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Top 50 Life and Biological Sciences Articles

We are pleased to share with you the 50 most read Nature Communications articles* in life and biological sciences published in 2019. Featuring authors from around the world, these papers highlight valuable research from an international community.

Browse all Top 50 subject area collections here.

*Based on data from Google Analytics, covering January-December 2019 (data has been normalised to account for articles published later in the year)

1-25

Household income is used as a marker of socioeconomic position, a trait that is associated with better physical and mental health. Here, Hill et al. report a genome-wide association study for household income in the UK and explore its relationship with intelligence in post-GWAS analyses including Mendelian randomization.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Birch pitch is thought to have been used in prehistoric times as hafting material or antiseptic and tooth imprints suggest that it was chewed. Here, the authors report a 5,700 year-old piece of chewed birch pitch from Denmark from which they successfully recovered a complete ancient human genome and oral microbiome DNA.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Remains of several hundred humans are scattered around Roopkund Lake, situated over 5,000 meters above sea level in the Himalayan Mountains. Here the authors analyze genome-wide data from 38 skeletons and find 3 clusters with different ancestries and dates, showing the people were desposited in multiple catastrophic events.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Here, the authors show that sequential treatment with long-acting slow-effective release ART and AAV9- based delivery of CRISPR-Cas9 results in undetectable levels of virus and integrated DNA in a subset of humanized HIV-1 infected mice. This proof-of-concept study suggests that HIV-1 elimination is possible.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Men and women differ in their risk of developing coronary artery disease, in part due to differences in their levels of sex hormones. Here, AlSiraj et al. show that the XX sex genotype regulates lipid metabolism and promotes atherosclerosis independently of sex hormones in mice.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Little is known about the long-term effects of early-career setback. Here, the authors compare junior scientists who were awarded a NIH grant to those with similar track records, who were not, and find that individuals with the early setback systematically performed better in the longer term.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

How do liberals and conservatives differ in their expression of compassion and moral concern? The authors show that conservatives tend to express concern toward smaller, more well-defined, and less permeable social circles, while liberals express concern toward larger, less well-defined, and more permeable social circles.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Numerous feathered dinosaurs and early birds have been discovered from the Jurassic and Cretaceous, but the early evolution of feather-feeding insects is not clear. Here, Gao et al. describe a new family of ectoparasitic insects from 10 specimens found associated with feathers in mid-Cretaceous amber.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Healthy coral reefs have an acoustic signature known to be attractive to coral and fish larvae during settlement. Here the authors use playback experiments in the field to show that healthy reef sounds can increase recruitment of juvenile fishes to degraded coral reef habitat, suggesting that acoustic playback could be used as a reef management strategy.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

From observational studies, alcohol consumption behaviours are known to be correlated in spouses. Here, Howe et al. use partners’ genotypic information in a Mendelian randomization framework and show that a SNP in the ADH1B gene associates with partner’s alcohol consumption, suggesting that alcohol consumption affects mate choice.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

While the cellular recycling process autophagy has been linked to aging, the impact of selective autophagy on lifespan remains unclear. Here Kumsta et al. show that the autophagy receptor p62/SQSTM1 is required for hormetic benefits and p62/SQSTM1 overexpression is sufficient to extend C. elegans lifespan and improve proteostasis.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Recent studies have suggested that hybridization can facilitate adaptive radiations. Here, the authors show that opportunity for hybridization differentiates Lake Mweru, where cichlids radiated, and Lake Bangweulu, where cichlids did not radiate despite ecological opportunity in both lakes.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Gut microbiota alterations, including enrichment of flagellated bacteria, are associated with metabolic syndrome and chronic inflammatory diseases. Here, Tran et al. show, in mice, that elicitation of mucosal anti-flagellin antibodies protects against experimental colitis and ameliorates diet-induced obesity.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

