Volume 459 Issue 7250, 25 June 2009

In ‘Too close for comfort’, Boyce Rensberger reflects on the changing relationship between science and the media, most notably the transition of the role of science reporter. Once cheerleaders for their field, they are now sceptical observers, more like their news-reporter colleagues. This is one of a series of pieces in this week’s issue commissioned in the run-up to the 6th World Conference on Science Journalism. Cover graphic: Jim Field.



  • Editorial |

    A fledgling effort in China will show people what is happening on the environmental front.

  • Editorial |

    Strong advocacy is needed if progress is to be made against tuberculosis.

Research Highlights

Journal Club


News in Brief


  • News Feature |

    The iPlant programme was designed to give plant scientists a new information infrastructure. But first they had to decide what they wanted, finds Heidi Ledford.

    • Heidi Ledford
  • News Feature |

    Blogs and Twitter are opening up meetings to those not actually there. Does that mean too much access to science in the raw, asks Geoff Brumfiel.

    • Geoff Brumfiel



  • Essay |

    In the first of three essays, Toby Murcott argues that the process of science needs to be opened up if journalists are to provide proper critique.

    • Toby Murcott
  • Essay |

    In the second of three essays, Boyce Rensberger tracks the progression of scientific correspondents from cheerleaders to watchdogs.

    • Boyce Rensberger
  • Essay |

    As research increases in Arab countries, the media is stepping up to report on it. In the third of three essays, Nadia El-Awady says the local journalism has much room for improvement.

    • Nadia El-Awady

Books and Arts

  • Books & Arts |

    The tale of Curtis Ebbesmeyer's use of beachcombing to reveal patterns of ocean circulation conveys the romance of early marine science, but his lessons for today are serious, finds Simon Boxall.

    • Simon Boxall
  • Books & Arts |

    The Washington Post's national environmental reporter Juliet Eilperin and its executive editor Marcus Brauchli discuss the future of science coverage in their newspaper.

    • Juliet Eilperin
    •  & Marcus Brauchli

News & Views

  • News & Views |

    The functions of proteins are often crucially dependent on how they move, but measuring the absolute magnitudes of protein motions hasn't been possible. A spectroscopic method looks set to change all that.

    • Joel R. Tolman
  • News & Views |

    An ingenious experiment that involves dropping a costly, high-speed video camera from a height of several metres reveals how free-falling streams of granular matter, such as sand, break up into grain clusters.

    • Detlef Lohse
    •  & Devaraj van der Meer
  • News & Views |

    Intracellular membrane fusion has been mimicked in vitro using a mix of 17 purified proteins and lipid bilayers. This technical tour de force allows the study of how cells orchestrate and perform such fusion events.

    • Ruth N. Collins
    •  & Joshua Zimmerberg
  • News & Views |

    The observation that water plumes erupt from cracks on Saturn's moon Enceladus has fired speculation about a possible subsurface ocean. The latest searches for sodium salts point to the existence of such an ocean.

    • John Spencer
  • News & Views |

    The first heartbeat is an important moment in an embryo's life. The biomechanical forces created by pulsatile flow promote the formation of haematopoietic stem cells that equip the body with its mature blood cells.

    • Luc Pardanaud
    •  & Anne Eichmann
  • News & Views |

    Nuclei with a 'magic' number of both protons and neutrons, dubbed doubly magic, are particularly stable. The oxygen isotope 24O has been found to be one such nucleus — yet it lies just at the limit of stability.

    • Robert V. F. Janssens



  • Article |

    Although the soma ages during life, the germ line of multicellular organisms does not. Here it is shown that Caenorhabditis elegans mutants with increased longevity turn on gene expression programs in somatic tissue that are normally limited to the germ line; this may be the secret behind the increased health and lifespan of these mutant worms.

    • Sean P. Curran
    • , Xiaoyun Wu
    • , Christian G. Riedel
    •  & Gary Ruvkun
  • Article |

    A genome-wide screen has identified a frequent region of amplification on chromosome 5p13 in a number of cancer types. Functional studies now identify a protein localized to the Golgi apparatus, GOLPH3, as a novel oncogene affected by this amplification which can transform cells in vitro and lead to tumour formation in vivo. GOLPH3 overexpression activates the mTOR signalling pathway and renders cancer cells sensitive to the drug rapamycin.

    • Kenneth L. Scott
    • , Omar Kabbarah
    • , Mei-Chih Liang
    • , Elena Ivanova
    • , Valsamo Anagnostou
    • , Joyce Wu
    • , Sabin Dhakal
    • , Min Wu
    • , Shujuan Chen
    • , Tamar Feinberg
    • , Joseph Huang
    • , Abdel Saci
    • , Hans R. Widlund
    • , David E. Fisher
    • , Yonghong Xiao
    • , David L. Rimm
    • , Alexei Protopopov
    • , Kwok-Kin Wong
    •  & Lynda Chin
  • Article |

    Eukaryotic cells contain membrane-bound organelles that can undergo fusion with each other in a regulated manner; this is thought to be mediated by SNAREs (soluble N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive factor attachment protein receptors). Here, the complete reconstitution of endosome fusion using Rab5 and SNARE proteins highlights the functional relationship between these two machineries.

