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Volume 461 Issue 7266, 15 October 2009

Asymmetric division of radial glial progenitors accounts for nearly all neurogenesis in the developing mammalian neocortex. A study of the mouse neocortex shows that this process is regulated by asymmetric inheritance of centrosomes, the main microtubule organizing centres in animal cells, which are intrinsically asymmetrical, made up of older (red in the graphic) and younger (yellow) centrioles. Daughter cells receiving the older of the two centrioles in the main remain in the ventricular zone of the brain’s neocortex to replenish the progenitor pool, while daughter cells receiving the new, duplicated centriole (shown green) tend to migrate into the cortex to differentiate into neurons. Cover graphic: Bokelman & Probst/Xavier Studio.



  • Editorial |

    If clinical psychology in the United States wants to remain viable and relevant in today's health systems, it needs to publicly embrace science.

  • Editorial |

    Without forward planning, the billions of dollars in the US stimulus package will go to long-term waste.

  • Editorial |

    What to do when you are interviewed for an unscientific documentary.

Research Highlights

Journal Club


News Feature

  • News Feature |

    Researchers have engineered more than 30 strains of 'smart mice', revealing possible ways to boost human brains. But, as Jonah Lehrer finds, cognitive enhancement may come at a cost.

    • Jonah Lehrer
  • News Feature |

    Neurosurgeons have unparalleled access to the human brain. Now they are teaming up with basic researchers to work out what makes it unique, finds Alison Abbott.

    • Alison Abbott
  • News Feature |

    Geological faults are not behaving as scientists once expected. Glennda Chui reports on efforts to forge a new understanding of quake behaviour.

    • Glennda Chui



  • Opinion |

    More money for science is always good. Or is it? Six experts tell Nature what concerns them most about the US stimulus spending and suggest ways to ensure that it benefits research and society in the long term.

  • Opinion |

    The 'Polymath Project' proved that many minds can work together to solve difficult mathematical problems. Timothy Gowers and Michael Nielsen reflect on the lessons learned for open-source science.

    • Timothy Gowers
    • Michael Nielsen
  • Opinion |

    Google Wave is the kind of open-source online collaboration tool that should drive scientists to wire their research and publications into an interactive data web, says Cameron Neylon.

    • Cameron Neylon

Books & Arts

  • Books & Arts |

    Neuroscientists should worry less about testing abstract qualities such as beauty, and work with art historians towards a concrete understanding of types of viewing, argues Martin Kemp.

    • Martin Kemp
  • Books & Arts |

    A classic neurology text written 100 years ago still provides the core principles for linking the anatomy of the cerebral cortex to its functions today, explains Jacopo Annese.

    • Jacopo Annese
  • Books & Arts |

    After completing simultaneous doctorates in physics and chemistry, Harry Kloor became a space-exploration consultant and film-maker. As his three-dimensional animated feature Quantum Quest — made with real footage from the Cassini spacecraft — is previewed in New York, Kloor shares his thoughts on manned space flight and the use of prizes to motivate adventurous science.

    • Jascha Hoffman

News & Views

  • News & Views |

    Male and female fruitflies use pheromones to flaunt their species identity and gender as they court amid other fruitfly species. The grammar of this chemical language is surprisingly sophisticated.

    • Nicolas Gompel
    • Benjamin Prud'homme
  • News & Views |

    Determining the magnetic charge of monopoles in a crystalline host seemed a mountain too high for physicists to climb. An experiment based on Wien's theory of electrolytes has now measured its value.

    • Shivaji Sondhi
  • News & Views |

    Neurons known as place cells encode spatial information that is needed to guide an animal's movement. Nearly 40 years after these cells were discovered, neuroscience gets a look at their internal dynamics.

    • Douglas Nitz
  • News & Views |

    Many of the best methods available for monitoring biological binding events can't be used in a diverse range of clinical samples. An ultrasensitive assay based on magnetic signals overcomes this problem.

    • Ilia Fishbein
    • Robert J. Levy
  • News & Views |

    When a stem cell divides, one sister cell differentiates and the other retains its stem-cell identity. Differences in the age of an organelle — the centriole — inherited at cell division may determine these differing fates.

