Volume 527 Issue 7576, 5 November 2015

A representation of two alternative scenarios for the Australian economy to 2050. For a developed nation to move to a sustainable society requires simultaneous rebalancing of economics, energy, agriculture and behaviour. Steve Hatfield-Dodds et al. use a multimodel framework to assess the ability to achieve this within a single nation-continent, Australia. Looking at climate, water, food, energy and biodiversity, they show that economic improvement is possible without ecological deterioration, but that specific political and economic choices need to be made to achieve this. Cover art: Emily Cooper.


  • Editorial |

    Reform is long overdue for Germany’s archaic medical-education system, which puts undue pressure on students and contaminates the scientific literature.

  • Editorial |

    Researchers should add their voices to the effort to stop attacks on health workers in war zones.

  • Editorial |

    A tribute to the nineteenth-century polymath whose algebra lets you search the Internet.

World View

Research Highlights

Social Selection

Seven Days



News Feature

  • News Feature |

    A London lab is deploying every technology it can to understand infant brains, and what happens when development goes awry.

    • Linda Geddes


  • Comment |

    Develop the science of data synthesis to join up the myriad varieties of health information, insist Julian H. Elliott, Jeremy Grimshaw and colleagues.

    • Julian H. Elliott
    • , Jeremy Grimshaw
    • , Russ Altman
    • , Lisa Bero
    • , Steven N. Goodman
    • , David Henry
    • , Malcolm Macleod
    • , David Tovey
    • , Peter Tugwell
    • , Howard White
    •  & Ida Sim
  • Comment |

    Open sharing of data that are collected with smart devices would empower citizens and create jobs, say Dirk Helbing and Evangelos Pournaras.

    • Dirk Helbing
    •  & Evangelos Pournaras

Books & Arts

  • Books & Arts |

    Lasana T. Harris commends a book exposing the lack of scientific basis to 'enhanced interrogation techniques'.

    • Lasana T. Harris
  • Books & Arts |

    A polished biopic of tech titan Steve Jobs fails to plumb fully his inner contradictions, finds Timo Hannay.

    • Timo Hannay
  • Books & Arts |

    Barbara Kiser reviews five of the week's best science picks.

    • Barbara Kiser


News & Views

  • News & Views |

    A modelling study argues that comprehensive policy change could limit Australia's environmental pollution while maintaining a materials-intensive path to economic growth. But other paths are worth considering. See Article p.49

    • Benjamin L. Bodirsky
    •  & Alexander Popp
  • News & Views |

    What could cause a water droplet to start bouncing on a surface? It seems that a combination of evaporation and a highly water-repellent surface induces droplet bouncing when ambient pressure is reduced. See Letter p.82

    • Doris Vollmer
    •  & Hans-Jürgen Butt
  • News & Views |

    Cutting-edge experiments show that the hormone leptin, which is secreted by fat cells, promotes fat loss by activating the release of catecholamine signalling molecules from neurons wrapped around the fat cells.

    • Johan Ruud
    •  & Jens C. Brüning
  • News & Views |

    The discovery that potassium ion channels are involved in electrical signalling between bacterial cells may help to unravel the role of ion channels in microbial physiology and communication. See Article p.59

    • Sarah D. Beagle
    •  & Steve W. Lockless
  • News & Views |

    A sensitive cold-ion experiment probes sound at the level of phonons, the fundamental quantum units of vibration. It shows that phonons mix in such a way that they can be classified as 'bosonic' particles, like photons. See Letter p.74

    • Dave Kielpinski
  • News & Views |

    Single-cell analyses reveal that combinatorial changes in the intracellular locations of transcription factors can tune the expression of the factors' target genes in response to environmental stimuli. See Article p.54

    • Antoine Baudrimont
    •  & Attila Becskei


  • Article |

    A multi-model framework that accounts for climate, water, energy, food, biodiversity and economic activity in Australia reveals that a sustainable society that enjoys economic improvement without ecological deterioration is possible, but that specific political and economic choices need to be made to achieve this.

    • Steve Hatfield-Dodds
    • , Heinz Schandl
    • , Philip D. Adams
    • , Timothy M. Baynes
    • , Thomas S. Brinsmead
    • , Brett A. Bryan
    • , Francis H. S. Chiew
    • , Paul W. Graham
    • , Mike Grundy
    • , Tom Harwood
    • , Rebecca McCallum
    • , Rod McCrea
    • , Lisa E. McKellar
    • , David Newth
    • , Martin Nolan
    • , Ian Prosser
    •  & Alex Wonhas
  • Article |

    Many gene-regulatory proteins have been shown to activate in pulses, but whether cells exploit the dynamic interaction between pulses of different regulatory proteins has remained unexplored; here single-cell videos show that yeast cells modulate the relative timing between the pulsatile transcription factors Msn2 and Mig1—a gene activator and a repressor, respectively—to control the expression of target genes in response to diverse environmental conditions.

