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Volume 465 Issue 7301, 24 June 2010

The quantum computers and communication networks of the future will require devices that can efficiently store and retrieve the quantum nature of light. Morgan Hedges and colleagues now describe an efficient solid-state quantum memory with light stored by praseodymium ions within a single yttrium orthosilicate crystal. On the cover, a laser beam excites a crystal, which is used as the storage medium in the quantum memory demonstration. Cover credit: Matthew Sellars.

Postdoc Journal


  • Editorial |

    We must learn lessons from the handling of the flu pandemic to improve future research and public-health responses to emerging diseases, but retrospective hindsight and recriminations are not the answer.

  • Editorial |

    The BP spill should help make the case for bringing ecosystem services into the economy.

  • Editorial |

    National academies can be pivotal in speaking up for science, both to those in power and to the public.

Research Highlights

Journal Club


News Feature

  • News Feature |

    The completion of the draft human genome sequence was announced ten years ago. Nature's survey of life scientists reveals that biology will never be the same again. Declan Butler reports.

    • Declan Butler
  • News Feature |

    The grandfather of scientific national academies is staging major celebrations this week for its 350th birthday. But, like similar elite groups around the world, Britain's Royal Society has had to work hard to stay relevant and influential, reports Colin Macilwain.

    • Colin Macilwain



  • Opinion |

    More than 10,500 industrial and academic scientists worldwide completed Nature's salary and satisfaction survey, published in this issue (see page 1104 ). Here, five career experts comment on the results of the poll. Differences in benefits, mentoring and contentment could have national and international ramifications, they conclude.

  • Opinion |

    As the UK Royal Society prepares for a festival celebrating its 350th year, Yves Quéré urges all scientific academies to welcome women and young scientists and to take part in public and political discourse.

    • Yves Quéré

Books & Arts

  • Books & Arts |

    Robert P. Crease is fascinated by a biography of quantum physicist Hugh Everett III, the difficult man behind one of the most logical and bizarre ideas in the history of human thought.

    • Robert P. Crease
  • Books & Arts |

    Joy Reidenberg is a professor of anatomy at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. She is also the scalpel-wielding comparative anatomist in the award-winning documentary series Inside Nature's Giants (titled Raw Anatomy in the United States), the second series of which is currently being screened. Reidenberg explains why the spectacle of slicing up animals is good for the public understanding of science and why the discipline of anatomy is still very much alive.

    • John Gilbey

News & Views

  • News & Views |

    Pseudogenes are considered to be defunct relatives of known genes. But there is some surprising news: pseudogenes are functional and could have a role in the control of cancer1. Two experts discuss the significance of these findings for understanding the regulation of gene expression and cancer biology.

    • Isidore Rigoutsos
    • Frank Furnari
  • News & Views |

    The masses of exoplanets have so far been inferred from the tiny gravitational pull they exert on the host stars. It is now possible to measure them from shifts in spectral lines arising from the planets' atmospheres.

    • Mercedes López-Morales
  • News & Views |

    Lévy flights are a theoretical construct that has attracted wide interdisciplinary interest. Empirical evidence shows that the principle applies to the foraging of marine predators.

    • Gandhimohan M. Viswanathan
  • News & Views |

    Speciation can occur even when the incipient species coexist and can interbreed. An extensive analysis of two fruitfly strains suggests that many genomic regions contribute to speciation in such cases.

    • Erin S. Kelleher
    • Daniel A. Barbash
  • News & Views |

    Amide bonds connect the amino acids in proteins and occur in many other useful molecules. An amide-forming reaction that turns the conventional approach on its head offers a practical way of making these bonds.

    • Karl Scheidt
  • News & Views |

    Neurons generate their output signal — the action potential — in a distinct region of the axon called the initial segment. The location and extent of this trigger zone can be modified by neural activity to control excitability.

