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Volume 527 Issue 7578, 19 November 2015

Ultrastructure and collagen fibril orientation in a human trabecular bone sample, determined by three-dimensional small-angle X-ray scattering. Small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) can, in principle, probe structural ordering across a wide range of length scales, from nanoscale to the macroscopic. However, an experimental method and analysis scheme to obtain three-dimensional images while preserving nanostructure orientation information remained out of reach. Two papers in this issue of Nature combine different tomographic principles with SAXS to yield this information. Marianne Liebi et al. introduce a generally applicable model that can describe the SAXS data and show how taking account of the symmetries intrinsic to many samples of interest � such as the preferred orientation of collagen fibrils in the human trabecular bone that they have studied � can make the process more manageable. The procedure demonstrated by Florian Schaff et al. introduces the concept of virtual tomography axes, which allows arrangement of the vast amount of data to enable a direct independent reconstruction of each reciprocal space component. For their example, they show the orientation and scattering strength of mineralized collagen in a human tooth, spatially resolved over several millimetres. Cover credit: Marianne Liebi.


  • Editorial |

    Numbers on racial bias in research grants awarded by the US National Institutes of Health show that science has more to learn about inclusiveness.

  • Editorial |

    Researchers exploring ways to genetically alter wild populations are wise to air their plans.

  • Editorial |

    Science is beside the point when an entrenched culture in a sport supports scoundrels.

World View

  • World View |

    Giving staff and students a say in how institutions are run would strengthen governance and clip the wings of administrators, argues Colin Macilwain.

    • Colin Macilwain

Research Highlights

Social Selection

  • Social Selection |

    Institute director’s struggle with hundreds of applications triggers online discussion of assessment of researchers.

    • Dalmeet Singh Chawla

Seven Days




  • News |

    What we know about alien worlds — and what’s coming next.

    • Alexandra Witze

News Feature


Books & Arts

  • Books & Arts |

    As Alice's Adventures in Wonderland reaches 150, Francine Abeles surveys its creator's wide-ranging legacy.

    • Francine F. Abeles
  • Books & Arts |

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

    • Barbara Kiser



News & Views

  • News & Views |

    A combination of two techniques — computed tomography and small-angle X-ray scattering — and serious computing power have enabled multi-scale, three-dimensional analysis of bone and tooth tissue. See Letters p.349 & p.353

    • Peter Fratzl
  • News & Views |

    Some Staphylococcus aureus bacteria are thought to survive standard antibiotic treatment by 'hiding' in host cells. But an antibody–antibiotic conjugate has been developed that targets these bacteria in mouse models. See Article p.323

    • Wolf-Dietrich Hardt
  • News & Views |

    Thousands of extrasolar planets have been discovered, but none is a planet in its infancy. Observations have finally been made of a young planet growing in its birthplace — opening the way to many more such discoveries. See Letter p.342

    • Zhaohuan Zhu
  • News & Views |

    The discovery of cells in an invertebrate that share several features with vertebrate neural-crest cells provides insights into how this vital vertebrate cell population might have evolved. See Letter p.371

    • Marianne E. Bronner
  • News & Views |

    An analysis reveals that cancer cells remotely prepare distant sites for tumour spread in an organ-specific manner, by deploying organ-seeking extracellular vesicles. See Article p.329

    • Janusz Rak
  • News & Views |

    By electrically stimulating the motor neurons of rats that have spinal-cord injury, in bursts that are attuned to the times at which the neurons receive voluntary motor commands, the animals' recovery can be improved.

    • Randolph J. Nudo
  • News & Views |

    Extreme drought or wet conditions have now been found to strongly influence the vegetative development of ecosystems. Semi-arid regions are most affected — raising concerns about their vulnerability to long-term drought in the future.

    • Anja Rammig
    • Miguel D. Mahecha


  • Article |

    The morphogen Decapentaplegic (Dpp) has been implicated in both wing patterning and growth in fruitflies; here, a nanobody-based morphotrap approach has been developed that rules out a role for the Dpp gradient in regulating lateral wing growth.

    • Stefan Harmansa
    • Fisun Hamaratoglu
    • Emmanuel Caussinus
  • Article |

    Antibiotic-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus, such as MRSA, are proving increasingly difficult to treat; here, one reason for this is confirmed to be the fact that S. aureus bacteria can reside in intracellular reservoirs where they are protected from antibiotics, but a new strategy—based on an antibody–antibiotic conjugate—can specifically target these reservoirs.

    • Sophie M. Lehar
    • Thomas Pillow
    • Sanjeev Mariathasan
  • Article |

    Exosomes originating from lung-, liver- and brain-tropic tumour cells are preferentially incorporated by specific resident cells of the target organs, thus preparing the site for metastasis; the expression of distinct combinations of exosomal integrin proteins determines the exosomal targeting to each of the three organs, and blocking these integrins reduces organotropic exosome uptake by the target organs, thereby reducing the likelihood of organotropic metastasis.

    • Ayuko Hoshino
    • Bruno Costa-Silva
    • David Lyden
  • Article |

    This study has determined the electron cryomicroscopy structure of the mammalian type 1 InsP3 receptor in a ligand-free state at 4.7 Å resolution; although the central Ca2+-conduction pathway is similar to other ion channels, the unique architecture of the C-terminal domains of the tetrameric channel suggests that a distinctive allosteric mechanism underlies the activation of InsP3 gating.

