Volume 457 Issue 7230, 5 February 2009

After the doubling of the US National Institute of Health’s budget between 1998 and 2003, the agency entered a period of budget stagnation, and as a result competition for research project grants such as the R01 has now reached a new, more savage intensity. At the personal level loss of an R01 can mean a long, painful battle for a laboratory’s survival, as Meredith Wadman relates in two cautionary tales this week. [Cover illustration by David Parkins.]



  • Editorial |

    With a surfeit of graduates for the available funds, the US scientific endeavour is increasingly losing its lustre as a career choice. The country needs to take stock and plan more carefully for the future.

  • Editorial |

    The US authorities need to strengthen their position on the use of animals in experiments.

  • Editorial |

    Nicolas Sarkozy must engage with French researchers if his much-needed science reforms are to succeed.

Research Highlights

Journal Club


News in Brief


News in Brief



  • Column |

    The windfall for research in the proposed US stimulus package could backfire if not handled properly, warns David Goldston.

    • David Goldston



  • Commentary |

    Countries are not complying with the UN Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. It's time some changes were made, say Tony Pitcher, Daniela Kalikoski, Ganapathiraju Pramod and Katherine Short.

    • Tony Pitcher
    • , Daniela Kalikoski
    • , Ganapathiraju Pramod
    •  & Katherine Short


  • Essay |

    In the last in our series on being human, Melanie Moses gets to grips with humanity's greatest challenge: how to reduce the demand for energy in increasingly complex, networked and energy-dependent societies.

    • Melanie Moses

Books & Arts

  • Books & Arts |

    Today's research enterprise is often portrayed as impersonal and calculating, but a historical examination argues that scientists' civility to each other is what holds the venture together. Jerome Ravetz explains.

    • Jerome Ravetz
  • Books & Arts |

    From patriotism to martyrdom to surgery, Andrew Krasnow's American flag made from human skin reveals many layers of what it is to be human, finds Martin Kemp.

    • Martin Kemp

News & Views

  • News & Views |

    Organic semiconductors that operate through the conduction of positive charges are the first choice for use in printable electronic circuitry. A device that uses electrons instead has just joined the rankings.

    • Henning Sirringhaus
  • News & Views |

    Life is full of stress, and all life forms — from bacteria to humans — have evolved ways of sensing and responding to it. The latest findings shed light on how cells deal with stress.

    • Christopher V. Nicchitta
  • News & Views |

    The discovery in Colombia of a giant species of fossil snake is news in itself. But a wider, more controversial inference to be drawn is that tropical climate in the past was not buffered from global warming.

    • Matthew Huber
  • News & Views |

    The Lamb shift, a minute change in certain energy levels of quantum systems that was first measured in atomic hydrogen some 60 years ago, has now been observed in a solid-state superconducting system.

    • Douglas H. Bradshaw
    •  & Peter W. Milonni
  • News & Views |

    The enduring controversy about the appearance of animals in the evolutionary record takes a fresh twist with an analysis of molecular fossils that places the rise of the sponge lineage before 635 million years ago.

    • Jochen J. Brocks
    •  & Nicholas J. Butterfield
  • News & Views |

    Life depends on the flow of hydrogen cations in water, yet their dynamic behaviour when in complex with water molecules is unknown. The latest computer simulations cast light on the jiggling of these hydrated ions.

    • Sotiris S. Xantheas

News and Views Q&A

  • News and Views Q&A |

    Glia make up most of the cells in the brain, yet until recently they were believed to have only a passive, supporting role. It is now becoming increasingly clear that these cells have other functions: they make crucial contributions to the formation, operation and adaptation of neural circuitry.

    • Nicola J. Allen
    •  & Ben A. Barres


  • Article |

    A range of plastic semiconductors have been developed that have the combination of physical and chemical properties required to enable printable electronic circuitry, but these are almost exclusively 'hole transporting' materials. If an electron-transporting equivalent could be found, it could be combined with the existing classes of materials to produce yet more powerful devices. This paper reports the development of a such a material: the electron-transporting plastic semiconductor exhibits unprecedented device performance, and is compatible with a broad range of printing and processing technologies.

