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Volume 466 Issue 7302, 1 July 2010

A series of well preserved centimetre-scale fossils in an extended fossiliferous level within black shales near Franceville, in Gabon, West Africa, may represent the earliest evidence so far reported for cell-to-cell signalling and coordinated growth behaviour on the scale of macroorganisms. Dated at about 2.1 billion years old, a billion and a half years before the rapid expansion in multicellular life forms known as the ‘Cambrian explosion’, their shape and regular fabric indicate a multicellular degree of organization. On the cover, the structure of a macrofossil specimen revealed by microtomography-based imaging.


  • Editorial |

    It isn't enough to explain the facts of climate change very, very clearly. Building public trust requires researchers to change their practices.

  • Editorial |

    Much tighter regulations are needed to reap the full benefits of stem-cell treatments.

  • Editorial |

    Biologists and astronomers approach data sharing differently, but both need better public outreach.

Research Highlights

Journal Club



News Feature

  • News Feature |

    When emergencies happen in remote settings, field researchers can be left with little recourse. Erik Vance meets a man trying to change that.

    • Erik Vance
  • News Feature |

    Many climate researchers worry that scepticism about global warming is on the rise. Jeff Tollefson investigates the basis for that concern and what scientists are doing about it.

    • Jeff Tollefson


  • Column |

    Efforts by the US National Academy of Sciences to popularize science through movies will sanitize it as well, says Daniel Sarewitz.

    • Daniel Sarewitz



  • Opinion |

    To understand human psychology, behavioural scientists must stop doing most of their experiments on Westerners, argue Joseph Henrich, Steven J. Heine and Ara Norenzayan.

    • Joseph Henrich
    • Steven J. Heine
    • Ara Norenzayan
  • Opinion |

    Lessons on the risks and opportunities of climate change should be directed at future executives, given that many companies rival nations in greenhouse-gas emissions, says Genevieve Patenaude.

    • Genevieve Patenaude

Books & Arts

  • Books & Arts |

    A history of climate modelling shows that forecasts that acknowledge uncertainty will be the way forward, argues Myles Allen.

    • Myles Allen
  • Books & Arts |

    Antonio Santucci's great armillary sphere reveals how patrons sought immortality through science, explains Martin Kemp.

    • Martin Kemp
  • Books & Arts |

    Even the most prestigious art gallery has a few sham pictures in its collection, and scientific techniques are increasingly able to uncover them, as Daniel Cressey finds out.

    • Daniel Cressey

News & Views

  • News & Views |

    The world's first kiloelectronvolt X-ray laser produces such a high flux of photons that atoms can be 'cored'. In other words, the light source can knock out both the electrons of an atom's innermost shell.

    • Justin Wark
  • News & Views |

    Organic farming supports higher biodiversity. Research involving the Colorado potato beetle shows that this increased diversity can deliver a better ecosystem service in the form of more effective pest control.

    • Lindsay A. Turnbull
    • Andy Hector
  • News & Views |

    The variety of stellar deaths is less than we thought. A compilation of new and archival data shows that two previously distinct subtypes of supernova are actually two sides of the same lopsided coin.

    • Daniel Kasen
  • News & Views |

    Autophagy is an essential cellular process for protein and organelle quality control. Analyses of proteins that interact with the human autophagic machinery provide an outline of the molecular organization of this pathway.

    • Beth Levine
    • Rama Ranganathan
  • News & Views |

    Tumour cells are non-uniform. The question is whether a distinct subpopulation of the cells drives tumour growth and generates cellular variation. To answer this, the data must be interpreted carefully.

    • Peter Dirks
  • News & Views |

    Interpreting truly ancient fossils is an especially tricky business. The conclusion that 2.1-billion-year-old structures from Gabon are the remains of large colonial organisms will get palaeobiologists talking.

    • Philip C. J. Donoghue
    • Jonathan B. Antcliffe
  • News & Views |

    It is hard to predict how strongly a small molecule will bind to a protein, but this is a crucial goal of computer-aided drug discovery. A new approach models the forcible removal of molecules from a protein's active site.

    • William L. Jorgensen
  • News & Views |

    A simple model highlights the pros and cons of chasing — and escaping — in groups. It shows that, for a given number of prey animals, an optimal number of predators exists that maximizes the success of the catch.