    • Jan Gründemann
    • Michael Häusser
  • News & Views |

    Ultraviolet radiation can cause cancer through DNA damage — specifically, by linking adjacent thymine bases. Crystal structures show how the enzyme DNA polymerase η accurately bypasses such lesions, offering protection.

    • Suse Broyde
    • Dinshaw J. Patel


  • Article |

    The backbones of all natural peptides and proteins are composed of amide bonds. In the laboratory, the construction of such bonds generally relies on dehydrative approaches, although there are alternatives. It is now shown that the activation of amines and nitroalkanes with an electrophilic iodine source can lead directly to amide products.

    • Bo Shen
    • Dawn M. Makley
    • Jeffrey N. Johnston
  • Article |

    The canonical role of messenger RNA (mRNA) is in protein coding and synthesis. But could mRNAs also have a role that is related to their ability to compete for microRNA binding? Here, the functional relationship between the mRNAs produced by the PTEN tumour suppressor gene and its pseudogene PTENP1 is investigated. The results suggest that pseudogenes have a biological function, in sequestering microRNAs and so affecting their regulation of gene expression.

    • Laura Poliseno
    • Leonardo Salmena
    • Pier Paolo Pandolfi
  • Article |

    Ultraviolet radiation causes damage to DNA in skin cells, blocking DNA replication and causing mutations that can lead to cancer. One way in which the cell deals with such damage involves specialized DNA polymerases, such as Polη, that can bypass lesions. Here the crystal structure is presented of Pol? in complex with a thymine–thymine dimer and with undamaged DNA. The bulky thymine dimer is accommodated in an atypically large active site, and stabilized by interactions not found in other polymerases.

    • Timothy D. Silverstein
    • Robert E. Johnson
    • Aneel K. Aggarwal
  • Article |

    Ultraviolet radiation causes damage to DNA in skin cells, blocking DNA replication and causing mutations that can lead to cancer. One way in which the cell deals with such damage involves specialized DNA polymerases, such as Polη, that can bypass lesions. Here the crystal structure of Polη is presented at four consecutive steps during DNA synthesis through thymine dimers. Polη acts like a 'molecular splint' to stabilize damaged DNA, and accommodates the thymine dimer in an atypically large active site.

    • Christian Biertümpfel
    • Ye Zhao
    • Wei Yang


  • Letter |

    If the orbital velocity of an extrasolar planet could be determined, the masses of both the planet and its host star could be calculated using Newton's law of gravity. Here, high-dispersion ground-based spectroscopy of a transit of the extrasolar planet HD 209458b is reported. This allowed the radial component of the planet's orbital velocity to be calculated, and thus the masses of star and planet. Moreover, a strong wind flowing from the irradiated dayside to the non-irradiated nightside of the planet is suggested.

    • Ignas A. G. Snellen
    • Remco J. de Kok
    • Simon Albrecht
  • Letter |

    A quantum memory would enable storage and retrieval of a quantum state of light without corrupting the information it carries. Previous devices have had low efficiencies of less than 17 per cent, and used weak quantum states with an average photon number of around one. Now a solid-state quantum memory is described with an efficiency of up to 69 per cent, which performs better than a classical device for bright states of up to 500 photons.

    • Morgan P. Hedges
    • Jevon J. Longdell
    • Matthew J. Sellars
  • Letter |

    When an atom is excited into a Rydberg state, its electronic wavefunction can extend to several nanometres. This process can be used to induce and coherently control interactions between atoms that are far enough apart to be non-interacting in their normal states. Now, such behaviour has been realized in a solid-state context, by demonstrating coherent control of the wavefunctions of phosphorus dopant atoms in silicon.

    • P. T. Greenland
    • S. A. Lynch
    • G. Aeppli
  • Letter |

    Concentrations of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) decrease in the surface mixed layers during spring and summer in most of the oligotrophic ocean. The missing DIC is thought to be converted to particulate carbon by photosynthesis, but known mechanisms do not seem to supply enough nutrients for the photosynthesis. Here it is shown that short-lived transport events connect deep-water nitrate stocks with nutrient-poor surface waters.

