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A law in time? p7

Congress must act quickly to save US stem-cell research.


How continents persist p7

Earth scientists have explained why Canada and South Africa are still here.



Research Highlights

Vascular biology: Clot catcher p8


Astronomy: Dance of two planets p8


Cancer biology: Targeting skin tumours p8


Animal behaviour: Lobster shock p8


Tissue engineering: Vision restored p8


Ecology: Tree death count p8


Neuroscience: Electrical cell tuning p9


Materials science: Adjustable pore size p9


Zoology: Insulin drops, so does sex p9


Microbiology: Bacterial resettlement p9



Journal Club

Journal club p9

John A. Rogers




News briefing: 27 August–2 September 2010 p10

The week in science.


Stem-cell work thrown into limbo p12

US district-court ruling suspends federal funding for research involving human embryonic stem cells.

Meredith Wadman


Climate panel must adapt to survive p14

Review recommends better governance and transparency for the IPCC in the face of more public scrutiny.

Jeff Tollefson


Ecologists fear Antarctic krill crisis p15

Fishing industry threatens to destabilize stocks.

Quirin Schiermeier


The mystery of the missing oil plume p16

Confounding reports seed confusion over long-term effects of the spill.

Amanda Mascarelli


Cold blamed for Bolivia's mass fish deaths p17

Extreme weather wreaks havoc in the rivers.

Anna Petherick




Nanotechnology: Small wonders p18

The US National Nanotechnology Initiative has spent billions of dollars on submicroscopic science in its first 10 years. Corie Lok finds out where the money went and what the initiative plans to do next.


Deepwater Horizon: After the oil p22

When oil stopped gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, the ecosystems under assault started on a long road to recovery. Amanda Mascarelli meets the researchers assessing their chances.




World view: Politicize me p26

Barack Obama is finding that sometimes politics needs to put science in its place, says Daniel Sarewitz.

Daniel Sarewitz




Stem-cell decision is no threat to federal science funding p27

Samuel B. Casey


Irish research cuts threaten economic recovery p27

Kevin Turner


Games and play mean different things in an educational context p27

Anthony D. Pellegrini


Mosquitoes: more likely nectar thieves than pollinators p27

David W. Inouye




Seafood stewardship in crisis p28

The main consumer-targeted certification scheme for sustainable fisheries is failing to protect the environment and needs radical reform, say Jennifer Jacquet, Daniel Pauly and colleagues.

Jennifer Jacquet, Daniel Pauly, David Ainley, Sidney Holt, Paul Dayton & Jeremy Jackson



Books and Arts

Soil map digs under the tundra p30

An ambitious atlas that charts the composition of frozen northern soils highlights their contribution to climate change, finds Philippe Ciais.

Philippe Ciais reviews Soil Atlas of the Northern Circumpolar Region Edited by A. Jones, V. Stolbovoy, C. Tarnocai, G. Broll, O. Spaargaren & L. Montanarella


On markets and collective mood p31

David Berreby reviews Mood Matters: From Rising Skirt Lengths to the Collapse of World Powers by John L. Casti


Books in brief p32

Joanne Baker


A smart vision of brain hacking p32

Christof Koch reviews Inception Directed by Christopher Nolan



News & Views

Biological physics: Filaments band together p33

Theoretical models of the dynamics of self-driven systems predict the collective motion of biological systems, such as insect swarms. An experimental model has been developed to test the predictions.

Jean-François Joanny & Sriram Ramaswamy


See also: Editor's summary | Letter by Schaller et al.

Microbiology: Altruistic defence p34

A charitable deed by a few cells in a bacterial culture can help the rest of that population survive in the presence of antibiotics. This finding can aid further research into a major problem in public health.

Hyun Youk & Alexander van Oudenaarden


See also: Editor's summary | Letter by Lee et al.

Astrophysics: Unexpected warm water p35

The detection of water vapour in a carbon star has challenged the understanding of ageing stars. The discovery that such water can be warm shows that our knowledge of these objects is still rudimentary.

Bengt Gustafsson


See also: Editor's summary | Letter by Decin et al.

Alzheimer's disease: Selectively tuning γ-secretase p36

Presenilin proteins have a major role in normal cellular processes, but some contribute to disease, for example through the formation of amyloid-β. The way in which these different roles are regulated is now becoming clearer.