    • Takeshi Ohya
    • , Marta Miaczynska
    • , Ünal Coskun
    • , Barbara Lommer
    • , Anja Runge
    • , David Drechsel
    • , Yannis Kalaidzidis
    •  & Marino Zerial


  • Letter |

    Saturn's moon Enceladus emits plumes of water vapour and ice particles from fractures near its south pole, raising the possibility of a subsurface ocean. Minor organic or siliceous components, identified in many ice grains, could be evidence of interaction between Enceladus' rocky core and liquid water; however it has been unclear whether the water is still present today or if it has frozen. Now, the identification of a population of E-ring grains that are rich in sodium salts suggests that the plumes originate from liquid water.

    • F. Postberg
    • , S. Kempf
    • , J. Schmidt
    • , N. Brilliantov
    • , A. Beinsen
    • , B. Abel
    • , U. Buck
    •  & R. Srama
  • Letter |

    The discovery of water vapour and ice particles erupting from Saturn's moon Enceladus fuelled speculation that an internal ocean was the source. The presence of sodium chloride is expected in a long-lived ocean in contact with a rocky core; however, a ground-based spectroscopic search for atomic sodium near Enceladus now places an upper limit on the mixing ratio in the vapour plumes orders of magnitude below expected ocean salinity. These observations are consistent with a variety of alternative eruption sources including a deep ocean, a freshwater reservoir, or ice.

    • Nicholas M. Schneider
    • , Matthew H. Burger
    • , Emily L. Schaller
    • , Michael E. Brown
    • , Robert E. Johnson
    • , Jeffrey S. Kargel
    • , Michele K. Dougherty
    •  & Nicholas A. Achilleos
  • Letter |

    A single electron spin trapped inside a semiconductor quantum dot forms the foundation for many proposed quantum logic devices, but the coherence is degraded by interactions with the lattice nuclear spins. Here, a means of suppressing the nuclear fluctuations is reported, enabling the electron spin coherence to be preserved much longer.

    • Xiaodong Xu
    • , Wang Yao
    • , Bo Sun
    • , Duncan G. Steel
    • , Allan S. Bracker
    • , Daniel Gammon
    •  & L. J. Sham
  • Letter |

    Freely falling granular streams break up into characteristic droplet patterns similar to liquid flows, but the clustering mechanism remains unresolved. Here, imaging and microscopy data reveal that tiny cohesive forces are responsible, corresponding to a granular surface tension some 100,000 times weaker than in ordinary liquids.

    • John R. Royer
    • , Daniel J. Evans
    • , Loreto Oyarte
    • , Qiti Guo
    • , Eliot Kapit
    • , Matthias E. Möbius
    • , Scott R. Waitukaitis
    •  & Heinrich M. Jaeger
  • Letter |

    It has been suggested that the delivery of dust-borne iron to the glacial ocean could have increased primary productivity and enhanced deep-sea carbon export in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific (EEP), lowering atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations during glacial periods. But lower opal accumulation rates cast doubts on the importance of the EEP for glacial carbon dioxide drawdown. A silicon isotope record now provides support for an invigorated biological pump in this region during the last glacial period that could have contributed to glacial carbon dioxide drawdown.

    • L. E. Pichevin
    • , B. C. Reynolds
    • , R. S. Ganeshram
    • , I. Cacho
    • , L. Pena
    • , K. Keefe
    •  & R. M. Ellam
  • Letter |

    The isotope 146Sm decays to 142Nd with a half-life of 103 million years, and therefore variations in the 142Nd/144Nd values of rocks resulting from Sm–Nd fractionation provide a sensitive monitor of the main silicate differentiation events that took place in early Earth. The measurement of low 142Nd/144Nd ratios in approximately 1.48 billion-year-old rocks from the Khariar complex in southeastern India now indicates that enriched Hadean reservoirs may be hidden within the roots of old cratons.

    • Dewashish Upadhyay
    • , Erik E. Scherer
    •  & Klaus Mezger
  • Letter | | open

    Evolutionary analysis of swine-origin H1N1 influenza A virus provides evidence that it was derived from several viruses circulating in swine and that it possesses genes from avian, swine and human origin. Furthermore, transmission to humans may have occurred several months before recognition of the current outbreak.

