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Time for the epigenome p587

The complexity of genetic regulation is one of the great wonders of nature, but it represents a daunting challenge to unravel. The International Human Epigenome Consortium is an appropriate response.


Stand and deliver p587

Science has done well in the proposed US budget. Researchers need to justify the funding boost.


Back to books p588

Researchers should be recognized for writing books to convey and develop science.



Research Highlights

Evolution: Flower power p590


Engineering: Sticky when wet p590


Physics: Plasma pinch p590


Organic chemistry: Methylene magic p590


Astrophysics: Starlight versus dark matter p590


Atmospheric physics: Bolt from the blue p591


Biochemistry: Chemical gene switch p591


Evolutionary anthropology: Baby-like bonobos p591


Imaging: Virus vision p591



Journal Club

Journal club p591

Viola Vogel




News briefing: 4 February 2010 p592

The week in science


Obama budget backs basic science p594

Climate and clean energy receive a boost but NASA's Moon mission bites the dust.

Janet Fang, Eric Hand, Richard Monastersky, Jeff Tollefson, Meredith Wadman & Mitchell Waldrop


IPCC flooded by criticism p596

Climate body slammed for errors and potential conflicts of interest.

Quirin Schiermeier


Project set to map marks on genome p596

Consortium sets sights on the differences that make us different.

Alison Abbott


Biodiversity law could stymie research p598

Tighter rules on accessing and developing genetic resources may be counterproductive for conservation.

Natasha Gilbert


America pushes to overhaul chemical safety law p599

Congress to consider stronger regulation.

Brendan Borrell


Mars rover Spirit (2003–10) p600

NASA commits robot explorer to her final resting place.

Katharine Sanderson



News Features

Networking: Four ways to reinvent the Internet p602

The Internet is struggling to keep up with the ever-increasing demands placed on it. Katharine Gammon looks at ways to fix it.


Chemistry: Breaking the billion-hertz barrier p605

Researchers in France have switched on the world's most powerful nuclear magnetic resonance instrument. Ananyo Bhattacharya asks whether it will attract new life to NMR spectroscopy.




Better all the time p607

Innovation policies are more likely to be successful if they leverage existing capabilities, argues Daniel Sarewitz.

Daniel Sarewitz




Political instability may be a contributor in the coming decade p608

Peter Turchin


Could a boom in technologies trap Feynman's simulator? p608

Dietrich Leibfried


Expanded view of universities would be more realistic p608

Siddharth Dasgupta


Women: diversity among leaders is there if you look p608

Nancy C. Andrews, Sally Kornbluth & Doug Stokke


Women: why just one to represent half the workforce? p608

Joan M. Herbers



Books and Arts

The woman behind HeLa p610

Steve Silberman enjoys a moving account that probes racial and ethical issues in medicine through the story of the young mother whose death from cancer led to the first immortal cell line.

Steve Silberman reviews The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot


In Retrospect: Funes the Memorious p611

When Rodrigo Quian Quiroga visited Jorge Luis Borges's private library, he found annotated books that bear witness to the writer's fascination for memory and neuroscience.

Rodrigo Quian Quiroga reviews Funes the Memorious by Jorge Luis Borges


Q&A: Peter Atkins on writing textbooks p612

The success of Peter Atkins's classic textbook Physical Chemistry led him to trade research for full-time writing and teaching in the 1980s. In the first of a series of five interviews with authors who each write science books for a different audience, Atkins explains how the rewards for textbooks can be great, but the effort needed can affect your research.

Nicola Jones



News and Views

Biogeography: Washed up in Madagascar p613

How, when and from where did Madagascar's unique mammalian fauna originate? The idea that the ancestors of that fauna rafted from Africa finds support in innovative simulations of ancient ocean currents.

David W. Krause


See also: Editor's summary

Photosynthesis: Quantum design for a light trap p614

The photosynthetic apparatus of cryptophyte algae is odd — its pigments are farther apart than is expected for efficient functioning. A study into how this apparatus works so well finds quantum effects at play.

Rienk van Grondelle & Vladimir I. Novoderezhkin


See also: Editor's summary

Stem cells: Big roles for small RNAs p616

Embryonic stem cells can create copies of themselves, but can also mature into almost any type of cell in the body. Tiny gene regulators called microRNAs are now shown to have a role in directing these properties.