Peter St George-Hyslop & Gerold Schmitt-Ulms


See also: Editor's summary | Letter by He et al.

Laser science: Suckers for light p37

An optical device has been designed that performs a function exactly opposite to that of a laser. It perfectly absorbs incoming coherent radiation and turns it into thermal or electrical energy.

Claire F. Gmachl


Regenerative medicine: Heart redevelopment p39

Scientists report the conversion of one type of differentiated cell, the fibroblast, into another — the cardiomyocyte. This approach may find use in regenerative strategies for the repair of damaged hearts.

Richard P. Harvey


50 & 100 years ago p40




Obituary: Donald Charles Backer (1943–2010) p41

Astronomer who discovered a new class of pulsar.

S. R. Kulkarni



Brief Communications Arising

Atom gravimeters and gravitational redshift pE1

Peter Wolf, Luc Blanchet, Christian J. Bordé, Serge Reynaud, Christophe Salomon & Claude Cohen-Tannoudji


Müller, Peters & Chu reply pE2

Holger Müller, Achim Peters & Steven Chu


Can controversies be put to REST? pE3

Helle F. Jørgensen & Amanda G. Fisher


Singh et al. reply pE5

Sanjay K. Singh, Mohamedi N. Kagalwala, Jan Parker-Thornburg, Henry Adams & Sadhan Majumder




The impacts of climate change on water resources and agriculture in China p43

China has tremendous climatic and ecological diversity, so the impacts of climate change on natural and managed systems might likewise be expected to be diverse. Yet so far systematic studies have been rare. Here, the impacts of historical and future climate change on water resources and agriculture in China are assessed. Despite clear trends in climate, the overall impacts are overshadowed by natural variability and uncertainties in crop responses and projected climate, especially precipitation.

Shilong Piao, Philippe Ciais, Yao Huang, Zehao Shen, Shushi Peng, Junsheng Li, Liping Zhou, Hongyan Liu, Yuecun Ma, Yihui Ding, Pierre Friedlingstein, Chunzhen Liu, Kun Tan, Yongqiang Yu, Tianyi Zhang & Jingyun Fang


See also: Editor's summary



Integrating common and rare genetic variation in diverse human populations p52

Here, the analysis of 'HapMap 3' is reported — a public data set of genomic variants in human populations. The resource integrates common and rare single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and copy number polymorphisms (CNPs) from 11 global populations, providing insights into population-specific differences among variants. It also demonstrates the feasibility of imputing newly discovered rare SNPs and CNPs.

The International HapMap 3 Consortium


See also: Editor's summary

Neurotrophin receptors TrkA and TrkC cause neuronal death whereas TrkB does not p59

Neurons of the peripheral nervous system need survival factors to prevent their death during development. Most in the central nervous system do not. Why are peripheral neurons so needy? Here it is shown that the neurotrophin receptors TrkA and TrkC, expressed at high levels by many peripheral nervous system neurons, behave as dependence receptors: they instruct neurons to die if there is no ligand around. By contrast, TrkB, expressed mainly in the central nervous system, does not signal death in the absence of ligand.

Vassiliki Nikoletopoulou, Heiko Lickert, José Maria Frade, Chantal Rencurel, Patrizia Giallonardo, Lixin Zhang, Miriam Bibel & Yves-Alain Barde


See also: Editor's summary



Warm water vapour in the sooty outflow from a luminous carbon star p64

Water has been predicted to be almost absent in carbon-rich stars, so the detection of water vapour around the ageing carbon star IRC + 10216 challenged our understanding of the chemistry in old stars. Several explanations for the water have been postulated, but with only one water line detected it is difficult to discriminate between them. Now, dozens of water vapour lines have been detected in the far-infrared and sub-millimetre spectrum of IRC + 10216.