    • Yihan Lin
    • , Chang Ho Sohn
    • , Chiraj K. Dalal
    • , Long Cai
    •  & Michael B. Elowitz
  • Article |

    Ion channels in bacterial biofilms are shown to conduct long-range electrical signals within the biofilm community through the propagation of potassium ions; as predicted by a simple mathematical model, potassium channel gating is shown to coordinate metabolic states between distant cells via electrical communication.

    • Arthur Prindle
    • , Jintao Liu
    • , Munehiro Asally
    • , San Ly
    • , Jordi Garcia-Ojalvo
    •  & Gürol M. Süel
  • Article |

    Piezo1, a mechanosensitive cation channel, senses shear stress of blood flow for proper blood vessel development, regulates red blood cell function and controls cell migration and differentiation; here a trimeric architecture of this novel class of ion channel is reported, suggesting that Piezo1 may use its peripheral propeller-like ‘blades’ as force sensors to gate the central ion-conducting pore.

    • Jingpeng Ge
    • , Wanqiu Li
    • , Qiancheng Zhao
    • , Ningning Li
    • , Maofei Chen
    • , Peng Zhi
    • , Ruochong Li
    • , Ning Gao
    • , Bailong Xiao
    •  & Maojun Yang


  • Letter |

    A study of 12CO outflow emission from the protostellar source CARMA-7 in the cluster Serpens South suggests that episodic ejections of mass by the protostar begin in the earliest phase of protostellar evolution, probably providing a mechanism for driving the turbulence that is necessary for star formation in clusters.

    • Adele L. Plunkett
    • , Héctor G. Arce
    • , Diego Mardones
    • , Pieter van Dokkum
    • , Michael M. Dunham
    • , Manuel Fernández-López
    • , José Gallardo
    •  & Stuartt A. Corder
  • Letter |

    The Hong–Ou–Mandel effect is a quantum phenomenon that involves the interference of bosonic particles and demonstrates their indistinguishability; this effect has been demonstrated previously for photons and neutral atoms, and is now demonstrated for phonons, using a system of trapped ions that are promising building blocks for quantum computers.

    • Kenji Toyoda
    • , Ryoto Hiji
    • , Atsushi Noguchi
    •  & Shinji Urabe
  • Letter |

    An affordable, safe, and scalable battery system is presented, which uses organic polymers as the charge-storage material in combination with inexpensive dialysis membranes and an aqueous sodium chloride solution as the electrolyte.

    • Tobias Janoschka
    • , Norbert Martin
    • , Udo Martin
    • , Christian Friebe
    • , Sabine Morgenstern
    • , Hannes Hiller
    • , Martin D. Hager
    •  & Ulrich S. Schubert
  • Letter |

    Spontaneous levitation and trampoline-like bouncing behaviour of water droplets on rigid superhydrophobic surfaces in a low-pressure environment are observed, and are due to a build-up of overpressure in the surface texture beneath the droplets.

    • Thomas M. Schutzius
    • , Stefan Jung
    • , Tanmoy Maitra
    • , Gustav Graeber
    • , Moritz Köhme
    •  & Dimos Poulikakos
  • Letter |

    Chemical methods for adding carbon-based or nitrogen-based functional groups to alkenes are well established, but strategies for adding both to the same double bond have limitations; here, a method for the carboamination of alkenes at the same double bond is described.

    • Tiffany Piou
    •  & Tomislav Rovis
  • Letter |

    An analysis of 344 species of tetrapods (birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians) shows that taxa in which the female is heterogametic tend to have a more male-biased sex ratio; the mechanisms driving the association are unclear, but sex-determination systems are likely to have important consequences for the social behaviour and demography of tetrapods.

    • Ivett Pipoly
    • , Veronika Bókony
    • , Mark Kirkpatrick
    • , Paul F. Donald
    • , Tamás Székely
    •  & András Liker
  • Letter |

    A neuronal model of bipolar disorder based on induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology finds hyperactive action-potential firing and differential responsiveness to lithium in iPSC-derived neurons from patients with bipolar disorder.

    • Jerome Mertens
    • , Qiu-Wen Wang
    • , Yongsung Kim
    • , Diana X. Yu
    • , Son Pham
    • , Bo Yang
    • , Yi Zheng
    • , Kenneth E. Diffenderfer
    • , Jian Zhang
    • , Sheila Soltani
    • , Tameji Eames
    • , Simon T. Schafer
    • , Leah Boyer
    • , Maria C. Marchetto
    • , John I. Nurnberger
    • , Joseph R. Calabrese
    • , Ketil J. Oedegaard
    • , Michael J. McCarthy
    • , Peter P. Zandi
    • , Martin Alda
    • , Caroline M. Nievergelt
    • , Shuangli Mi
    • , Kristen J. Brennand
    • , John R. Kelsoe
    • , Fred H. Gage
    •  & Jun Yao
  • Letter |

    Expression of the tumour suppressor PTEN in disseminated primary tumour cells is lost after tumour cells metastasize to the brain, with downregulation instigated by microRNAs from astrocytes, which are transferred from cell to cell by exosomes; these findings reveal the dynamic nature of metastatic cancer cells when adapting to a new tissue environment.