    • Guizhen Fan
    • Matthew L. Baker
    • Irina I. Serysheva


  • Letter |

    Transition disks are natural laboratories for the study of planet formation, with inner clearings explained by the influence of accreting planets, but attempts to observe directly accretion onto protoplanets have proven unsuccessful so far; here the authors detect infrared emission from multiple companions of the LkCa 15 system and Ha emission from the innermost (LkCa 15 b), showing hot (~10,000 K) gas falling deep into the potential well of an accreting protoplanet.

    • S. Sallum
    • K. B. Follette
    • A. J. Weinberger
  • Letter |

    The interaction between antiprotons, produced by colliding high-energy gold ions, is shown to be attractive, and two important parameters of this interaction are measured, namely the scattering length and the effective range.

    • L. Adamczyk
    • J. K. Adkins
    • M. Zyzak
  • Letter |

    An imaging method that combines small-angle X-ray scattering with tensor tomography to probe nanoscale structures in macroscopic samples is introduced and demonstrated by measuring the main orientation and the degree of orientation of nanoscale mineralized collagen fibrils in a human trabecula bone sample.

    • Marianne Liebi
    • Marios Georgiadis
    • Manuel Guizar-Sicairos
  • Letter |

    A small-angle X-ray scattering computed tomography method that reduces the amount of data that needs to be collected and analysed to reconstruct the three-dimensional scattering distribution in reciprocal space of a three-dimensional sample in real space is demonstrated by measuring the orientation of collagen fibres within a human tooth.

    • Florian Schaff
    • Martin Bech
    • Franz Pfeiffer
  • Letter |

    Two flexible metal-organic frameworks are presented as solid adsorbents for methane that undergo reversible phase transitions at specific methane pressures, enabling greater storage capacities of usable methane than have been achieved previously, while also providing internal heat management of the system.

    • Jarad A. Mason
    • Julia Oktawiec
    • Jeffrey R. Long
  • Letter |

    The processes responsible for driving the expansion of the ocean's oxygen minimum zones remain uncertain; here sediment core data from the Gulf of Alaska suggest that reduced oxygen solubility was a result of ocean warming initiating the expansion of the North Pacific oxygen minimum zone, leading to increased marine productivity and carbon export and, in turn, further reductions in dissolved oxygen levels.

    • S. K. Praetorius
    • A. C. Mix
    • F. G. Prahl
  • Letter |

    By quantifying the colouration of all approximately 6,000 species of passerine birds, certain life-history traits such as large body size and tropical distribution are found to increase ornamentation in both male and female birds, whereas cooperative breeding increases it in females only, and sexual selection diminishes it in females more than it increases it in males.

    • James Dale
    • Cody J. Dey
    • Mihai Valcu
  • Letter |

    Neuronal precursor cells in the tunicate Ciona intestinalis are shown to delaminate and undergo directed cell migration along either side of the neural tube before differentiating into bipolar neurons, suggesting that vertebrate neural-crest-derived sensory neurons have much deeper evolutionary roots.

    • Alberto Stolfi
    • Kerrianne Ryan
    • Lionel Christiaen
  • Letter |

    Hydrazine is an intermediate in the process of anaerobic ammonium oxidation which has a major role in the Earth’s nitrogen cycle; the crystal structure of a hydrazine synthase enzyme provides insights into the mechanism of hydrazine synthesis.

    • Andreas Dietl
    • Christina Ferousi
    • Thomas R. M. Barends







  • Futures |

    Family connections.

    • Susana Martinez-Conde


  • Outlook |

    Breast cancer, one of the most common and deadly malignancies, has undoubtedly plagued humans since the dawn of our species. The history of the fight against the disease is one of lurching progress against a backdrop of misery. But recent decades have seen greatly improved treatments and increased survival. By Will Tauxe.

    • Will Tauxe
  • Outlook |

    Screening mammograms catch some cancers that pose little threat. Alexandra Barratt explains why she may decide to skip the scans.

    • Alexandra Barratt
  • Outlook |

    Targeting the immune system to fight breast cancer was all but dismissed in the 1990s, but the strategy is making a big comeback with the possibility of a breast-cancer vaccine.

    • Charles Schmidt
  • Outlook |

    Technology is allowing researchers to generate vast amounts of information about tumours. The next step is to use this genomic data to transform patient care.

    • Jill U. Adams
  • Outlook |

    A push to expand the success of a pair of antibody-based drugs is buying some women years of freedom from breast cancer.

    • Michael Eisenstein
  • Outlook |

    Reliable markers could eliminate surgery and radiation therapy for many women diagnosed with a type of cancer that often does not progress beyond its non-invasive form.

    • Hannah Hoag
  • Outlook |

    Mutations in BRCA genes predispose women to cancer, but outside influences shape the ultimate risk.

    • Moises Velasquez-Manoff
  • Outlook |

    Mammogram screenings are an established part of women's health care, but are they more trouble than they are worth?

    • Emily Sohn
  • Outlook |

    Although treatments for breast cancer have come a long way over the past few generations, researchers are still puzzling over some tough questions.

    • Chris Woolston



  • Nature Outlook |

    Breast cancer

    The global effort against breast cancer has already had major victories, but women with the disease need even more. With input from the fields of epidemiology, genomics, immunology and molecular biology, scientists are looking for the advances that could turn even more people with breast cancer into survivors.

  • Collection |

    Brain disorders across the lifespan

    Brain and other nervous-system disorders impose a disproportionate burden on those in low- and middle-income countries. For over a decade, the Fogarty International Center and its NIH partners have supported research and capacity-building to provide context-sensitive solutions to this public health challenge. This supplement outlines the overarching and intersecting research priorities for addressing causes, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation, as well as opportunities to strengthen scientific capacity that can promote global nervous system health.

Nature Briefing

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