Next Week's News

    Your chance to tell us what you want to read, and why.

    Welcome to Next Week's News. The article below gives brief descriptions of three papers that have caught our interest here at Nature. Next week, one of our reporters will dig into one of these papers to report in more detail about the way the work was done, what the implications are, and more. The question is: which of these possibilities would you like us to investigate further? Tell us in the comments field.

    Last week you chose to hear more about a small compound containing two xenon atoms; that article is coming soon.

    This week: can climate stop tectonic plates from moving, does insulin metabolism affect human lifespan, and how do cells choose the right number of ribosomes for their circumstances?

    One: Hot from the top down

    It's fairly obvious that a planet’s interior can affect its external climate through the greenhouse gases spewed out of volcanoes. What's less obvious is that the climate can have effects on a planet’s deep interior. Calculations published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters by Adrian Lenardic of Rice University in Houston, Texas, and his colleagues show how.

    The team worked out that temperature increases at a planet’s surface can penetrate deep into the planet, rendering its mantle more fluid and eventually shutting down the movement of tectonic plates. For a planet such as Earth, a sustained rise of 100 kelvin over a 10-million to 100-million-year timescale could be enough to halt plate tectonics. The authors suggest that Venus’s blanket of carbon dioxide might help to explain why its crust appears to be made up of a single, static plate.

    Two: Sweet success

    Insulin metabolism has been linked to lifespan in some types of lab animal. Now it seems that different versions of the gene that encodes insulin-degrading enzyme (IDE) are associated with how long men live.

    Jonathan Prince of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and his colleagues report in Human Molecular Genetics that human males with one copy of a certain version of IDE make higher than usual amounts of IDE RNA, and produce more insulin when they fast. These men also tended to die younger than those carrying two copies of the same IDE variant. The effect was insignificant in women.

    Three: Bean counting

    A newly identified protein complex allows cells to vary the rate at which they make ribosomes — the factories that translate RNA into protein — in response to how much energy is available. Ribosome production is the most energetically expensive thing that eukaryotic cells do, so the complex's role is clearly important.

    A team led by Junn Yanagisawa of the University of Tsukuba in Japan isolated a protein complex called NoSC that controls transcription of rRNA, the main component of ribosomes, in response to a metabolic ratio that reveals the amount of available energy in the cell. NoSC contains a previously uncharacterized protein, named nucleomethylin, which binds to one of the histone proteins with which DNA is packaged. It also contains SIRT1, a protein made in response to caloric restriction, and SUV39H1, which can alter gene expression.

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    Next Week's News. Nature (2008).

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