    • Tim Stearns
  • News & Views |

    Quasicrystals have a host of unusual physical properties. These intermediates between amorphous solids and regular crystalline materials can now be made to self-assemble from nanoparticles.

    • Alfons van Blaaderen

News and Views Q&A

  • News and Views Q&A |

    The neurodegenerative disorder Alzheimer's disease is becoming more prevalent in ageing populations worldwide. The identification of effective treatments will require a better understanding of the physiological mechanisms involved, and innovative approaches to drug development and evaluation.

    • Lennart Mucke


Review Article


  • Article |

    As we navigate, spatial information is encoded in both rate and temporal codes by place cells located in the hippocampus. To investigate the origin of these codes, the intracellular dynamics of place cells are now measured in vivo in awake mice navigating a virtual-reality environment. Three subthreshold signatures of place fields are identified that underlie the primary features of place-cell rate and temporal codes.

    • Christopher D. Harvey
    • Forrest Collman
    • David W. Tank
  • Article |

    Radial glia progenitors divide asymmetrically in the ventricular zone (VZ) of the developing neocortex to produce both self-renewing radial glia and differentiating cells. The latter will then leave the VZ whereas the renewing radial glia progenitors stay to divide further, but the mechanisms underlying these differences in behaviour are unclear. Asymmetric inheritance of centrosomes is now shown to regulate the differential behaviour of renewing progenitors in the embryonic mouse neocortex.

    • Xiaoqun Wang
    • Jin-Wu Tsai
    • Song-Hai Shi


  • Letter |

    Magnetic counterparts to electric charges and currents have proved elusive. However, it was recently proposed that magnetic charges can exist in a certain type of material termed 'spin ice'. Here, experimental measurements prove that magnetic charges can indeed exist in such a material and have measurable currents, thus establishing an instance of perfect symmetry between electricity and magnetism.

    • S. T. Bramwell
    • S. R. Giblin
    • T. Fennell
  • Letter |

    One of the most counterintuitive fundamental properties of quantum mechanics is non-locality, which manifests itself as correlations between spatially separated parts of a quantum system. Although experimental tests of non-locality (Bell inequalities) have been successfully conducted with pairwise entangled photons, similar demonstrations using electrons have so far not been possible. The realization of a Y-shaped tunable Cooper pair splitter, to split entangled electrons on demand, brings this one step closer.

    • L. Hofstetter
    • S. Csonka
    • C. Schönenberger
  • Letter |

    Quasicrystals are ordered structures that lack any translational symmetry, challenging the classic conception of ordered solids as periodic structures. So far, they have been reported in certain systems and can, for example, form from intermetallic compounds and organic dendrimers. Here it is shown that colloidal inorganic nanoparticles from several materials can self-assemble into binary aperiodic superlattices with quasicrystalline order.

    • Dmitri V. Talapin
    • Elena V. Shevchenko
    • Christopher B. Murray
  • Letter |

    Efficient methods for the synthesis of enantioenriched α-amino acids — the building blocks of proteins — have been developed, but it remains a challenge to obtain non-natural amino acids. A new catalytic asymmetric method is now reported for the syntheses of highly enantiomerically enriched non-natural amino acids using a simple and robust chiral amido-thiourea catalyst. The method also uses a safer source of cyanide.

    • Stephan J. Zuend
    • Matthew P. Coughlin
    • Eric N. Jacobsen
  • Letter |

    Mass loss from the glaciers along the margins of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets is increasingly contributing to sea level rise. However, ice loss as a result of accelerated flow, known as dynamic thinning, is so poorly understood that its potential future contribution to sea level remains unpredictable. Here, high-resolution laser altimetry is used to map changes along these ocean margins; the results show that dynamic thinning is more important and extensive than previously thought.

    • Hamish D. Pritchard
    • Robert J. Arthern
    • Laura A. Edwards
  • Letter |

    Ammonia oxidation is carried out by both Bacteria and Archaea. Oligotrophic ammonia oxidation kinetics and cellular characteristics of a mesophilic crenarchaeon found in the open ocean are now reported; its remarkably high specific affinity for reduced nitrogen suggests that certain ammonia-oxidizing Archaea could successfully compete with heterotrophic bacterioplankton and phytoplankton. Thus, ammonia oxidation may be more prevalent in the marine nitrogen cycle than is currently accounted for.

