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  • Neurotransmitters have key roles in regulating the nervous system. To better understand these processes, researchers need tools to analyse neurotransmitter signalling in the organs of living animals. We have invented NeuroString, a soft sensor for monoamine neurotransmitters, which can be fitted to the brain or gut of animals without disturbing the organ’s natural functions.

    Research Briefing
  • Various theories have tried to explain the frequency and consistency of ‘hotspot’ mutations in many tumour-driving genes across different cancers. A model of the fitness benefit of these mutations shows that fundamental trade-offs occur between a tumour’s growth and its visibility to the immune system, with potential therapeutic implications.

    Research Briefing
  • Life on Earth depends on the ability of cells to duplicate their genetic material, encoded in DNA molecules, and pass this information on to the next generation. Elucidation of the molecular mechanism underlying the priming step of this copying process provides insights into how DNA replication begins.

    Research Briefing
  • A long-standing puzzle in molecular biology is how the enzyme USP14 is activated by the proteasome and regulates protein degradation. Time-resolved cryo-electron microscopy combined with deep learning reveals this mechanism in unprecedented detail.

    Research Briefing
  • Policies that aim to reduce poverty often prioritize economic interventions. We show that a programme that addresses not only financial but also psychological and social barriers is effective at helping extremely poor households in Niger. Our results point to a cost-effective approach for alleviating extreme poverty that can be scaled up using government systems.

    Research Briefing
  • The pathogen responsible for the continuing seventh cholera pandemic typically lacks self-replicating plasmids. Genetics, cell biology and bioinformatics analyses have identified two DNA-defence systems that protect bacterial populations from plasmids and bacteriophages, and that might have shaped the evolution of modern Vibrio cholerae.

    Research Briefing
  • The antibiotic fidaxomicin acts selectively on the bacterium Clostridioides difficile, a main cause of intestinal infections. Structural and biochemical experiments reveal a region in the enzyme RNA polymerase that can sensitize the pathogen to fidaxomicin, helping to explain the drug’s selective clinical activity.

    Research Briefing
  • For the first time, audible sounds have been recorded at the surface of Mars by two microphones aboard NASA’s Perseverance rover. Recordings across frequencies of 20 hertz to 20 kilohertz and above reveal the dynamics of the planet’s atmosphere and the distinctive sound-propagation properties of an atmosphere dominated by carbon dioxide.

    Research Briefing
  • Despite decades of research, the plumbing system that links deep thermal fluids to the well-known surface features of Yellowstone National Park remains mostly unexplored. The first views of this system are revealed through the gathering of airborne geophysical data, which are used to generate electrical resistivity and magnetic susceptibility models.

    Research Briefing
  • Exotic quantum states called Floquet–Andreev states have been generated by applying microwave light to superconducting devices known as Josephson junctions made of graphene. The spectral properties of these states suggest that they are long-lived and could therefore be used for practical electronics applications.

    Research Briefing
  • Roughly half of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions remain in the atmosphere, but whether this airborne fraction is changing has been unclear, partly because the emissions from deforestation are uncertain. We used proxy data on deforestation emissions over the past six decades to show that the airborne fraction has decreased.

    Research Briefing
  • Alzheimer’s disease is a disabling condition that disproportionately occurs after menopause. A study in mice shows that increased levels of follicle-stimulating hormone lead to characteristics of the disease — and that blocking action of this hormone prevents those features from developing.

    Research Briefing
  • Proteins adopt unstable, high-energy states that exist for fractions of a second but can have key biological roles. A new method of determining high-resolution structures of such states using a form of nuclear magnetic resonance reveals how small changes in protein shape are essential to their function.

    Research Briefing
  • Archaeologists have various hypotheses for how populations changed in Africa about 50,000 years ago, during the Later Stone Age transition. Now, the earliest available ancient-DNA sequences from sub-Saharan Africa reveal a complex Late Pleistocene population structure, pointing to large shifts in human movement and in patterns of social interaction.

    Research Briefing
  • Climate policies and greenhouse-gas emissions for the twenty-first century are modelled as the result of coupled feedback effects in the social, political and energy systems. Our models suggest that climate policies will increase in ambition and associated emissions reductions will probably accelerate, resulting in warming of 2 °C to 3 °C above 1880–1910 levels by 2100.

    Research Briefing
  • Night-time is usually a crucial period when fires lose energy, limiting their size and severity, and helping people to control their spread. But rapid night-time warming over the past several decades, combined with global increases in fire intensity at night, suggest that the naturally occurring brakes on fires are weakening.

    Research Briefing
  • The ultralow friction of water on extremely smooth carbon surfaces has been puzzling researchers for more than a decade. A new theory of the interface between a solid and a liquid shows that this phenomenon might be governed by quantum effects.

    Research Briefing
  • A combination of standard and new observational techniques has been used to detect the magnetic field of a molecular cloud — a region of the interstellar medium that collapses during star formation. The results suggest that such clouds are primed for collapse earlier than was typically assumed.

    Research Briefing