L. Decin, M. Agúndez, M. J. Barlow, F. Daniel, J. Cernicharo, R. Lombaert, E. De Beck, P. Royer, B. Vandenbussche, R. Wesson, E. T. Polehampton, J. A. D. L. Blommaert, W. De Meester, K. Exter, H. Feuchtgruber, W. K. Gear, H. L. Gomez, M. A. T. Groenewegen, M. Guélin, P. C. Hargrave, R. Huygen, P. Imhof, R. J. Ivison, C. Jean, C. Kahane, F. Kerschbaum, S. J. Leeks, T. Lim, M. Matsuura, G. Olofsson, T. Posch, S. Regibo, G. Savini, B. Sibthorpe, B. M. Swinyard, J. A. Yates & C. Waelkens


See also: Editor's summary | News & Views by Gustafsson

Single-atom-resolved fluorescence imaging of an atomic Mott insulator p68

For several years, researchers have aspired to record in situ images of a quantum fluid in which each underlying quantum particle is detected. This goal has now been achieved: here, fluorescence imaging is reported of strongly interacting bosonic Mott insulators in an optical lattice, with single-atom and single-site resolution. The approach opens up new avenues for the manipulation, analysis and applications of strongly interacting quantum gases on a lattice.

Jacob F. Sherson, Christof Weitenberg, Manuel Endres, Marc Cheneau, Immanuel Bloch & Stefan Kuhr


See also: Editor's summary

Polar patterns of driven filaments p73

Collective motion is a ubiquitous self-organization phenomenon that can be observed in systems ranging from flocks of animals to the cytoskeleton. Similarities between these systems suggest that there are universal underlying principles. This idea can be tested with 'active' or 'driven' fluids, but so far such systems have offered limited parameter control. Here, an active fluid is studied that contains only a few components — actin filaments and molecular motors — allowing the control of all relevant system parameters.

Volker Schaller, Christoph Weber, Christine Semmrich, Erwin Frey & Andreas R. Bausch


See also: Editor's summary | News & Views by Joanny & Ramaswamy

Olivine water contents in the continental lithosphere and the longevity of cratons p78

Cratons, the ancient cores of continents, extend laterally for hundreds of kilometres, and are underlain to depths of 180–250 km by mantle roots that are chemically and physically distinct from surrounding mantle. But how can these roots stay so isolated from mantle convection? Here it is shown that olivine in peridotite xenoliths from the lithosphere–athenosphere boundary region of the Kaapvaal craton mantle root is water-poor, providing sufficient viscosity contrast with the underlying asthenosphere to explain the root's stability.

Anne H. Peslier, Alan B. Woodland, David R. Bell & Marina Lazarov


See also: Editor's summary

Bacterial charity work leads to population-wide resistance p82

Bacteria regularly evolve antibiotic resistance, but little is known about this process at the population level. Here, a continuous culture of Escherichia coli facing increasing antibiotic levels is followed. Most isolates taken from this population are less antibiotic resistant than the population as a whole. A few highly resistant mutants provide protection to the less resistant constituents, in part by producing the signalling molecule indole, which serves to turn on drug efflux pumps and oxidative-stress protective mechanisms.

Henry H. Lee, Michael N. Molla, Charles R. Cantor & James J. Collins


See also: Editor's summary | News & Views by Youk & van Oudenaarden

OncomiR addiction in an in vivo model of microRNA-21-induced pre-B-cell lymphoma p86

One model for cancer development posits that the proliferating cells in a tumour can become 'addicted' to activating mutations in an oncogene. With the realization that certain microRNAs promote tumorigenesis, it has been proposed that tumours may also become dependent on such 'oncomiRs'. Here, evidence is provided that the gene encoding microRNA-21 is an oncogene, and that in its absence, tumours undergo apoptosis and regress. Thus tumours can indeed become addicted to oncomiRs.

Pedro P. Medina, Mona Nolde & Frank J. Slack


See also: Editor's summary

A spindle-independent cleavage furrow positioning pathway p91

The mitotic spindle plays a key part in determining the site of the cleavage furrow in dividing metazoan cells. But are other mechanisms also involved? Here evidence is provided for a spindle-independent pathway for furrow positioning that occurs during asymmetric divisions of Drosophila neuroblast cells. The pathway involves the Pins protein complex, which polarizes furrow-forming proteins to the basal cortex of the cell. This mechanism might also occur in other highly polarized cell types.