    • Willm Martens-Habbena
    • Paul M. Berube
    • David A. Stahl
  • Letter |

    Individuals in cooperative social systems can cheat the system by reaping the benefits of cooperation without incurring the costs. Here, the presence of a cheater in a population of randomly mutated social amoebae is shown to select for mutations that confer resistance to cheating in the rest of the population. This cheater-resistance can be a noble strategy because the resister strain does not necessarily exploit other strains, preserving cooperative behaviour.

    • Anupama Khare
    • Lorenzo A. Santorelli
    • Gad Shaulsky
  • Letter |

    Unlike language, a uniquely human ability which children naturally develop, reading is a learnt skill that requires tuition and practice. Learning to read is likely to involve structural brain changes, but these are nearly impossible to isolate in children owing to other concurrent changes. A population of former Colombian guerrillas learning to read as adults is now studied, using structural brain scans to compare changes in the brains of these late-literates with those of illiterates.

    • Manuel Carreiras
    • Mohamed L. Seghier
    • Cathy J. Price
  • Letter |

    Many organisms use chemical signals to indicate species and sex. Cuticular hydrocarbon signals are used by insects, including Drosophila melanogaster, to distinguish conspecific individuals from others, and they also contribute to courtship and mating interactions. Direct evidence is now provided that a single compound is used to communicate female identity among D. melanogaster, and to define a reproductive isolation barrier between D. melanogaster and sibling species.

    • Jean-Christophe Billeter
    • Jade Atallah
    • Joel D. Levine
  • Letter |

    For efficient neurotransmission at chemical synapses to occur, there must be spatial congruence between the presynaptic area where synaptic vesicles fuse and the postsynaptic area where neurotransmitter receptors concentrate. An extracellular scaffold is now described that is necessary for the clustering of acetylcholine receptors at neuromuscular junctions in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans; it involves the protein LEV-9, the function of which relies on complement control protein domains.

    • Marie Gendrel
    • Georgia Rapti
    • Jean-Louis Bessereau
  • Letter |

    The use of light to precisely control cellular behaviour is a challenge that has only recently begun to be addressed. Here, a genetically encoded light-control system is demonstrated in mammalian cells. Based on a reversible protein–protein interaction from the phytochrome signalling network of Arabidopsis thaliana, the system is used to reversibly translocate activators of the Rho-family GTPases to the plasma membrane with high temporal and spatial resolution.

    • Anselm Levskaya
    • Orion D. Weiner
    • Christopher A. Voigt
  • Letter |

    Integrin-linked kinase (Ilk) is a multifunctional protein that binds β-integrin cytoplasmic domains and regulates actin dynamics through the recruitment of actin binding regulatory proteins such as α- and β-parvin. In mice, genetic evidence is now provided that the kinase activity of Ilk is not essential for mammalian development but that an interaction between Ilk and α-parvin is critical for kidney development.

    • Anika Lange
    • Sara A. Wickström
    • Reinhard Fässler
  • Letter |

    Gene regulation is known to be affected by epigenetic modifications at the histone level in response to extracellular signals; however, the effect of modifications at the DNA level, and especially active DNA demethylation, are not well understood. Here, DNA methylation/demethylation is found to be hormonally switched in order to control the transcription of the cytochrome p450 27B1 gene.

    • Mi-Sun Kim
    • Takeshi Kondo
    • Shigeaki Kato

Careers Q&A

  • Careers Q&A |

    A chemist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Matyjaszewski is the winner of this year's Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge academic award.

    • Paul Smaglik

Postdoc Journal

  • Postdoc Journal |

    Leaving academia for the freelance world has its rewards.

    • Joanne Isaac

Career Brief

  • Career Brief |

    Regional innovation could create research jobs in the United States.

  • Career Brief |

    More robust science training recommended for clinical psychologists.


  • Futures |

    Where there's a will...

    • Nick Mamatas


  • Insight |


    New techniques are markedly altering the landscape of experimental neuroscience and redefining the questions that can be asked. Methods such as gene targeting, functional imaging, optogenetic tools and precise anatomical tracing are yielding Insight into a diverse range of topics and providing information that is complementary to that obtained by more conventional methods, such as electrophysiology.

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