Volume 524 Issue 7563


Driving test p.5

‘Gene drive’ techniques have the potential to alter whole populations. Regulators must catch up.

doi: 10.1038/524005b

Trial and triumph p.5

The success of an Ebola vaccine trial shows that clinical trials can be done under the difficult field conditions of an epidemic — if there is enough political and regulatory will.

doi: 10.1038/524005a


News Features

The slow-chemistry movement p.20

Slow, solid-state reactions used by lichens and Renaissance pigment-makers could help to make chemistry greener.

doi: 10.1038/524020a

How to beat the next Ebola p.22

The world is ill-prepared for the next epidemic or pandemic. But the horror of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa may drive change.

doi: 10.1038/524022a

News & Views

Destruction perfected p.38

Pinpointing the nodes whose removal most effectively disrupts a network has become a lot easier with the development of an efficient algorithm. Potential applications might include cybersecurity and disease control. See Letter p.65

doi: 10.1038/524038a

A smart insulin patch p.39

A microneedle-containing patch that is designed to sense elevated blood glucose levels and to respond by releasing insulin could offer people with diabetes a less-painful and more-reliable way to manage their condition.

doi: 10.1038/524039a

Salvaging the genome p.40

Overexpression of the enzyme cytidine deaminase allows the incorporation of abnormally modified nucleotides into DNA, leading to cell death. This discovery might point the way to treating some cancers. See Letter p.114

doi: 10.1038/nature14638

A magnetic facelift for non-magnetic metals p.42

Copper and manganese have been engineered to show magnetism at room temperature in thin films interfaced with organic molecules. The findings show promise for developing new magnetic materials. See Letter p.69

doi: 10.1038/524042a

Cyanate fuels the nitrogen cycle p.43

Cyanate, a degradation product of urea and cyanide, has been found to be a sufficient single substrate for the growth and reciprocal feeding of microorganisms that are essential to the global nitrogen cycle. See Letter p.105

doi: 10.1038/nature14639

Uncertain future for vegetation cover p.44

How will Earth's vegetation cover respond to climate change, and how does this compare with changes associated with human land use? Modelling studies reveal how little we still know, and act as a clarion call for further work.

doi: 10.1038/524044a

Ribosomal ties that bind p.45

The ribosome is the cellular complex of proteins and RNA molecules that synthesizes proteins. An artificial ribosome in which the two main subunits are tethered together creates opportunities for engineering this process. See Letter p.119

doi: 10.1038/nature14642


Comprehensive genomic profiles of small cell lung cancer p.47

Genomic sequencing of 110 human small cell lung cancers identifies genomic signatures including nearly ubiquitous bi-allelic inactivation of TP53 and RB1, a role for NOTCH family genes, and somatic rearrangements that create an oncogenic version of TP73.

doi: 10.1038/nature14664

RNA degradation paths in a 12-subunit nuclear exosome complex p.54

Solving the crystal structure of an exosome complex from yeast, bound to different RNA substrates, offers insights into how the exosome can be utilized for precise processing of some 3′ ends, such as that of the 5.8S rRNA, while other RNAs are degraded to completion.

doi: 10.1038/nature14865


Influence maximization in complex networks through optimal percolation p.65

A rigorous method to determine the most influential superspreaders in complex networks is presented—involving the mapping of the problem onto optimal percolation along with a scalable algorithm for big-data social networks—showing, unexpectedly, that many weak nodes can be powerful influencers.

doi: 10.1038/nature14604

Conversion of amides to esters by the nickel-catalysed activation of amide C–N bonds p.79

Amides are common functional groups that have been studied for more than a century. They are the key building blocks of proteins and are present in a broad range of other natural and synthetic compounds. Amides are known to be poor electrophiles, which is typically attributed to the resonance stability of the amide bond. Although amides can readily be cleaved by enzymes such as proteases, it is difficult to selectively break the carbon–nitrogen bond of an amide using synthetic chemistry. Here we demonstrate that amide carbon–nitrogen bonds can be activated and cleaved using nickel catalysts. We use this methodology to convert amides to esters, which is a challenging and underdeveloped transformation. The reaction methodology proceeds under exceptionally mild reaction conditions, and avoids the use of a large excess of an alcohol nucleophile. Density functional theory calculations provide insight into the thermodynamics and catalytic cycle of the amide-to-ester transformation. Our results provide a way to harness amide functional groups as synthetic building blocks and are expected to lead to the further use of amides in the construction of carbon–heteroatom or carbon–carbon bonds using non-precious-metal catalysis.

doi: 10.1038/nature14615

Genetic diversity and evolutionary dynamics of Ebola virus in Sierra Leone OPEN p.93

The genome sequences of 175 Ebola virus from five districts in Sierra Leone, collected during September–November 2014, show that the rate of virus evolution seems to be similar to that observed during previous outbreaks and that the genetic diversity of the virus has increased substantially, with the emergence of several novel lineages.

doi: 10.1038/nature14490

Cyanate as an energy source for nitrifiers p.105

The ammonia-oxidizing archaeon Nitrososphaera gargensis can utilize cyanate as the only source of energy for growth due to the presence of a cyanase enzyme, and cyanase-encoding nitrite-oxidizing bacteria can work together with cyanase-negative ammonia oxidizers to collectively grow on cyanate via reciprocal feeding; cyanases are widespread in the environment according to metagenomic data sets, pointing to the potential importance of cyanate in the nitrogen cycle.

doi: 10.1038/nature14856

CDA directs metabolism of epigenetic nucleosides revealing a therapeutic window in cancer p.114

Enzymes of the nucleotide salvage pathway are shown to have substrate selectivity that protects newly synthesized DNA from random incorporation of epigenetically modified forms of cytosine; a subset of cancer cell lines that overexpress cytidine deaminase (CDA) are sensitive to treatment with 5hmdC or 5fdC (oxidized forms of 5-methyl-cytosine), which leads to DNA damage and cell death, indicating the chemotherapeutic potential of these nucleoside variants for CDA-overexpressing cancers.

doi: 10.1038/nature14948

Protein synthesis by ribosomes with tethered subunits p.119

A ribosome with tethered subunits, ‘Ribo-T’, is engineered by making a hybrid RNA composed of ribosomal RNA of large and small subunits; Ribo-T can support cell growth in vivo in the absence of wild-type ribosomes, and is used to establish a fully orthogonal ribosome–mRNA system.

doi: 10.1038/nature14862