcription and processing of pre-mRNA, and protects protein-coding genes from unwanted silencing by spurious transcripts.

doi: 10.1038/nature14337