Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Volume 580 Issue 7802, 9 April 2020

Clearing the bottleneck

Plastic waste is a major environmental issue, with some 200 million tonnes accumulating in landfill or the natural environment each year. One significant contributor to the problem is poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET), which is widely used to make plastic bottles and is not easy to recycle. In this week’s issue, Alain Marty and his colleagues report that they have engineered an enzyme that at a pilot scale can efficiently break PET down into its monomer constituents. After 10 hours, the team’s PET hydrolase can depolymerize PET by at least 90%. More importantly, the resulting purified monomers have the same properties as those freshly generated from petrochemical feedstocks and so can be reused to make bottles, thereby moving closer to the idea of a circular economy based on PET.

Cover image: Randy Olson/National Geographic

This Week

Top of page ⤴

News in Focus

Top of page ⤴

Books & Arts

Top of page ⤴


Top of page ⤴


Top of page ⤴


  • News & Views

    • A zinc-sensing ion channel, Hodor, has now been found in the intestine of fruit flies. Hodor activates the TORC1 signalling pathway, and in doing so, influences organism-wide growth and metabolism.

      • Y. Rose Citron
      • Roberto Zoncu
      News & Views
    • Silicon used for electronics has a cubic crystal lattice, which makes the material unsuitable for photonics applications. A method for producing germanium and silicon–germanium alloys that have hexagonal lattices offers a solution.

      • Anna Fontcuberta i Morral
      News & Views
    • Psychological stress can trigger physiological responses, including an increase in body temperature. A neural circuit that underlies this stress-induced heat response has been identified.

      • Dayu Lin
      News & Views
    • Clinicians use ultrasound videos of heartbeats to assess subtle changes in the heart’s pumping function. A method that uses artificial intelligence might simplify these complex assessments when heartbeats are out of rhythm.

      • Partho P. Sengupta
      • Donald A. Adjeroh
      News & Views
  • Articles

    • NaLi molecules are cooled to micro- and nanokelvin temperatures through collisions with ultracold Na atoms by using molecules and atoms in stretched hyperfine spin states and applying two evaporation stages.

      • Hyungmok Son
      • Juliana J. Park
      • Alan O. Jamison
    • A hexagonal (rather than cubic) alloy of silicon and germanium that has a direct (rather than indirect) bandgap emits light efficiently across a range of wavelengths, enabling electronic and optoelectronic functionalities to be combined on a single chip.

      • Elham M. T. Fadaly
      • Alain Dijkstra
      • Erik P. A. M. Bakkers
    • Layered nanocomposites fabricated using a continuous and scalable process achieve properties exceeding those of natural nacre, the result of stiffened matrix polymer chains confined between highly aligned nanosheets.

      • Chuangqi Zhao
      • Pengchao Zhang
      • Lei Jiang
    • Computer-aided engineering produces improvements to an enzyme that breaks down poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET) into its constituent monomers, which are used to synthesize PET of near-petrochemical grade that can be further processed into bottles.

      • V. Tournier
      • C. M. Topham
      • A. Marty
    • Carbon dioxide enrichment of a mature forest resulted in the emission of the excess carbon back into the atmosphere via enhanced ecosystem respiration, suggesting that mature forests may be limited in their capacity to mitigate climate change.

      • Mingkai Jiang
      • Belinda E. Medlyn
      • David S. Ellsworth
    • Protected areas would need to expand to 33.8% of the total land surface to adequately represent environmental conditions across the habitats of amphibians, birds and terrestrial mammals, far exceeding the current 17% target.

      • Jeffrey O. Hanson
      • Jonathan R. Rhodes
      • Richard A. Fuller
    • Analyses of the proteomes of dental enamel from Homo antecessor and Homo erectus demonstrate that the Early Pleistocene H. antecessor is a close sister lineage of later Homo sapiens, Neanderthal and Denisovan populations in Eurasia.

      • Frido Welker
      • Jazmín Ramos-Madrigal
      • Enrico Cappellini


    • Molecular and functional magnetic resonance imaging in the rat reveals distinct neuromodulatory effects of striatal dopamine that extend beyond peak release sites and activate remote neural populations necessary for performing motivated actions.

      • Nan Li
      • Alan Jasanoff
    • Circulating tumour DNA in blood is analysed to identify genomic features that distinguish early-stage lung cancer patients from risk-matched controls, and these are integrated into a machine-learning method for blood-based lung cancer screening.

      • Jacob J. Chabon
      • Emily G. Hamilton
      • Maximilian Diehn
    • A video-based deep learning algorithm—EchoNet-Dynamic—accurately identifies subtle changes in ejection fraction and classifies heart failure with reduced ejection fraction using information from multiple cardiac cycles.

      • David Ouyang
      • Bryan He
      • James Y. Zou
    • After taking up tumour-associated antigens, dendritic cells in mouse and human tumours upregulate a regulatory gene program that limits dendritic cell immunostimulatory function, and modulating this program can rescue antitumor immunity in mice.

      • Barbara Maier
      • Andrew M. Leader
      • Miriam Merad
    • Cryo-EM structures of the FANCI–FANCD2 complex bound to DNA reveal that monoubiquitination triggers structural changes that enable the complex to function as a sliding DNA clamp and coordinate the repair of DNA interstrand crosslinks.

      • Renjing Wang
      • Shengliu Wang
      • Nikola P. Pavletich
    • Cyro-electron microscopy of tau filaments from people with corticobasal degeneration reveals a previously unseen four-layered fold, distinct from the filament structures seen in Alzheimer’s disease, Pick’s disease and chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

      • Wenjuan Zhang
      • Airi Tarutani
      • Sjors H. W. Scheres
    • Cryo-electron microscopy structures and molecular dynamics simulations of the calcium-activated potassium channel MthK from Methanobacterium thermoautotrophicum are used to show that gating of this channel involves a ball-and-chain inactivation mechanism mediated by a previously unresolved N-terminal peptide.

      • Chen Fan
      • Nattakan Sukomon
      • Crina M. Nimigean
Top of page ⤴

Amendments & Corrections

Top of page ⤴
Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing


Quick links