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Volume 463 Issue 7284, 25 February 2010

Fedorov et al. use a coupled climate model and a hurricane model to show that hurricane activity in the central Pacific during the early Pliocene (5 to 3 million years ago), a period often taken as a close analogue to contemporary global warming, may have contributed to maintaining a permanent El Niño-like state. The larger globe on the cover shows a simulated year of early Pliocene hurricane tracks (coloured by intensity) with the sea surface coloured by temperature with ocean mixing from the hurricanes included in the simulation. The smaller globe shows a year of modern hurricane tracks, with sea temperatures, but with no hurricane-induced mixing. Cover credit: C. Brierley/Google/US Dept of State Geographer/DMapas/Europa Technologies.

Editorial

  • Editorial |

    The new European research commissioner deserves political support from member states of the European Union to drastically reduce the dead weight of Brussels bureaucracy.

  • Editorial |

    Industry talent should be welcomed into academia, not seen as a corrupting influence.

  • Editorial |

    Turkey's government is about to pass legislation that could cripple the country's biological research.

Research Highlights

Journal Club

News

News Feature

  • News Feature |

    A new generation of sophisticated Earth models is gearing up for its first major test. But added complexity may lead to greater uncertainty about the future climate, finds Olive Heffernan.

    • Olive Heffernan

Correspondence

Opinion

  • Opinion |

    After five years, the World Health Organization's tobacco-control treaty is starting to have an effect, but we need to tackle the smoking epidemic in the developing world, say Jonathan M. Samet and Heather L. Wipfli.

    • Jonathan M. Samet
    • Heather L. Wipfli

Books & Arts

  • Books & Arts |

    A history of intellectual-property rights reveals how the pirating of ideas and goods has transformed science publishing, drug development and software, explains Michael Gollin.

    • Michael Gollin
  • Books & Arts |

    Acclaimed biographer Georgina Ferry has chronicled the lives of two Nobel prizewinning chemists, Dorothy Hodgkin and Max Perutz. In the fourth in our series of five interviews with authors who each write science books for a different audience, Ferry reveals how detachment is needed to turn an attic's worth of personal letters into a compelling story.

    • Nicola Jones

News & Views

  • News & Views |

    A mathematical method has been developed that distinguishes between the paintings of Pieter Bruegel the Elder and those of his imitators. But can the approach be used to spot imitations of works by any artist?

    • Bruno A. Olshausen
    • Michael R. DeWeese
  • News & Views |

    Although sphingolipids are vital cellular components, the path to their production is paved with toxic intermediates. Orm proteins allow cells to form these lipids without killing themselves in the process.

    • Fikadu G. Tafesse
    • Joost C. M. Holthuis
  • News & Views |

    The finding that the normal phase of an ultracold gas of fermionic atoms in the strongly interacting regime is close to a Fermi liquid isn't quite what theorists expected for these systems.

    • Yong-il Shin
  • News & Views |

    In a feat of biological wizardry, one type of differentiated cell has been directly converted into another, completely distinct type. Notably, the approach does not require a stem-cell intermediate stage.

    • Cory R. Nicholas
    • Arnold R. Kriegstein
  • News & Views |

    What was responsible for the unusual climatic conditions that prevailed during the early Pliocene, 5 million to 3 million years ago? Modelling studies point to intense tropical-cyclone activity as a possible answer.

    • Ryan L. Sriver
  • News & Views |

    Redox reactions in widely spatially separated layers of marine sediments are coupled to each other. This suggests that bacteria mediate the flow of electrons between the layers — an idea that would previously have been dismissed.

    • Kenneth H. Nealson

Article

  • Article |

    Mouse and human fibroblasts can be reprogrammed to a pluripotent state with a combination of four transcription factors. Here, mature differentiated cells are directed, via a combination of a few transcription factors (distinct from those described for generating iPS cells), to form functional neurons in vitro, without having to revert the fibroblasts to an embryonic state.

    • Thomas Vierbuchen
    • Austin Ostermeier
    • Marius Wernig
  • Article |

    To elucidate regulatory mechanisms involved in reprogramming to generate pluripotent cells from somatic cells, this study generates interspecies heterokaryons (fused mouse ES cells and human fibroblasts) that induce reprogramming efficiently, rapidly and without cell division. SiRNA–mediated knockdown reveals that AID is required for active DNA demethylation and initiation of nuclear reprogramming towards pluripotency in human somatic cells.

    • Nidhi Bhutani
    • Jennifer J. Brady
    • Helen M. Blau
  • Article |

    Mutations near the ORMDL3 gene have been associated with childhood asthma. Here, in yeast, Orm proteins are shown to function in sphingolipid homeostasis; alterations in this control result in misregulation of sphingolipid production and accumulation of toxic metabolites. This raises the testable hypothesis that misregulation of sphingolipids may directly contribute to the development of asthma.

    • David K. Breslow
    • Sean R. Collins
    • Jonathan S. Weissman

Letter

  • Letter |

    WASP-12b is a planet of 1.4 Jupiter masses that orbits at a mean distance of only 3.1 stellar radii from its star; its orbital period is 1.1 days, and its radius (1.79 times that of Jupiter) is unexpectedly large. An analysis of its properties now reveals that the planet is losing mass to its host star at a rate of 10−7 Jupiter masses per year, and that dissipation of the star's tidal perturbation in the planet's convective envelope provides the energy source for its large volume.

