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Volume 575 Issue 7784, 28 November 2019

Twisted tale

The cover image shows tau protein (blue) accumulating inside neurons. Alongside amyloid-β, tau is believed to play a significant part in Alzheimer’s disease. Whereas amyloid-β accumulates in plaques, hyperphosphorylated tau aggregates in neurofibrillary tangles; these plaques and tangles contribute to neurodegeneration and cognitive decline. Activation in microglia of the NLRP3 inflammasome, a protein complex that is part of the body’s natural defences, is essential for amyloid-β plaque formation. In this week’s issue, Michael Heneka and his colleagues reveal that the NLRP3 inflammasome also helps to drive the formation of tau tangles. The team shows that tau tangles develop downstream of amyloid-β activating microglia and the NLRP3 inflammasome, lending support to the amyloid-cascade hypothesis in Alzheimer‘s disease. The researchers also find that tau itself can prompt activation of the inflammasome, hinting that there may be broader implications for other neurodegenerative diseases.

Cover image: Pixeldust Studios

This Week

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News in Focus

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Books & Arts

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  • News & Views

    • The discovery of a mechanism that guards against a type of cell death called ferroptosis reveals a system that regenerates a ubiquitous protective component of biological membranes, and might offer a target for anticancer drugs.

      • Brent R. Stockwell
      News & Views
    • A molecular catalyst dispersed on carbon nanotubes has been found to catalyse the electrochemical conversion of carbon dioxide to methanol — a liquid fuel and industrially useful bulk chemical.

      • Xin-Ming Hu
      • Kim Daasbjerg
      News & Views
    • A previously unknown bacterial toxin has now been characterized. The protein is secreted into neighbouring cells, depleting them of essential energy-carrying molecules and so leading to the cells’ demise.

      • Brent W. Anderson
      • Jue D. Wang
      News & Views
    • A crystal’s surface has been found to behave as a distinct material that has temperature-dependent electrical polarization — despite the rest of the crystal being non-polar.

      • Gustau Catalan
      • Beatriz Noheda
      News & Views
    • Bacteria move along gradients of chemical attractants. Two studies find that, in nutrient-rich environments, bacteria can grow rapidly by following a non-nutritious attractant — but expanding too fast leaves them vulnerable.

      • Henry Mattingly
      • Thierry Emonet
      News & Views
    • Scientists have engineered semiconducting nanocrystals called quantum dots that lack toxic heavy metals and are highly efficient light emitters. These nanostructures might be used in displays, solar cells and light-emitting diodes.

      • Alexander L. Efros
      News & Views
  • Perspective

    • The authors review the advantages and future prospects of neuromorphic computing, a multidisciplinary engineering concept for energy-efficient artificial intelligence with brain-inspired functionality.

      • Kaushik Roy
      • Akhilesh Jaiswal
      • Priyadarshini Panda
  • Articles

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Amendments & Corrections

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  • Advances in imaging have paved the way for new careers in cell biology.

    Career Guide
  • Vaccines have been a tremendous force for good in the world. Numerous infections that once claimed millions of lives are now preventable.

    Nature Outlook
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