Frank J. Slack


See also: Editor's summary

50 & 100 years ago p617


Extrasolar planets: Fluorescent methane spotted p617

The atmospheric properties of distant worlds are becoming increasingly clear. The latest observations reveal fluorescent emission from methane in the upper atmosphere of a Jupiter-like extrasolar planet.

Seth Redfield


See also: Editor's summary

Biomaterials: Dew catchers p618

Magdalena Helmer


See also: Editor's summary

Applied physics: Nanothermal trumpets p619

The thermal process known as Joule heating, which often plagues electronic devices, has been turned to good use: making devices that can produce sound as well as reproduce music and speech.

Rama Venkatasubramanian




Opposing microRNA families regulate self-renewal in mouse embryonic stem cells p621

The differentiation of an embryonic stem cell (ESC) requires both suppression of the self-renewal process and activation of the specific differentiation pathway. The let-7 family of microRNAs (miRNAs) are now shown to suppress the self-renewal program in cells that are normally unable to silence this program, whereas introduction of ESC cell cycle regulating miRNAs blocks the action of let-7. Thus, the interplay between these two groups of miRNAs dictates cell fate.

Collin Melton, Robert L. Judson & Robert Blelloch


See also: Editor's summary | News and Views by Slack

An aspartyl protease directs malaria effector proteins to the host cell p627

To survive and evade host responses, malaria parasites export several hundred proteins into the host cell on infection. A feature of these proteins is a conserved, pentameric motif that is cleaved by an unknown protease before export. This is one of two independent studies revealing the identity of the protease as plasmepsin V, an aspartic acid protease located in the endoplasmic reticulum. This enzyme is essential for parasite viability and is an attractive candidate for drug development.

Justin A. Boddey, Anthony N. Hodder, Svenja Günther, Paul R. Gilson, Heather Patsiouras, Eugene A. Kapp, J. Andrew Pearce, Tania F. de Koning-Ward, Richard J. Simpson, Brendan S. Crabb & Alan F. Cowman


See also: Editor's summary

Plasmepsin V licenses Plasmodium proteins for export into the host erythrocyte p632

To survive and evade host responses, malaria parasites export several hundred proteins into the host cell on infection. A feature of these proteins is a conserved, pentameric motif that is cleaved by an unknown protease before export. This is one of two independent studies revealing the identity of the protease as plasmepsin V, an aspartic acid protease located in the endoplasmic reticulum. This enzyme is essential for parasite viability and is an attractive candidate for drug development.

Ilaria Russo, Shalon Babbitt, Vasant Muralidharan, Tamira Butler, Anna Oksman & Daniel E. Goldberg


See also: Editor's summary



A ground-based near-infrared emission spectrum of the exoplanet HD189733b p637

Infrared spectroscopy can probe the conditions and compositions of exoplanet atmospheres. Previous results relied on space-based telescopes that do not provide spectroscopic capability in the 2.4–5.2 μm spectral region. Here, ground-based observations of the dayside emission spectrum for HD 189733b are reported between 2.0–2.4 μm and 3.1–4.1 μm; an unexpected feature at around 3.25 μm is found that is difficult to explain with models that assume local thermodynamic equilibrium conditions, and is assigned to methane.

Mark R. Swain, Pieter Deroo, Caitlin A. Griffith, Giovanna Tinetti, Azam Thatte, Gautam Vasisht, Pin Chen, Jeroen Bouwman, Ian J. Crossfield, Daniel Angerhausen, Cristina Afonso & Thomas Henning


See also: Editor's summary | News and Views by Redfield

Directional water collection on wetted spider silk p640

Many plants and animals make use of biological surfaces with structural features at the micro- and nanometre-scale that control the interaction with water. The appearance of dew drops on spider webs is an illustration of how they are one such material capable of efficiently collecting water from air. The water-collecting ability of the capture silk of the Uloborus walckenaerius spider is now shown to be the result of a unique fibre structure that forms after wetting.

Yongmei Zheng, Hao Bai, Zhongbing Huang, Xuelin Tian, Fu-Qiang Nie, Yong Zhao, Jin Zhai & Lei Jiang


See also: Editor's summary | News and Views by Helmer

Coherently wired light-harvesting in photosynthetic marine algae at ambient temperature p644

Elisabetta Collini, Cathy Y. Wong, Krystyna E. Wilk, Paul M. G. Curmi, Paul Brumer & Gregory D. Scholes


See also: Editor's summary | News and Views by van Grondelle & Novoderezhkin

Migrating tremors illuminate complex deformation beneath the seismogenic San Andreas fault p648

Despite extensive study of the San Andreas fault, its physical character and deformation mode beneath the relatively shallow earthquake-generating portion remain largely unconstrained. Here, continuous seismic data from mid-2001 to 2008 is examined, using an approach that allows differentiation between activities from nearby patches of the deep fault and begins to unveil rich and complex patterns of tremor occurrence, in particular, constant motion of the tremor source.