    • Gavin J. D. Smith
    • , Dhanasekaran Vijaykrishna
    • , Justin Bahl
    • , Samantha J. Lycett
    • , Michael Worobey
    • , Oliver G. Pybus
    • , Siu Kit Ma
    • , Chung Lam Cheung
    • , Jayna Raghwani
    • , Samir Bhatt
    • , J. S. Malik Peiris
    • , Yi Guan
    •  & Andrew Rambaut
  • Letter |

    Individuals with Down's syndrome are known to have a lower rate of certain solid cancers. Now, a mouse model with one extra copy of Dscr1, a gene located on chromosome 21, is shown to display decreased tumour growth; this is thought to be via suppression of angiogenesis mediated by decreasing the activity of the calcineurin pathway.

    • Kwan-Hyuck Baek
    • , Alexander Zaslavsky
    • , Ryan C. Lynch
    • , Carmella Britt
    • , Yoshiaki Okada
    • , Richard J. Siarey
    • , M. William Lensch
    • , In-Hyun Park
    • , Sam S. Yoon
    • , Takashi Minami
    • , Julie R. Korenberg
    • , Judah Folkman
    • , George Q. Daley
    • , William C. Aird
    • , Zygmunt Galdzicki
    •  & Sandra Ryeom
  • Letter |

    Following initiation of the heartbeat in vertebrate embryos, cells lining the aorta, the placental vessels, and the umbilical and vitelline arteries begin to form haematopoietic cells. Here it is shown that biochemical forces imposed on the vascular wall at this developmental stage strongly influence development of early blood cells and that abrogation of nitric oxide—a mediator of shear-stress-induced signalling—compromises haematopoietic potential in vitro and in vivo.

    • Luigi Adamo
    • , Olaia Naveiras
    • , Pamela L. Wenzel
    • , Shannon McKinney-Freeman
    • , Peter J. Mack
    • , Jorge Gracia-Sancho
    • , Astrid Suchy-Dicey
    • , Momoko Yoshimoto
    • , M. William Lensch
    • , Mervin C. Yoder
    • , Guillermo García-Cardeña
    •  & George Q. Daley
  • Letter |

    The plant signalling molecule auxin is a key regulator of growth and development; PIN efflux carriers are asymmetrically localized on the plasma membrane and mediate directional auxin transport between cells. Here, an atypical member of the PIN family, PIN5 in Arabidopsis thaliana, is characterized, revealing that it is does not mediate intercellular transport of auxin, but is instead localized to the endoplasmic reticulum, where it presumably regulates intracellular levels of auxin.

    • Jozef Mravec
    • , Petr Skůpa
    • , Aurélien Bailly
    • , Klára Hoyerová
    • , Pavel Křeček
    • , Agnieszka Bielach
    • , Jan Petrášek
    • , Jing Zhang
    • , Vassilena Gaykova
    • , York-Dieter Stierhof
    • , Petre I. Dobrev
    • , Kateřina Schwarzerová
    • , Jakub Rolčík
    • , Daniela Seifertová
    • , Christian Luschnig
    • , Eva Benková
    • , Eva Zažímalová
    • , Markus Geisler
    •  & Jiří Friml
  • Letter |

    Polarization of cells is critical for the development of multicellular organisms and defects in this process contribute to several diseases. Here, a novel protein pathway is identified that is important for polarity formation during early embryogenesis in Drosophila, and appears to be conserved in mammalian cells.

    • Patrick Laprise
    • , Kimberly M. Lau
    • , Kathryn P. Harris
    • , Nancy F. Silva-Gagliardi
    • , Sarah M. Paul
    • , Slobodan Beronja
    • , Greg J. Beitel
    • , C. Jane McGlade
    •  & Ulrich Tepass
  • Letter |

    AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) senses cellular energy status to maintain a balance between ATP production and consumption, and has important roles in regulating cell growth and proliferation. Here, crystal structures of kinase and autoinhibitory domains from yeast AMPK subunits, together with biochemical data, reveal a mechanism for AMPK autoinhibition and suggest a model for allosteric activation by AMP.

    • Lei Chen
    • , Zhi-Hao Jiao
    • , Li-Sha Zheng
    • , Yuan-Yuan Zhang
    • , Shu-Tao Xie
    • , Zhi-Xin Wang
    •  & Jia-Wei Wu
  • Letter |

    High transcription rates in eukaryotic cells are associated with genomic instability, resulting in increased numbers of mutational events. In yeast, highly transcribed DNA is now shown to accumulate apurinic/apyrimidinic sites due to the removal of uracil, suggesting that the fidelity of DNA synthesis can be affected by the level of transcription.

    • Nayun Kim
    •  & Sue Jinks-Robertson



  • Careers Q&A |

    Jeffrey Sturchio will continue to build bridges to health in his new role.

    • Jeffrey Sturchio
  • Career Brief |

    Biotechs and universities rank highly for best places to work in information technology.

  • Career Brief |

    More UK women are accepted to university than men, and fewer drop out.



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