Clemens Cabernard, Kenneth E. Prehoda & Chris Q. Doe


See also: Editor's summary

Gamma-secretase activating protein is a therapeutic target for Alzheimer’s disease p95

A major hallmark of Alzheimer's disease is the accumulation in the brain of amyloid-β peptide. This is generated by γ-secretase, which is thus of interest as a target for drugs to prevent amyloid-β accumulation. A problem is that γ-secretase has other substrates, including Notch, important in development. Here, a γ-secretase activating protein is identified that increases amyloid-β production without affecting Notch. Thus this protein can serve as an amyloid-β-lowering drug target without affecting other functions of γ-secretase.

Gen He, Wenjie Luo, Peng Li, Christine Remmers, William J. Netzer, Joseph Hendrick, Karima Bettayeb, Marc Flajolet, Fred Gorelick, Lawrence P. Wennogle & Paul Greengard


See also: Editor's summary | News & Views by St George-Hyslop & Schmitt-Ulms

Neurological disease mutations compromise a C-terminal ion pathway in the Na+/K+-ATPase p99

The Na+/K+-ATPase pumps three sodium ions out of and two potassium ions into the cell while splitting a single molecule of ATP. Here it is found that the carboxy terminus of the ATPase's α-subunit is also a key regulator of a previously unrecognized ion pathway. The data indicate that, in the ATPase's potassium-bound state, a cytoplasmic proton can enter and stabilize site III when empty. When potassium is released, the proton returns to the cytoplasm, thus permitting an overall asymmetric stoichiometry of the transported ions.

Hanne Poulsen, Himanshu Khandelia, J. Preben Morth, Maike Bublitz, Ole G. Mouritsen, Jan Egebjerg & Poul Nissen


See also: Editor's summary

Genome-wide measurement of RNA secondary structure in yeast p103

Experimental determination of the secondary structure of RNA molecules has usually been carried out on a case-by-case basis. Now, however, a deep-sequencing approach has been used to profile the secondary structure of 3,000 distinct messenger RNA transcripts from Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The results provide interesting hints about the role of secondary structure in protein translation, and set the stage for the examination of how such structures can change in response to environmental conditions.

Michael Kertesz, Yue Wan, Elad Mazor, John L. Rinn, Robert C. Nutter, Howard Y. Chang & Eran Segal


See also: Editor's summary

Mechanism of the ATP-dependent DNA end-resection machinery from Saccharomyces cerevisiae p108

When double-strand breaks occur in DNA, the broken ends must undergo processing to prepare them for repair. Here, and in an accompanying study, this processing reaction has now been replicated in vitro using yeast proteins. Processing minimally requires the activities of a helicase, a nuclease and a single-strand-binding protein, although the reaction is enhanced by the addition of three factors that help to target the core complex and stimulate the unwinding activity.

Hengyao Niu, Woo-Hyun Chung, Zhu Zhu, Youngho Kwon, Weixing Zhao, Peter Chi, Rohit Prakash, Changhyun Seong, Dongqing Liu, Lucy Lu, Grzegorz Ira & Patrick Sung


See also: Editor's summary

DNA end resection by Dna2–Sgs1–RPA and its stimulation by Top3–Rmi1 and Mre11–Rad50–Xrs2 p112

When double-strand breaks occur in DNA, the broken ends must undergo processing to prepare them for repair. Here, and in an accompanying study, this processing reaction has now been replicated in vitro using yeast proteins. Processing minimally requires the activities of a helicase, a nuclease and a single-strand-binding protein, although the reaction is enhanced by the addition of three factors that help to target the core complex and stimulate the unwinding activity.

Petr Cejka, Elda Cannavo, Piotr Polaczek, Taro Masuda-Sasa, Subhash Pokharel, Judith L. Campbell & Stephen C. Kowalczykowski


See also: Editor's summary



Careers Q&A

Fekrije Selimi p119

Fekrije Selimi, a neurobiologist at the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, received the Boehringer Ingelheim Federation of European Neurosciences award in July. She tells Nature how she embraces career challenges.

Virginia Gewin


In Brief

Canadian fellowships p119

Postdoctoral programme pays double the average annual stipend.


Postdocs form union p119

University of California students join forces and negotiate.


Influx of students to US p119

Admission offers to students from China rise by 16%.


Careers and Recruitment

The right fit p120

Choosing a postdoc doesn't just mean finding the right research programme. Jeffrey Perkel looks at the other factors to consider.

Jeffrey Perkel




Health tips for traveller p124

Your safety is our concern.

David W. Goldman


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