David R. Shelly


See also: Editor's summary

Mammalian biodiversity on Madagascar controlled by ocean currents p653

Madagascar has a striking and peculiar fauna. It has been proposed that the ancestors of Madagascar's present-day mammal stock rafted there from Africa, but the validity of this hypothesis is questioned. Using palaeogeographic reconstructions and palaeo-oceanographic modelling, surface currents during the Palaeogene period are now shown to have been capable of transporting the animals to the island, as required by the hypothesis.

Jason R. Ali & Matthew Huber


See also: Editor's summary | News and Views by Krause

Evidence for grid cells in a human memory network p657

Rodents have an orientation map of their surroundings, produced and updated by a network of neurons in the entorhinal cortex known as 'grid cells'. However, it is currently unknown whether humans encode their location in a similar manner. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging in humans, a macroscopic signal representing a subject's position in a virtual reality environment is now detected that meets the criteria for defining grid-cell encoding.

Christian F. Doeller, Caswell Barry & Neil Burgess


See also: Editor's summary

Hsp90 prevents phenotypic variation by suppressing the mutagenic activity of transposons p662

Phenotypic robustness in the face of genetic and environmental perturbations — known as canalization — relies on buffering mechanisms. Hsp90 chaperone machinery has been proposed to be an evolutionarily conserved buffering mechanism of phenotypic variance. Here, an additional, perhaps alternative, mechanism whereby Hsp90 influences phenotypic variation is proposed; Hsp90 mutations can generate new variation by transposon-mediated mutagenesis.

Valeria Specchia, Lucia Piacentini, Patrizia Tritto, Laura Fanti, Rosalba D’Alessandro, Gioacchino Palumbo, Sergio Pimpinelli & Maria P. Bozzetti


See also: Editor's summary

Large, rare chromosomal deletions associated with severe early-onset obesity p666

The contribution of copy number variation to obesity — a highly heritable and genetically heterogeneous disorder — is investigated in 300 Caucasian patients to reveal that large, rare deletions are significantly enriched in patients compared to controls. Several rare copy number variants are identified that are recurrent in patients but absent or at much lower prevalence in controls.

Elena G. Bochukova, Ni Huang, Julia Keogh, Elana Henning, Carolin Purmann, Kasia Blaszczyk, Sadia Saeed, Julian Hamilton-Shield, Jill Clayton-Smith, Stephen O’Rahilly, Matthew E. Hurles & I. Sadaf Farooqi


See also: Editor's summary

A new highly penetrant form of obesity due to deletions on chromosome 16p11.2 p671

Recently, numerous single nucleotide polymorphisms have been identified as being associated with obesity, but these loci together account for only a small fraction of the known heritable component. Here, an association is reported between rare deletions of at least 593 kilobases at 16p11.2 and a highly penetrant form of obesity. The strategy used of combining study of extreme phenotypes with targeted follow-up is promising for identifying missing heritability in obesity.

R. G. Walters, S. Jacquemont, A. Valsesia, A. J. de Smith, D. Martinet, J. Andersson, M. Falchi, F. Chen, J. Andrieux, S. Lobbens, B. Delobel, F. Stutzmann, J. S. El-Sayed Moustafa, J.-C. Chèvre, C. Lecoeur, V. Vatin, S. Bouquillon, J. L. Buxton, O. Boute, M. Holder-Espinasse, J.-M. Cuisset, M.-P. Lemaitre, A.-E. Ambresin, A. Brioschi, M. Gaillard, V. Giusti, F. Fellmann, A. Ferrarini, N. Hadjikhani, D. Campion, A. Guilmatre, A. Goldenberg, N. Calmels, J.-L. Mandel, C. Le Caignec, A. David, B. Isidor, M.-P. Cordier, S. Dupuis-Girod, A. Labalme, D. Sanlaville, M. Béri-Dexheimer, P. Jonveaux, B. Leheup, K. Õunap, E. G. Bochukova, E. Henning, J. Keogh, R. J. Ellis, K. D. MacDermot, M. M. van Haelst, C. Vincent-Delorme, G. Plessis, R. Touraine, A. Philippe, V. Malan, M. Mathieu-Dramard, J. Chiesa, B. Blaumeiser, R. F. Kooy, R. Caiazzo, M. Pigeyre, B. Balkau, R. Sladek, S. Bergmann, V. Mooser, D. Waterworth, A. Reymond, P. Vollenweider, G. Waeber, A. Kurg, P. Palta, T. Esko, A. Metspalu, M. Nelis, P. Elliott, A.-L. Hartikainen, M. I. McCarthy, L. Peltonen, L. Carlsson, P. Jacobson, L. Sjöström, N. Huang, M. E. Hurles, S. O’Rahilly, I. S. Farooqi, K. Männik, M.-R. Jarvelin, F. Pattou, D. Meyre, A. J. Walley, L. J. M. Coin, A. I. F. Blakemore, P. Froguel & J. S. Beckmann