    • Kenneth S. Johnson
    • Stephen C. Riser
    • David M. Karl
  • Letter |

    What is the best way for predators to find food when prey is sparse and distributed unpredictably? Theory predicts that in such circumstances predators should adopt a Lé-flight strategy, in which short exploratory hops are occasionally interspersed with longer trips. When prey is abundant, simple Brownian motion should suffice. Now, analysis of a large data set of marine predators establishes that animals do indeed adopt Lévy-flight foraging when prey is sparse, and Brownian episodes when prey is abundant.

    • Nicolas E. Humphries
    • Nuno Queiroz
    • David W. Sims
  • Letter |

    A nerve cell sends signals to others through action potentials, which begin at the 'initial segment' of the neuron's axon. It is now shown that changes in electrical activity can alter the position of this initial segment in cultured rat hippocampal neurons. The resulting increase in intrinsic excitability — the tendency to fire action potentials — represents a new form of neuronal plasticity and could provide a new target in the control of epilepsy.

    • Matthew S. Grubb
    • Juan Burrone
  • Letter |

    A nerve cell sends signals to others through action potentials, which begin at the 'initial segment' of the neuron's axon. Here it is shown that the length of this initial segment increases in bird auditory neurons that have been deprived of auditory stimulation. The resulting increase in intrinsic excitability — the tendency to fire action potentials — represents a new form of neuronal plasticity and might contribute to the maintenance of the auditory pathway after hearing loss.

    • Hiroshi Kuba
    • Yuki Oichi
    • Harunori Ohmori
  • Letter |

    Macrophages that populate the lymph nodes are known to clear viruses from the lymph and to initiate antiviral humoral immune responses. It is now shown that these macrophages also have another function: they prevent lymph-borne neurotropic viruses from entering the central nervous system. The mechanism is dependent on the production of type I interferon.

    • Matteo Iannacone
    • E. Ashley Moseman
    • Ulrich H. von Andrian
  • Letter |

    Engagement of the tumour-necrosis factor (TNF) receptor results in the assembly of multi-component signalling complexes by adaptor proteins that include TNF receptor-associated factor 2 (TRAF2). Genetic evidence indicates that TRAF2 is needed for the polyubiquitination of receptor interacting protein 1 (RIP1), but direct evidence has been lacking. Here it is shown that the lipid sphingosine-1-phosphate is a co-factor needed for this ubiquitination activity of TRAF2.

    • Sergio E. Alvarez
    • Kuzhuvelil B. Harikumar
    • Sarah Spiegel
  • Letter |

    Small regulatory RNAs function both in the cytoplasm, inhibiting expression from messenger RNAs, and in the nucleus, silencing heterochromatin and preventing genome rearrangement. Now a new protein involved in RNA interference in the nucleus has been characterized. This protein, NRDE-2, associates with NRDE-3 and short interfering RNAs on nascent transcripts. This association prevents elongation of the transcripts by RNA polymerase II, making this a co-transcriptional form of gene silencing.

    • Shouhong Guang
    • Aaron F. Bochner
    • Scott Kennedy

Special Report

  • Special Report |

    The self-reported contentment of researchers with their chosen profession depends on more than just salaries, according to the results of our international career survey . Gene Russo parses the data.

    • Gene Russo


Brief Communications Arising

Nature Outlook

  • Nature Outlook |

    Chagas Disease

    Chagas disease is one of the most neglected of the tropical diseases, yet millions of people are infected with it. There are only two available drugs to treat it, both of which are more than 40 years old and neither of which is ideal. As the global population has become more internationally mobile, Chagas disease has spread from Latin America to become a worldwide threat. This Outlook highlights some of the progress in understanding and treating Chagas disease over its 101 years of recent history and outlines the challenges still to be met.

Nature Briefing

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