    • Lin Zhang
    • , Siyuan Zhang
    • , Jun Yao
    • , Frank J. Lowery
    • , Qingling Zhang
    • , Wen-Chien Huang
    • , Ping Li
    • , Min Li
    • , Xiao Wang
    • , Chenyu Zhang
    • , Hai Wang
    • , Kenneth Ellis
    • , Mujeeburahiman Cheerathodi
    • , Joseph H. McCarty
    • , Diane Palmieri
    • , Jodi Saunus
    • , Sunil Lakhani
    • , Suyun Huang
    • , Aysegul A. Sahin
    • , Kenneth D. Aldape
    • , Patricia S. Steeg
    •  & Dihua Yu
  • Letter |

    In response to cancer-associated stress, autophagy machinery mediates degradation of nuclear lamina components in mammals, suggesting that cells might degrade nuclear components to prevent tumorigenesis.

    • Zhixun Dou
    • , Caiyue Xu
    • , Greg Donahue
    • , Takeshi Shimi
    • , Ji-An Pan
    • , Jiajun Zhu
    • , Andrejs Ivanov
    • , Brian C. Capell
    • , Adam M. Drake
    • , Parisha P. Shah
    • , Joseph M. Catanzaro
    • , M. Daniel Ricketts
    • , Trond Lamark
    • , Stephen A. Adam
    • , Ronen Marmorstein
    • , Wei-Xing Zong
    • , Terje Johansen
    • , Robert D. Goldman
    • , Peter D. Adams
    •  & Shelley L. Berger
  • Letter |

    The X-ray crystal structure of influenza C virus polymerase, captured in a closed, pre-activation confirmation, is solved at 3.9 Å resolution; comparison with previous RNA-bound structures reveals large conformational changes associated with RNA binding and activation, and illustrates the notable flexibility of the influenza virus RNA polymerase.

    • Narin Hengrung
    • , Kamel El Omari
    • , Itziar Serna Martin
    • , Frank T. Vreede
    • , Stephen Cusack
    • , Robert P. Rambo
    • , Clemens Vonrhein
    • , Gérard Bricogne
    • , David I. Stuart
    • , Jonathan M. Grimes
    •  & Ervin Fodor
  • Letter |

    In DNA demethylation, human TET proteins are evolutionarily tuned to be less reactive towards 5hmC and facilitate its generation as a potentially stable mark for regulatory functions.

    • Lulu Hu
    • , Junyan Lu
    • , Jingdong Cheng
    • , Qinhui Rao
    • , Ze Li
    • , Haifeng Hou
    • , Zhiyong Lou
    • , Lei Zhang
    • , Wei Li
    • , Wei Gong
    • , Mengjie Liu
    • , Chang Sun
    • , Xiaotong Yin
    • , Jie Li
    • , Xiangshi Tan
    • , Pengcheng Wang
    • , Yinsheng Wang
    • , Dong Fang
    • , Qiang Cui
    • , Pengyuan Yang
    • , Chuan He
    • , Hualiang Jiang
    • , Cheng Luo
    •  & Yanhui Xu





  • Outlook |

    Researchers are struggling to analyse the steadily swelling troves of '-omic' data in the quest for patient-centred health care.

    • Michael Eisenstein
  • Outlook |

    Mark Caulfield is chief scientist at Genomics England, which was set up in 2013 to deliver the UK 100,000 Genomes Project, initially focusing on cancers, rare diseases and infection. Caulfield, a cardiovascular clinician and researcher, spoke about the UK approach to big data in biomedicine and the role of Genomics England — including how it plans to embed genomic medicine in Britain's National Health Service (NHS).

    • Claire Ainsworth
  • Outlook |

    The effort to catalogue proteins goes deeper in a push to make genetics research deliver practical benefits.

    • Neil Savage
  • Outlook |

    Wearable sensors and smartphones are providing a flood of information and empowering population-wide studies.

    • Neil Savage
  • Outlook |

    Precision medicine demands precise matching of deep genomic and phenotypic models — and the deeper you go, the more you know.

    • Cathryn M. Delude
  • Outlook |

    Organizing and accessing biomedical big data will require quite different business models, say Philip E. Bourne, Jon R. Lorsch and Eric D. Green.

    • Philip E. Bourne
    • , Jon R. Lorsch
    •  & Eric D. Green
  • Outlook |

    A former paediatric oncologist and molecular biologist with experience in academia and industry, Perry Nisen was senior vice-president for science and innovation at GlaxoSmithKline in 2014 before becoming chief executive at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in La Jolla, California. He discusses the challenges facing drug discovery in the era of big data.

    • Eric Bender
  • Outlook |

    Gathering and understanding the deluge of biomedical research and health data poses huge challenges. But this work is rapidly changing the face of medicine.

    • Eric Bender

Nature Outlook

  • Nature Outlook |

    Big data in biomedicine

    Advances in sequencing technology have triggered a tsunami of genomic data, and these are joined by waves of information from other '-omics' studies, clinical trials and patient records. Analysis of this big data is launching the era of precision medicine — but enormous scientific, engineering and institutional challenges remain.

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