See also: Editor's summary

TGF-β–FOXO signalling maintains leukaemia-initiating cells in chronic myeloid leukaemia p676

Chronic myeloid leukaemia is caused by a BCR-ABL fusion, a constitutively active tyrosine kinase that, it is believed, leads to suppression of the forkhead O transcription factors (FOXO). Although the use of the tyrosine kinase inhibitor imatinib is a breakthrough for CML therapy, imatinib does not deplete the leukaemia-initiating cells (LICs) that drive the recurrence of CML. Foxo3a is now shown to have an essential role in the maintenance of CML LICs in a mouse model.

Kazuhito Naka, Takayuki Hoshii, Teruyuki Muraguchi, Yuko Tadokoro, Takako Ooshio, Yukio Kondo, Shinji Nakao, Noboru Motoyama & Atsushi Hirao


See also: Editor's summary

Multiple native states reveal persistent ruggedness of an RNA folding landscape p681

The 'thermodynamic hypothesis' proposes that the sequence of a biological macromolecule defines its folded, active structure as a global energy minimum in the folding landscape; however, it is not clear whether there is only one global minimum or several local minima corresponding to active conformations. Here, using single-molecule experiments, an RNA enzyme is shown to fold into multiple distinct native states that interconvert.

Sergey V. Solomatin, Max Greenfeld, Steven Chu & Daniel Herschlag


See also: Editor's summary

Experimental evidence for a frustrated energy landscape in a three-helix-bundle protein family p685

The primary sequence of a protein defines its free-energy landscape and thus determines the rate constants of folding and unfolding, with theory suggesting that roughness in the energy landscape leads to slower folding. However, obtaining experimental descriptions of this landscape is challenging. Landscape roughness is now shown to be responsible for the slower folding and unfolding times observed in the R16 and R17 domains of α-spectrin relative to the similar R15 domain.

Beth G. Wensley, Sarah Batey, Fleur A. C. Bone, Zheng Ming Chan, Nuala R. Tumelty, Annette Steward, Lee Gyan Kwa, Alessandro Borgia & Jane Clarke


See also: Editor's summary

Structure of the amantadine binding site of influenza M2 proton channels in lipid bilayers p689

The antiviral drugs amantadine and rimantadine target the M2 protein of influenza A virus, making an understanding of its structure important for the study of drug resistance. The results of a recent crystal structure of M2 differ from those of a solution NMR structure with regards to binding of these drugs, indicating a different mechanism of inhibition in each case. Here, using solid-state NMR spectroscopy, two different amantadine-binding sites are shown to exist in the phospholipid bilayers of M2.

Sarah D. Cady, Klaus Schmidt-Rohr, Jun Wang, Cinque S. Soto, William F. DeGrado & Mei Hong


See also: Editor's summary



Careers Q&A

Eric Barron p695

The former director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, Eric Barron is the new president of Florida State University in Tallahassee.

Karen Kaplan


In Brief

Institute gets gift windfall p695

Philanthropist's gift will yield 300 research and lab-support jobs.


Boost for brain research p695

Fellowship aims to boost collaborative research at European academic institutions and industrial labs.


Plug-and-play DNA p695

Bioengineering lab is hiring 29 scientists and engineers to develop synthetic biology 'parts'.


Careers and Recruitment

A foot in the door p696

A postdoctoral application should present a person's best scientific self on paper. Kendall Powell demystifies why some applicants shine and others miss the mark.

Kendall Powell




Jenna's clocks p700

Get connected!

T. F. Davenport


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