26-50

Although it is known that microglia respond to injury and systemic disease in the brain, it is unclear if they modulate blood–brain barrier (BBB) integrity, which is critical for regulating neuroinflammatory responses. Here authors demonstrate that microglia respond to inflammation by migrating towards and accumulating around cerebral vessels, where they initially maintain BBB integrity via expression of the tight-junction protein Claudin-5 before switching, during sustained inflammation, to phagocytically remove astrocytic end-feet resulting in impaired BBB function

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Organoid cultures have been developed from multiple tissues, opening new possibilities for regenerative medicine. Here the authors demonstrate the derivation of GMP-compliant hydrogels from decellularized porcine small intestine which support formation and growth of human gastric, liver, pancreatic and small intestinal organoids.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Exposure to air pollution during pregnancy has been associated with impaired birth outcomes. Here, Bové et al. report evidence of black carbon particle deposition on the fetal side of human placentae, including at early stages of pregnancy, suggesting air pollution could affect birth outcome through direct effects on the fetus.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

RNA-interacting proteome can be identified by RNA affinity purification followed by mass spectrometry. Here the authors developed a different RNA-centric technology that combines high-throughput immunoprecipitation of RNA binding proteins and luciferase-based detection of their interaction with the RNA.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

The studies showing health benefits of flavonoids and their impact on cancer mortality are incomplete. Here, the authors perform a prospective cohort study in Danish participants and demonstrate an inverse association between regular flavonoid intake and both cardiovascular and cancer related mortality.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

People are able to mentally time travel to distant memories and reflect on the consequences of those past events. Here, the authors show how a mechanism that connects learning from delayed rewards with memory retrieval can enable AI agents to discover links between past events to help decide better courses of action in the future.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

There has been a rapid rise in single cell RNA-seq methods and associated pipelines. Here the authors use simulated data to systematically evaluate the performance of 3000 possible pipelines to derive recommendations for data processing and analysis of different types of scRNA-seq experiments.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Alzheimer’s disease is characterised by the deposition of Aβ amyloid fibrils and tau protein neurofibrillary tangles. Here the authors use cryo-EM to structurally characterise brain derived Aβ amyloid fibrils and find that they are polymorphic and right-hand twisted, which differs from in vitro generated Aβ fibrils.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Existing methods to detect ethylene in plant tissue typically require gas chromatography or use ethylene-dependent gene expression as a proxy. Here Vong et al. show that an artificial metalloenzyme-based ethylene probe can be used to detect ethylene in plants with improved spatiotemporal resolution.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Cancer therapy using oncolytic virus has shown pre-clinical and clinical efficacy. Here, the authors report ExtraCRAd, an oncolytic virus cloaked with tumour cell membrane and report its therapeutic effects in vitro and in vivo in multiple mouse tumour models.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Tradeoffs are central to life history theory and evolutionary biology, yet almost nothing is known about their mechanistic basis. Here the authors characterize one such mechanism and find a transposable element insertion is associated with the switch between alternative life history strategies.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Immune cells are shaped by the tissue environment, yet the states of healthy human T cells are mainly studied in the blood. Here, the authors perform single cell RNA-seq of T cells from tissues and blood of healthy donors and show its utility as a reference map for comparison of human T cell states in disease.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Stroke risk is influenced by genetic and lifestyle factors and previously a genomic risk score (GRS) for stroke was proposed, albeit with limited predictive power. Here, Abraham et al. develop a metaGRS that is composed of several stroke-related GRSs and demonstrate improved predictive power compared with individual GRS or classic risk factors.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle mass and strength associated with physical disability during ageing. Here, the authors analyse muscle biopsies from 119 patients with sarcopenia and age-matched controls of different ethnic groups and find transcriptional signatures indicating mitochondrial dysfunction, associated with reduced mitochondria numbers and lower NAD+ levels in older individuals with sarcopenia.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications

Single strand breaks represent the most common form of DNA damage yet no methods to map them in a genome-wide fashion at single nucleotide resolution exist. Here the authors develop such a method and apply to uncover patterns of single-strand DNA “breakome” in different biological conditions.

Article | Open Access | | Nature Communications