    • Tamás Vicsek

Review Article

  • Review Article |

    Global climate and the atmospheric partial pressure of carbon dioxide are correlated over recent glacial cycles, with lower partial pressure of carbon dioxide during ice ages, but the causes of the changes in the partial pressure of carbon dioxide are unknown. Here the authors review the evidence in support of the hypothesis that the Southern Ocean is an important driver of glacial/interglacial changes in the partial pressure of carbon dioxide.

    • Daniel M. Sigman
    • Mathis P. Hain
    • Gerald H. Haug


  • Article |

    With the start-up of the first X-ray free-electron laser, a new era has begun in dynamical studies of atoms. Here the facility is used to study the fundamental nature of the electronic response in free neon atoms. During a single X-ray pulse, they sequentially eject all their ten electrons to produce fully stripped neon. The authors explain this electron-stripping in a straightforward model, auguring favourably for further studies of interactions of X-rays with more complex systems.

    • L. Young
    • E. P. Kanter
    • M. Messerschmidt
  • Article |

    Cardiac hypertrophy is associated with a decrease in expression of the adult isoform of the molecular motor myosin heavy chain (α-MHC) and the induction of expression of its fetal isoform (β-MHC). Here the authors reveal the mechanism regulating this switch in expression, which impairs heart function. Cardiac stress in adult hearts reactivates the developmental chromatin-modifying complex Brg1/BAF, which interacts with histone deacetylase and poly (ADP ribose) polymerase to induce a pathological α-MHC-to-β-MHC shift.

    • Calvin T. Hang
    • Jin Yang
    • Ching-Pin Chang
  • Article |

    Autophagy is a cellular process by which proteins and organelles are sequestered in autophagosomal vesicles and delivered to the lysosome for degradation. Here the authors present a proteomic analysis of the autophagy interaction network in human cells. Their results reveal a network of signalling modules and extensive connectivity among subnetworks. This global view of the mammalian autophagy pathway will be an important resource for future mechanistic understanding of this pathway.

    • Christian Behrends
    • Mathew E. Sowa
    • J. Wade Harper
  • Article |

    In bacteria, the lack of compartmentalization within membrane-enclosed compartments has made it difficult to determine how mature messenger RNAs are spatially distributed. Here the authors use fluorescence experiments in bacteria to follow mRNA dispersal after transcription. They find, surprisingly, that the newly transcribed mRNAs show limited diffusion, and speculate that the packed chromosomal material may itself act as a partition to separate translation from mRNA degradation.

    • Paula Montero Llopis
    • Audrey F. Jackson
    • Christine Jacobs-Wagner


  • Letter |

    Type Ia supernovae form a class of cosmological 'standard candles', a property that led to the discovery of an accelerating Universe, but recent investigations have revealed that they are more complicated in nature. Here the authors report that their observed spectral diversity is a consequence of the random directions from which their theoretically asymmetrical explosions are viewed, and that this diversity is therefore no longer a concern in using them as standard candles.

    • K. Maeda
    • S. Benetti
    • N. Elias-Rosa
  • Letter |

    When electrons or photons are used to detect the motion of a mechanical resonator, they exert tiny forces on the resonator, subtly changing its motion. Here, through analysis of electrical noise measurements, the authors report a striking example of such back-action where electrons tunnelling through a semiconductor quantum device cause vibrations of the host crystal, which is massive compared with the electrons — an effect comparable to a flea causing metre-scale vibrations in Mount Everest.

    • Joel Stettenheim
    • Madhu Thalakulam
    • A. J. Rimberg
  • Letter |

    Light–matter interactions in semiconductors hold great promise for numerous applications, but as device size is reduced such interactions typically weaken, potentially posing problems for applications at the nanoscale. Here the authors circumvent these limitations by producing colloidal particles with metallic cores and semiconducting shells, in which coupling of the plasmons in the metal to the excitons in the semiconductor is engineered to enhance light–matter interactions in the particle.

    • Jiatao Zhang
    • Yun Tang
    • Min Ouyang
  • Letter |

    It remains uncertain whether added nitrogen enhances total plant productivity in response to CO2-fertilisation in natural ecosystems. Here the authors show that nitrogen addition initially enhances the CO2-stimulation of plant productivity but also promotes the encroachment of plant species that respond less strongly to elevated CO2 concentrations. Overall, the observed shift in the plant community ultimately suppresses the CO2-stimulation of plant productivity.

