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Volume 520 Issue 7546, 9 April 2015

The most dramatic modern revision of Mendeleevs periodic table of elements came in 1944 when Glenn T. Seaborg placed a new series of elements, the actinides (atomic numbers 89�103), below the lanthanides. In this issue of Nature, Yuichiro Nagame and colleagues report the first measurement of one of the basic atomic properties of element 103 (lawrencium), namely its first ionization potential. Lawrencium is only accessible via atom-at-a-time synthesis in heavy-ion accelerators, so experimental investigations of its properties are rare. Nagame and colleagues were able to reduce the number of atoms required to measure the ionization potential from billions to thousands, and these results � in agreement with the latest theoretical calculations � show that the last valence electron in lawrencium is the most weakly bound one in all actinides and any other element beyond group 1 of the periodic table. This signature � in a region of the periodic table where the sheer size of the atoms means that relativistic effects play a crucial role � confirms the end of the actinide series at element 103. Cover: Nik Spencer/Nature.


  • Editorial |

    A review of the United Kingdom’s progress towards ‘gold’ open-access research is instructive — for funders, publishers and scientists both at home and abroad.

  • Editorial |

    The European Union faces a fresh battle over next-generation plant-breeding techniques.

  • Editorial |

    A study in Nature adds a dramatic twist to the backstory of a neighbour we thought we knew.

World View

  • World View |

    To judge the safety of flying during an eruption, the airline industry cannot just rely on advances in volcanic monitoring and prediction, says Matthew Watson.

    • Matthew Watson

Research Highlights

Social Selection

Seven Days

  • Seven Days |

    The week in science: Iran strikes deal on nuclear plans; Hong Kong academics decry government meddling; and souped-up LHC starts second run.


News Feature

  • News Feature |

    There is a growing number of postdocs and few places in academia for them to go. But change could be on the way.

    • Kendall Powell
  • News Feature |

    Swiss-cheese-like materials called metal–organic frameworks have long promised to improve gas storage, separation and catalysis. Now they are coming of age.

    • Mark Peplow


  • Comment |

    Biological data will continue to pile up unless those who analyse it are recognized as creative collaborators in need of career paths, says Jeffrey Chang.

    • Jeffrey Chang

Books & Arts



News & Views

  • News & Views |

    Transplantation experiments in mice reveal that the increased risk of congenital heart disease in the pups of older mothers is not conferred by ageing eggs, but by the mothers' age, and can be mitigated by exercise. See Letter p.230

    • Marc-Phillip Hitz
    • Gregor Andelfinger
  • News & Views |

    Organic compounds called nitriles have been detected in material surrounding a young star. The finding hints at a vast reservoir of ice and volatile species that can seed the surfaces of young rocky planets or moons. See Letter p.198

    • Geoffrey A. Blake
    • Edwin A. Bergin


  • News & Views |

    The Paf1 protein complex in fission yeast has been found to protect protein-coding genes from inhibition by RNA-mediated silencing of transcription, by stimulating the release of nascent transcripts from DNA. See Letter p.248

    • Mikel Zaratiegui
  • News & Views |

    Spontaneously generated, random wrinkles of coatings on microscale particles have been found to be analogous to fingerprints — unique patterns with a wavy topography that can serve as unclonable tags for anti-counterfeiting purposes.

    • Jie Yin
    • Mary C. Boyce
  • News & Views |

    Analysis of endothelial cells, which are involved in blood-vessel formation, unexpectedly reveals that proliferation in this cell type depends on fatty-acid oxidation to support DNA synthesis. See Article p.192

    • Robert A. Egnatchik
    • Ralph J. DeBerardinis
  • News & Views |

    The heavy element lawrencium is available in only tiny quantities. Measurement of one of its atomic properties was thus an experimental challenge, but indispensably validates theoretical models of heavy elements. See Letter p.209

    • Andreas Türler
  • News & Views |

    The discovery that interactions between two stress-associated neuropeptide hormones regulate binge drinking in mice provides insight into the biological mechanisms that underpin the bingeing cycle.

    • Richard M. O'Connor
    • Paul J. Kenny
  • News & Views |

    Earth and the Moon share many puzzling chemical similarities. New analyses show that the last planet-sized body to hit Earth could have been similar enough to Earth to yield a Moon with an Earth-like composition. See Letter p.212

    • Robin M. Canup

Review Article

  • Review Article |

    A large amount of organic carbon stored in frozen Arctic soils (permafrost) could be released as carbon dioxide and methane in a warming climate, which would accelerate the pace of climate change; this review suggests that release of greenhouse gas emissions will be gradual but prolonged.