    • Shu-lin Li
    • N. Miller
    • Jonathan J. Fortney
  • Letter |

    In principle, it is possible to simulate some astrophysical phenomena inside the highly controlled environment of an atomic physics laboratory: previous work on the thermodynamics of a two-component Fermi gas (a system suited for such studies) led to thermodynamic quantities averaged over the trap. Now a general experimental method is reported that yields the equation of state of a uniform gas, providing new physical insights and enabling a detailed comparison with existing theories.

    • S. Nascimbène
    • N. Navon
    • C. Salomon
  • Letter |

    Many technological materials are intentionally 'doped' with foreign elements to impart new and desirable properties, a classic example being the doping of semiconductors to tune their electronic behaviour. Here lanthanide doping is used to control the growth of nanocrystals, allowing for simultaneous tuning of the size, crystallographic phase and optical properties of the hybrid material.

    • Feng Wang
    • Yu Han
    • Xiaogang Liu
  • Letter |

    Palaeoclimate data show that 3–5 million years ago in the early Pliocene the equatorial Pacific experienced persistent warm, El Niño conditions. Here a hurricane model and a coupled climate model show a feedback between sea surface temperature and frequent hurricanes that could account for such conditions.

    • Alexey V. Fedorov
    • Christopher M. Brierley
    • Kerry Emanuel
  • Letter |

    Here the presence of melanosomes — characteristic bodies that give feathers their colour — is demonstrated in feathers and feather-like structures of fossil early birds and dinosaurs from the Early Cretaceous Jehol Group of China. Not only is it shown that the feather–like structures of dinosaurs such as Sinosauropteryx really are akin to feathers, it is also possible to speculate in an informed way about their colour.

    • Fucheng Zhang
    • Stuart L. Kearns
    • Xiaolin Wang
  • Letter |

    The evolutionary interrelationships of arthropods has long been a matter of dispute. A new phylogeny applies an arsenal of techniques to more than 41,000 base pairs of DNA from 75 arthropod species. The results support the idea that insects are land–living crustaceans, that crustaceans comprise a diverse assemblage of at last three distinct arthropod types, and that myriapods (millipedes and centipedes) comprise the closest relatives of this great 'pancrustacean' group.

    • Jerome C. Regier
    • Jeffrey W. Shultz
    • Clifford W. Cunningham
  • Letter |

    Recent work suggests that microRNAs might have been important in the evolution of complexity in multicellular animals. Here it is shown that the most ancient known microRNA, miR–100, was initially active in neurosecretory cells around the mouth. Other highly conserved varieties were first present in specific tissues and organ systems. Thus, microRNA expression was initially restricted to an ancient set of ancient animal cell types and tissues.

    • Foteini Christodoulou
    • Florian Raible
    • Detlev Arendt
  • Letter |

    Social science hypotheses suggest that humans prefer more equality in outcome distributions because the knowledge of inequality reduces the reward experience. Here, functional MRI was used to test directly for inequality-averse social preferences in the brain during monetary transfers between pairs of participants and an experimenter. The results indicate that the brain's reward circuitry is sensitive to distribution inequality and is actively modulated relative to context.

    • Elizabeth Tricomi
    • Antonio Rangel
    • John P. O’Doherty
  • Letter |

    The unfolded protein response, known to contribute to the defence against infectious agents and toxins, is shown here to protect Caenorhabditis elegans larvae against detrimental effects of the innate immune response to infection with Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The findings establish innate immunity as a physiologically relevant inducer of ER stress during C. elegans development.

    • Claire E. Richardson
    • Tristan Kooistra
    • Dennis H. Kim
  • Letter |

    The transcription factor Tbx3 is shown to significantly improve the quality of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. Tbx3 binding sites in embryonic stem cells are present in genes involved in pluripotency and reprogramming factors. Furthermore, there are intrinsic qualitative differences in iPS cells generated by different methods in terms of their pluripotency, thus highlighting the need to rigorously characterize iPS cells beyond in vitro studies.

    • Jianyong Han
    • Ping Yuan
    • Bing Lim
  • Letter |

    The extent of epigenetic reprogramming in mammalian primordial germ cells (PGCs) and in early embryos, and its molecular mechanisms, are poorly understood. DNA methylation profiling in PGCs now reveals a genome–wide erasure of methylation, with female PGCs being less methylated than male ones. A deficiency of the cytidine deaminase AID interferes with the genome–wide erasure of DNA methylation, indicating that AID has a critical function in epigenetic reprogramming.

    • Christian Popp
    • Wendy Dean
    • Wolf Reik

Corrigendum

News

Prospects

  • Prospects |

    Negotiating for a pay rise can be a smooth, fruitful process if you follow a few guidelines, says Deb Koen.

    • Deb Koen

Careers Q&A

  • Careers Q&A |

    In January, Zhenrong Zhang obtained her first faculty position as an assistant professor, at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. She will set up Baylor's first scanning tunnelling microscopy lab.

    • Virginia Gewin

Career Brief

Futures

  • Futures |

    A fine romance.

    • Julian Tang

Brief Communications Arising

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