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Volume 587 Issue 7832, 5 November 2020

Atoms in focus

In recent years, advances in cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) have enabled the technique to resolve biomolecules in excellent detail. But with typical resolutions limited at around 3 ångströms, cryo-EM still lags behind X-ray crystallography in understanding the finer elements. Two papers in this week’s issue change that, as they use single-particle cryo-EM to achieve structural analyses of proteins at atomic resolution. In one paper, Sjors Scheres, Radu Aricescu and their colleagues report structures of apoferritin (pictured on the cover) and the GABA-A receptor at around 1.22 Å and 1.7 Å, respectively, using a new electron source, energy filter and camera. In the other paper, Holger Stark and co-workers use a newly developed cryo-EM to produce a structure of apoferritin at a resolution of around 1.24 Å. Both approaches should help pave the way for the technique to be used more widely in structure-based drug design.

Cover image: Paul Emsley (copyright: MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology).

This Week

News in Focus

Books & Arts




    News & Views

  • News & Views |

    A structural-biology technique called cryo-electron microscopy has attained the ability to locate individual atoms within a protein. What are the implications of this advance?

    • Mark A. Herzik Jr
  • News & Views |

    An analysis of satellite images has pinpointed individual tree canopies over a large area of West Africa. The data suggest that it will soon be possible, with certain limitations, to map the location and size of every tree worldwide.

    • Niall P. Hanan
    • Julius Y. Anchang
  • News & Views |

    The origins of millisecond-long bursts of radio emissions, known as fast radio bursts, from beyond our Galaxy have been enigmatic. The detection of one such burst from a Galactic source helps to constrain the theories.

    • Amanda Weltman
    • Anthony Walters
  • Reviews

  • Review Article |

    The mechanisms and origins of fast radio bursts are reviewed in connection with data and insights from the neighbouring fields of gamma-ray bursts and radio pulsars.

    • Bing Zhang
  • Articles

  • Article |

    Observations of the fast radio burst FRB 200428 coinciding with X-rays from the Galactic magnetar SGR 1935+2154 indicate that active magnetars can produce fast radio bursts at extragalactic distances.

    • C. D. Bochenek
    • V. Ravi
    • D. L. McKenna
  • Article |

    A mechanistic explanation for the origin of the neutron dripline shows that nuclei accommodate the addition of neutrons by becoming increasingly ellipsoidal, up to a maximum number of neutrons, reconciling theory and experiments.

    • Naofumi Tsunoda
    • Takaharu Otsuka
    • Hideki Ueno
  • Article |

    Logic operations and reconfigurable circuits are demonstrated that can be directly implemented using memory elements based on floating-gate field-effect transistors with monolayer MoS2 as the active channel material.

    • Guilherme Migliato Marega
    • Yanfei Zhao
    • Andras Kis
  • Article |

    Phylogenetic statistical analyses, biophysical models and information from the fossil record show that an evolutionary signal of natural selection acted to increase the flight efficiency of pterosaurs over millions of years.

    • Chris Venditti
    • Joanna Baker
    • Stuart Humphries
  • Article |

    Lapses in attention before remembering partially account for why we remember or forget in the moment, why some individuals remember better than others, and why heavier media multitasking is related to worse memory.

    • Kevin P. Madore
    • Anna M. Khazenzon
    • Anthony D. Wagner
  • Article |

    Dimethoxy-1,4-benzoquinone signalling occurs in Arabidopsis and in the root parasite Phtheirospermum japonicum via increases in cytosolic Ca2+ concentration mediated by the leucine-rich-repeat receptor-like kinase CARD1 in Arabidopsis, or by its homologues in P. japonicum.

    • Anuphon Laohavisit
    • Takanori Wakatake
    • Ken Shirasu
  • Article |

    Experiments using an ecologically realistic 185-member bacterial synthetic community in the root system of Arabidopsis reveal that Variovorax bacteria can influence plant hormone levels to reverse the inhibitory effect of the community on root growth.

    • Omri M. Finkel
    • Isai Salas-González
    • Jeffery L. Dangl
  • Article |

    Depletion of transforming growth factor-β receptor 2 (TGFBR2) in CD4+ T cells results in IL-4-dependent vascular remodelling, stopping tumour growth in a transgenic mouse model of breast cancer, suggesting that type 2 immunity could be targeted for cancer treatments.

    • Ming Liu
    • Fengshen Kuo
    • Ming O. Li

Amendments & Corrections


  • Spotlight |

    Greater Bay Area

    The Greater Bay Area, a vast region centred around the delta of China’s Pearl River, is set to become the world’s largest contiguous megacity within the next 15 years.

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