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Volume 493 Issue 7434, 31 January 2013

Pleasant stimulation of skin serves important social functions in mammals, but has received less attention from molecular neurobiologists than the response to noxious stimuli. Now David Anderson and colleagues have used calcium imaging in live mice to show that a small population of sensory neurons in hairy skin � expressing the G-protein-coupled receptor MRGPRB4 � responds specifically to strokes from a small paintbrush intended to simulate natural stroking or grooming, but not to pinching or poking stimuli, which activate a different population of sensory neurons expressing MRGPRD. Pharmacological stimulation of MRGPRB4+ neurons elicits positive reinforcing behavioural effects. The stroke-sensitive� neurons resemble C-tactile afferents, unmyelinated mechanoreceptive neurons found in hairy skin of humans and other mammals. The functional characterization of this novel population of neurons opens the way to identifying molecular transduction mechanisms and neural circuitry associated with a positive affective state � or pleasure. On the cover, monkeys by a river in Angkor, Cambodia (Roberto Westbrook/Blend Images/Corbis).


  • Editorial |

    Governments and funding agencies must do more to prevent the awarding of grants to research projects with significant overlap.

  • Editorial |

    The United States must boost energy spending to make its mark on the climate debate.

  • Editorial |

    Research balloons have taught us much about the atmosphere, and could now fly into space.

World View

  • World View |

    Scientists in restless territories such as Scotland, Quebec and Catalonia should embrace change, Colin Macilwain suggests.

    • Colin Macilwain

Research Highlights

Seven Days

  • Seven Days |

    The week in science: Big science award announced; US team drills through to subglacial lake; German science minister investigated for plagiarism.



News Feature


  • Comment |

    Funding agencies may be paying out duplicate grants, according to an analysis by Harold R. Garner, Lauren J. McIver and Michael B. Waitzkin.

    • Harold R. Garner
    • Lauren J. McIver
    • Michael B. Waitzkin
  • Comment |

    Dean Keith Simonton fears that surprising originality in the natural sciences is a thing of the past, as vast teams finesse knowledge rather than create disciplines.

    • Dean Keith Simonton

Books & Arts



News & Views Forum

  • News & Views Forum |

    Some worker fire ants will tolerate multiple queens in their colony, but others only one. It turns out that this behaviour is governed by a gene cluster on an unusual pair of chromosomes. Two scientists describe what these findings mean to the fields of social evolution, genetics and beyond. See Letter p.664

    • Andrew F. G. Bourke
    • Judith E. Mank

News & Views

  • News & Views |

    The Sun's magnetic activity varies cyclically over a period of about 11 years. An analysis of a new, temporally extended proxy record of this activity hints at a possible planetary influence on the amplitude of the cycle.

    • Paul Charbonneau
  • News & Views |

    The spliceosome complex removes intron sequences from RNA transcripts to form messenger RNA. The structure of a spliceosomal protein, Prp8, reveals the complex's active site and casts light on the origin of splicing. See Article p.638

    • Charles C. Query
    • Maria M. Konarska
  • News & Views |

    Breakdown of dissolved organic nitrogen in the ocean had been thought to be the preserve of microbes at the surface. The discovery that these microbes are not up to the task calls for a reassessment of the biogeochemistry of this nitrogen pool.

    • Maren Voss
    • Susanna Hietanen
  • News & Views |

    Brush-like polymers with a rigidity similar to that of polymers in living cells have been synthesized and used to build force-responsive materials. The advance opens the door to applications in drug delivery and tissue engineering. See Letter p.651

    • Margaret Lise Gardel
  • News & Views |

    Physicists have puzzled over a hidden electronic order in a uranium-based material for decades. A new theory attributes it to not just a single but a double breaking of time-reversal symmetry. See Article p.621

    • Qimiao Si


  • Article |

    The formation of Ising quasiparticles in URu2Si2 results from ‘hastatic’ order, which breaks double time-reversal symmetry, mixing states of integer and half-integer spin, and accounts for the large entropy of condensation and the magnetic anomaly observed in torque magnetometry.

    • Premala Chandra
    • Piers Coleman
    • Rebecca Flint
  • Article |

    Mutations in mitochondrial DNA cause a wide range of disorders in humans, with a high prevalence; here it is shown that the nucleus of an affected woman’s egg could be inserted into healthy donor egg cytoplasm by spindle transfer, allowing the birth of healthy offspring.

    • Masahito Tachibana
    • Paula Amato
    • Shoukhrat Mitalipov
  • Article |

    Nuclear genome transfer using unfertilized donor oocytes is performed and shown to be effective in preventing the transmission of mitochondrial DNA mutations; the swapped oocytes can develop to the blastocyst stage, and produce parthenogenetic embryonic stem-cell lines that show normal karyotypes and only mitochondrial DNA from the donor oocyte.

    • Daniel Paull
    • Valentina Emmanuele
    • Dieter Egli
  • Article |

    The crystal structure of yeast Prp8 bound to a U5 small nuclear ribonucleoprotein particle assembly factor Aar2 is solved, offering insight into the architecture of the spliceosome active site, and supporting a possible common origin of eukaryotic pre-messenger-RNA splicing and group II intron splicing.

    • Wojciech P. Galej
    • Chris Oubridge
    • Kiyoshi Nagai




  • Column |

    Informal networks are key to idea-sharing, argue Mark Fishman, Robert Cross and Brigitta Tadmor.

    • Mark Fishman
    • Robert Cross
    • Brigitta Tadmor


Career Brief

  • Career Brief |

    Male life scientists have committed fraud more often than women.

  • Career Brief |

    US physics PhD holders are increasingly taking postdoc jobs.

  • Career Brief |

    Women seeking pay rises face more disapproval than men.


  • Futures |

    Postcard from the edge.

    • David G. Blake

Brief Communications Arising


  • Outlook |

    Better thought-out town planning and interior design can create healthier environments, but how to effectively implement the best designs remains uncertain.

    • Duncan Graham-Rowe
  • Outlook |

    New imaging methods and biomarkers may help identify people who are at risk for heart disease but are overlooked by standard risk assessments.

    • Peter Gwynne
  • Outlook |

    A hormone system adapted for self-preservation can break and fix your heart, say Sébastien Foulquier, Ulrike Muscha Steckelings and Thomas Unger.

    • Sébastien Foulquier
    • Ulrike Muscha Steckelings
    • Thomas Unger
  • Outlook |

    New drugs and more focused therapy might cut down on atrial fibrillation and reduce the incidence of stroke.

    • Neil Savage
  • Outlook |

    The standard medications for hypertension and cholesterol have lingering issues, but new drugs hold promise for high-risk patients.

    • Katharine Gammon
  • Outlook |

    Mental factors beyond stress trigger physiological changes that can cause heart disease.

    • Shailaja Neelakantan

Nature Outlook

  • Nature Outlook |

    Heart health

    Heart disease causes almost one in three deaths worldwide. While improved diet and lifestyle changes play huge roles in combating the disease, discoveries about the biochemical and cellular mechanisms involved are bringing forth new treatments - from better drugs to surgical procedures.

Nature Briefing

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