    • He Yan
    • , Zhihua Chen
    • , Yan Zheng
    • , Christopher Newman
    • , Jordan R. Quinn
    • , Florian Dötz
    • , Marcel Kastler
    •  & Antonio Facchetti
  • Article |

    Accumulation of misfolded proteins results in the activation of the unfolded protein response (UPR) in the endoplasmic reticulum. Ire1 is important in this pathway and functions as a kinase and endoribonuclease. This paper solves the crystal structure of Ire1 kinase and shows that it undergoes spontaneous assembly into a rod-shaped oligomer. This arrangement positions the kinase domains for trans-autophosphorylation, orders the RNase domains and creates an interaction site for mRNA substrate binding.

    • Alexei V. Korennykh
    • , Pascal F. Egea
    • , Andrei A. Korostelev
    • , Janet Finer-Moore
    • , Chao Zhang
    • , Kevan M. Shokat
    • , Robert M. Stroud
    •  & Peter Walter
  • Article |

    Retrovirus capsids are polymorphic, consisting of variable hexamer and pentamer aggregates that are thought to reflect fullerenes. This paper reports the cryo-electron microscopy analysis of RSV capsid protein visualizing pentamers, and confirms that retrovirus capsid has a fullerene-based architecture.

    • Giovanni Cardone
    • , John G. Purdy
    • , Naiqian Cheng
    • , Rebecca C. Craven
    •  & Alasdair C. Steven


  • Letter |

    The host galaxy of the quasar SDSS J114816.64?525150.3 has an infrared luminosity of 2.2 × 1013times that of the Sun. In the extremely luminous 'local' galaxy Arp 220, the burst of star formation is concentrated in the relatively small central region of <100 pc radius. This study reports that the star-forming gas of the host galaxy of J114816.64525150.3 is distributed over a radius of about 750 pc around the centre. The surface density of the star formation rate averaged over this region is comparable to the peak in Arp 220, although about two orders of magnitude larger in area.

    • Fabian Walter
    • , Dominik Riechers
    • , Pierre Cox
    • , Roberto Neri
    • , Chris Carilli
    • , Frank Bertoldi
    • , Axel Weiss
    •  & Roberto Maiolino
  • Letter |

    A more straightforward and general scheme to measure electron spin coherence based on Kerr rotation but modified so that a spin projection measurement can be done on an arbitrary set of basis states has been developed. This allows a direct tomographic measurement of electron spin precession in a semiconductor structure, and offers a universal tool for performing preparation and read-out of a spin quantum state in a solid.

    • Hideo Kosaka
    • , Takahiro Inagaki
    • , Yoshiaki Rikitake
    • , Hiroshi Imamura
    • , Yasuyoshi Mitsumori
    •  & Keiichi Edamatsu
  • Letter |

    High-performance, transparent and stretchable electrodes are in demand for the development of flexible electronic and optoelectronic applications. Graphene is a candidate as the basis material, because of its excellent optical, electrical and mechanical properties. This paper describes a technique to grow centimetre-scale films using chemical vapour deposition on nickel films and a method to pattern and transfer the films to arbitrary substrates. The electrical conductance and optical transparency are as high as those for microscale graphene films.

    • Keun Soo Kim
    • , Yue Zhao
    • , Houk Jang
    • , Sang Yoon Lee
    • , Jong Min Kim
    • , Kwang S. Kim
    • , Jong-Hyun Ahn
    • , Philip Kim
    • , Jae-Young Choi
    •  & Byung Hee Hong
  • Letter |

    This study investigates the temperature and salinity changes of surface water inflow to a region of deep-water formation throughout the Holocene. It is found that the inflow has undergone millennial-scale variations in temperature and salinity that correlate with previously reported periods of rapid climate change. The inflow becomes more saline during enhanced freshwater flux to the subpolar North Atlantic. Model studies predict a weakening of Atlantic meridional overturning circulation in response to enhanced Arctic freshwater fluxes, although the inflow can compensate on decadal timescales by becoming more saline.

    • David J. R. Thornalley
    • , Harry Elderfield
    •  & I. Nick McCave
  • Letter |

    The discovery of the world's largest snake has important implications for our understanding of the evolution of global climate. The snake, a relative of the boa constrictor, was 13 metres long and would have weighed more than a tonne. It lived in tropical South America around 60 million years ago. A snake this size would have required mean annual temperatures between 30–34 °C, higher than the tropics today.

