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Volume 578 Issue 7795, 20 February 2020

Twisted nerves

The cover image shows an artist’s impression of solid tumours clustering near neurons. In this week’s issue, Moran Amit and his colleagues show that head and neck cancer cells can manipulate nearby nerve cells into promoting tumour growth. The researchers find that the cancer cells secrete vesicles containing small RNA molecules (microRNAs) that are taken up by nearby sensory nerve cells. If the cancer cells have a mutant form of the p53 protein, then the vesicles secreted do not feature a microRNA that blocks neuronal growth. As a result, the vesicles promote the proliferation of nerve cells and reprogram them to be adrenergic neurons, which aids tumour growth.

Cover image: David M. Aten

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  • News & Views

    • The non-coding RNA Xist has been shown to enlist the SPEN protein to recruit a team of protein complexes — initiating the process that prevents transcription of one of the two X chromosomes found in female mammalian cells.

      • Jackson B. Trotman
      • J. Mauro Calabrese
      News & Views
    • Most surfaces are rough at many length scales. Simulations show that this characteristic originates at the atomic level in metal-based materials when smooth blocks of these materials are compressed.

      • Astrid S. de Wijn
      News & Views
    • Tumours often grow entangled among neurons, which makes the cancer difficult to treat. The finding that cancer cells hijack neighbouring neurons to promote tumour growth suggests new therapeutic targets.

      • Marco Napoli
      • Elsa R. Flores
      News & Views
    • The breaking of a property of nature called charge–parity–time symmetry might explain the observed lack of antimatter in the Universe. Scientists have now hunted for such symmetry breaking using the antimatter atom antihydrogen.

      • Randolf Pohl
      News & Views
    • In 1990, an oceanographer who had never worked on climate science proposed that ice-age cooling has been amplified by increased concentrations of iron in the sea — and instigated an explosion of research.

      • Heather Stoll
      News & Views
    • A process termed ubiquitination mediates the regulated destruction of cellular proteins, thereby preventing disease or infection. Structural data now reveal how a crucial regulator of ubiquitination enzymes coordinates this process.

      • Raymond J. Deshaies
      • Nathan W. Pierce
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  • Articles

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