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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

News in Focus

Books & Arts




    News & Views

  • 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
  • Perspective

  • 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

  • Article |

    Imaging studies show that topological protection in the quantum Hall state in graphene is undermined by edge reconstruction with a dissipation mechanism that comprises two distinct and spatially separated processes—work generation and entropy generation.

    • A. Marguerite
    • J. Birkbeck
    • E. Zeldov
  • Article |

    A method of engineering efficient and stable InP/ZnSe/ZnS quantum dot light-emitting diodes (QD-LEDs) has improved their performance to the level of state-of-the-art cadmium-containing QD-LEDs, removing the problem of the toxicity of cadmium in large-panel displays.

    • Yu-Ho Won
    • Oul Cho
    • Eunjoo Jang
  • Article |

    Individual cobalt phthalocyanine derivative molecules immobilized on carbon nanotubes effectively catalyse the electroreduction of CO2 to methanol via a domino process with high activity and selectivity and stable performance.

    • Yueshen Wu
    • Zhan Jiang
    • Hailiang Wang
  • Article |

    Since the 1980s, rapid warming of the Indo-Pacific warm pool has altered global rainfall pattern by changing the residence time of the Madden–Julian Oscillation, decreasing it by 3–4 days over the Indian Ocean and increasing it over the Indo-Pacific by 5–6 days.

    • M. K. Roxy
    • Panini Dasgupta
    • Daehyun Kim
  • Article |

    A genome-wide association study of mosaic loss of chromosome Y (LOY) in UK Biobank participants identifies 156 genetic determinants of LOY, showing that LOY is associated with cancer and non-haematological health outcomes.

    • Deborah J. Thompson
    • Giulio Genovese
    • John R. B. Perry
  • Article |

    The authors show that NLRP3 inflammasome is activated in microglia of patients with fronto-temporal dementia and in a mouse model of tau pathology, and that the loss of NLRP3 inflammasome function decreases tau pathology and improves cognition in mice.

    • Christina Ising
    • Carmen Venegas
    • Michael T. Heneka
  • Article |

    A synthetic lethal CRISPR–Cas9 screen identifies ferroptosis suppressor protein 1 as a key ferroptosis-resistance factor, the expression of which correlates with ferroptosis resistance in hundreds of cancer cell lines.

    • Kirill Bersuker
    • Joseph M. Hendricks
    • James A. Olzmann
  • Article |

    In the absence of GPX4, FSP1 regenerates ubiquinol from the oxidized form, ubiquinone, using NAD(P)H and suppresses phospholipid peroxidation and ferroptosis in cells.

    • Sebastian Doll
    • Florencio Porto Freitas
    • Marcus Conrad

Amendments & Corrections


  • Nature Outlook |


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

  • Career Guide |

    Cell biology

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

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