    • E. A. G. Schuur
    • A. D. McGuire
    • J. E. Vonk


  • Article |

    Ca2+ spikes are generated on different dendritic branches in the primary motor cortex of mice performing different motor learning tasks, causing long-lasting potentiation of postsynaptic dendritic spines; inactivation of a population of interneurons disrupts the spatial separation of Ca2+ spikes and persistent dendritic spine potentiation, suggesting that the generation of Ca2+ spikes on different dendritic branches is crucial for storing information in individual neurons.

    • Joseph Cichon
    • Wen-Biao Gan
  • Article |

    The physical size of the commonly used Cas9 from Streptococcus pyogenes poses challenges for CRISPR-Cas genome editing systems that use the adeno-associated virus as a delivery vehicle; here, smaller Cas9 orthologues are characterized, and Cas9 from Staphylococcus aureus allowed targeting of the cholesterol regulatory gene Pcsk9 in the mouse liver.

    • F. Ann Ran
    • Le Cong
    • Feng Zhang
  • Article |

    This study identifies a crucial role for fatty acid oxidation (FAO) in endothelial cells during angiogenesis, and reveals that fatty-acid-derived carbons are used for the de novo synthesis of nucleotides, and hence FAO stimulates vessel sprouting by increasing endothelial cell proliferation.

    • Sandra Schoors
    • Ulrike Bruning
    • Peter Carmeliet


  • Letter |

    Lawrencium, with atomic number 103, has an isotope with a half-life of 27 seconds; even so, its first ionization potential has now been measured on an atom-at-a-time scale and agrees well with state-of-the-art theoretical calculations that include relativistic effects.

    • T. K. Sato
    • M. Asai
    • N. Trautmann
  • Letter |

    The Moon is thought to have formed mainly from a giant impactor striking the Earth but it has seemed odd that the Earth and its impactor (and hence the Moon) had such similar compositions; here simulations of planetary accretion show that although the different planets have distinct compositions, the composition of each giant impactor is indeed often very similar to that of the planet it strikes.

    • Alessandra Mastrobuono-Battisti
    • Hagai B. Perets
    • Sean N. Raymond
  • Letter |

    A method to measure the precise relationship between neuronal firing rates and the representation of accumulated evidence is described; results in the parietal and prefrontal cortex of rats, together with transient optogenetic inactivation of the prefrontal cortex, challenge the prevailing view that the prefrontal cortex is part of the neural circuit for accumulating evidence, and suggest that neurons in parietal and prefrontal areas have distinct relationships to evidence accumulation in decision-making.

    • Timothy D. Hanks
    • Charles D. Kopec
    • Carlos D. Brody
  • Letter |

    Genome-wide association studies are used to identify common genetic variants that affect the structure of selected subcortical regions of the human brain; their identification provides insight into the causes of variability in brain development and may help to determine mechanisms of neuropsychiatric dysfunction.

    • Derrek P. Hibar
    • Jason L. Stein
    • Sarah E. Medland
  • Letter |

    Increased maternal age is known to increase the risk of congenital heart disease in offspring; here, this link is investigated by transplanting ovaries between young and old mice, revealing that the maternal-age-associated risk is independent of the age of the ovaries but depends on the age of the mother, and that this risk can be mitigated by maternal genetic background or exercise.

    • Claire E. Schulkey
    • Suk D. Regmi
    • Patrick Y. Jay
  • Letter |

    Repeated contacts between the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and a subset of endosomes called late endosomes (LEs) is shown to promote microtubule-dependent translocation of LEs to the cell periphery and their subsequent fusion with the plasma membrane to induce outgrowth of neuronal protrusions.

    • Camilla Raiborg
    • Eva M. Wenzel
    • Harald Stenmark
  • Letter |

    The fission yeast is shown to have a mechanism to prevent small RNAs from inducing heterochromatin and epigenetic gene silencing; this protective model involves the highly conserved Paf1 complex, which is known to promote transcription and processing of pre-mRNA, and protects protein-coding genes from unwanted silencing by spurious transcripts.

    • Katarzyna Maria Kowalik
    • Yukiko Shimada
    • Marc Bühler


Career Brief


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