    • Jason J. Head
    • , Jonathan I. Bloch
    • , Alexander K. Hastings
    • , Jason R. Bourque
    • , Edwin A. Cadena
    • , Fabiany A. Herrera
    • , P. David Polly
    •  & Carlos A. Jaramillo
  • Letter |

    This paper reports chemical fossils characteristic of sponges that date back at least 635 million years ago, constituting the earliest evidence yet found for animal life. The sponges lived during the Marinoan glaciation, the last of the immense ice ages at the end of the Neoproterozoic. No evidence has been found for animal life during the earlier Sturtian glaciation.

    • Gordon D. Love
    • , Emmanuelle Grosjean
    • , Charlotte Stalvies
    • , David A. Fike
    • , John P. Grotzinger
    • , Alexander S. Bradley
    • , Amy E. Kelly
    • , Maya Bhatia
    • , William Meredith
    • , Colin E. Snape
    • , Samuel A. Bowring
    • , Daniel J. Condon
    •  & Roger E. Summons
  • Letter |

    This study identifies a subset of natural killer (NK) cells in the gut that produce interleukin-22, rather than mediate target cell killing. It is suggested that these NK cells, referred to as NK-22 cells, may help constrain inflammation and contribute to the maintenance of mucosal integrity.

    • Marina Cella
    • , Anja Fuchs
    • , William Vermi
    • , Fabio Facchetti
    • , Karel Otero
    • , Jochen K. M. Lennerz
    • , Jason M. Doherty
    • , Jason C. Mills
    •  & Marco Colonna
  • Letter |

    Dietary restriction can extend lifespan in various species. In mammals, intermittent fasting can also extend lifespan and reduce the incidence of age-related disorders. It is shown that intermittent fasting can effectively extend the lifespan of Caenorhabditis elegans, and that the low molecular weight GTPase RHEB-1 has a central role in lifespan regulation.

    • Sakiko Honjoh
    • , Takuya Yamamoto
    • , Masaharu Uno
    •  & Eisuke Nishida
  • Letter |

    Chlamydia trachomatis is an intracellular pathogen that relies on host lipids for growth. It is shown that bacterial infection induces Golgi apparatus fragmentation through cleavage and activation of golgin-84, thereby providing a mechanism for lipid acquisition.

    • Dagmar Heuer
    • , Anette Rejman Lipinski
    • , Nikolaus Machuy
    • , Alexander Karlas
    • , Andrea Wehrens
    • , Frank Siedler
    • , Volker Brinkmann
    •  & Thomas F. Meyer
  • Letter |

    It is shown that after activation, Ire1 molecules cluster into discrete foci containing high order oligomers on the endoplasmic reticulum membrane. HAC1 mRNA is recruited to these foci by means of a sequence in its 3′ UTR and is processes at these sites. Disruption of either Ire1 clustering or HAC1 mRNA recruitment impairs UPR signalling. Hence HAC1 mRNA is delivered to a site where it is processed thus ensuring that it is only translated when UPR is on.

    • Tomás Aragón
    • , Eelco van Anken
    • , David Pincus
    • , Iana M. Serafimova
    • , Alexei V. Korennykh
    • , Claudia A. Rubio
    •  & Peter Walter
  • Letter |

    Substance P is a neuropeptide that evokes slow excitation after activation of its cognate G-protein-coupled receptor. This study investigates the downstream pathway and shows that it depends on Src family kinases, rather than G-protein signalling.

    • Boxun Lu
    • , Yanhua Su
    • , Sudipto Das
    • , Haikun Wang
    • , Yan Wang
    • , Jin Liu
    •  & Dejian Ren
  • Letter |

    DNA strand exchange results in a physical linkage between two homologous DNAs. The RecA/RAD51 family of ATPases mediates strand exchange by forming a long filament on the DNA. This paper uses a single-molecule approach to elucidate how the filament is disassembled once the strands are exchanged, and how this process relates to the energy released by nucleotide hydrolysis.

    • Joost van Mameren
    • , Mauro Modesti
    • , Roland Kanaar
    • , Claire Wyman
    • , Erwin J. G. Peterman
    •  & Gijs J. L. Wuite


  • Prospects |

    Could the financial downturn be a window of opportunity for scientists?

    • Gene Russo

Postdocs and Students

  • Postdocs and Students |

    Postdoc salaries vary widely at every level, from countries down to individual teams.

    • Paul Smaglik


Scientists and Societies

  • Scientists and Societies |

    Study warns that current visa and export policies hamper growth in science jobs.

    • Karen Kaplan

Career View


  • Futures |

    The wheels of justice.

    • John Gilbey
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