    • J. Adam Langley
    • J. Patrick Megonigal
  • Letter |

    Evidence for multicellular life before 1.6–1.0 billion years ago is scarce and controversial. Here the authors report organized, macroscopic structures from Gabon that date to 2.1 billion years ago, have a consistent structure and seem to show evidence of multicellular colonial organization. Coming not long after the rise in atmospheric oxygen concentration, these fossils might be considered harbingers of the multicellular life that drastically expanded about a billion years later.

    • Abderrazak El Albani
    • Stefan Bengtson
    • Alain Meunier
  • Letter |

    Modern sperm whales have relatively small teeth and feed by suction, but the discovery of large teeth in the fossil record suggests that raptorial sperm whales once existed. Here the authors report the discovery of the teeth and jaws of a fossil raptorial sperm whale from the Middle Miocene of Peru, almost as large as a modern sperm whale but with a three-metre head and jaws full of teeth, some 36cm long.

    • Olivier Lambert
    • Giovanni Bianucci
    • Jelle Reumer
  • Letter |

    A survey of organic and conventional potato fields shows that species evenness is greater under organic management. Replicating these levels of evenness in a field trial shows that the evenness of natural enemies found in organic fields promotes pest control and increases crop biomass. This is independent of the identity of the dominant enemy species, so is a result of evenness itself.

    • David W. Crowder
    • Tobin D. Northfield
    • William E. Snyder
  • Letter |

    The genetic basis of alopecia areata, one of the most common human autoimmune diseases, is largely unknown. This study reports a genome-wide association for this trait that implies the involvement of acquired and innate immunity. Among significant associations are the cytomegalovirus UL16-binding protein genes, which encode activating ligands for the natural killer cell receptor, NKG2D, here implicated for the first time in any autoimmune disease.

    • Lynn Petukhova
    • Madeleine Duvic
    • Angela M. Christiano
  • Letter |

    Although pheromones and their detection by the vomeronasal organ are known to govern social behaviour in mice, specific chemical signals have rarely been linked to selective behavioural responses. Here the authors show that the ESP1 peptide secreted in male tears makes females sexually receptive, and identify its specific vomeronasal receptor and the sex-specific neuronal circuits activated during the behavioural response.

    • Sachiko Haga
    • Tatsuya Hattori
    • Kazushige Touhara
  • Letter |

    Neural responses are variable, but it is unclear whether this variability carries important information or is just noise. Here the authors characterize the sensitivity to small fluctuations of in vivo cortical networks in rat barrel cortex in the context of neural coding, finding that perturbations are amplified and cause an increase in local firing rate. Simulations suggest that this amplification leads to variations in the system that are pure noise and, therefore, unsuited for carrying a reliable temporal code.

    • Michael London
    • Arnd Roth
    • Peter E. Latham
  • Letter |

    In higher animals and plants, the processes of growth and patterning are coordinated. In this study, the authors study patterning in Arabidopsis root and show that two key regulators of root organ patterning directly control the transcription of specific components of the cell-cycle machinery. This study provides a direct link between developmental regulators, components of the cell-cycle machinery and organ patterning.

    • R. Sozzani
    • H. Cui
    • P. N. Benfey
  • Letter |

    Cyclin F is the founding member of the F-box protein family but its functions are unknown; unlike most cyclins, it does not bind or activate cyclin-dependent kinases. Here the authors identify CP110, a protein essential for centrosome duplication, as a substrate of Cyclin F. CP110 and Cyclin F associate on centrioles during the cell cycle, and Cyclin F is proposed to limit centrosome duplication by targeting CP110 for degradation.

    • Vincenzo D’Angiolella
    • Valerio Donato
    • Michele Pagano

Careers Q&A

  • Careers Q&A |

    Leslie Vosshall, head of the Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behavior at Rockefeller University, New York, this year earned tenure and a promotion to the position of Robin Chemers Neustein Professor. She tells Nature that the new post makes her eager to work harder and guard against resting on her laurels.

    • Virginia Gewin

Career Brief


  • Regions |

    The Denver area is trying to overcome the isolation factor and meagre funding to excel as a bioscience hub. Laura Cassiday reports.

    • Laura Cassiday


  • Futures |

    It's just common sense ...

    • Shelly Li
Nature Briefing

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