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Volume 596 Issue 7873, 26 August 2021

Protein power

Proteins are essential to life, and understanding their 3D structure is key to unpicking their function. To date, only 17% of the human proteome is covered by an experimentally determined structure. Two papers in this week’s issue dramatically expand our structural understanding of proteins. Researchers at DeepMind, Google’s London-based sister company, present the latest version of their AlphaFold neural network. Using an entirely new architecture informed by intuitions about protein physics and geometry, it makes highly accurate structure predictions, and was recognized at the 14th Critical Assessment of Techniques for Protein Structure Prediction last December as a solution to the long-standing problem of protein-structure prediction. The team applied AlphaFold to 20,296 proteins, representing 98.5% of the human proteome. The predictions have been made freely available in partnership with the European Bioinformatics Institute, along with additional predictions for long human proteins and for 20 other model organisms.

Cover image: Deep Mind

This Week

News in Focus




    News & Views

  • News & Views |

    The full might of a world-leading artificial-intelligence laboratory has been brought to bear on protein-structure prediction. The resulting method, AlphaFold2, promises to transform our understanding of proteins.

    • Mohammed AlQuraishi
  • News & Views |

    Laser-cooled ions have been used to substantially lower the temperature of a proton located several centimetres away. This technique could be useful in ultraprecise measurements of the properties of antimatter particles.

    • Manas Mukherjee
  • News & Views |

    Understanding how resistance to chemotherapy occurs could lead to better anticancer treatments. Persister cells in tumours can contribute to this resistance. A method to characterize these cells in detail sheds light on their origins.

    • Karen Gomez
    • Raul Rabadan
  • News & Views |

    An innovative algorithm provides a way of fairly selecting representative individuals for citizens’ assemblies to learn about and deliberate on certain topics. Such groups hold promise for closing the gap between democracy and expertise.

    • Mark E. Warren
  • Perspective

  • Perspective |

    This Perspective discusses possible future patterns of SARS-CoV-2 infection, the development of variants, potential changes in the patterns of spread and the implications for vaccine deployment and the potential consequences of these issues for the development of policy.

    • Amalio Telenti
    • Ann Arvin
    • Herbert W. Virgin
  • Articles

  • Article |

    Directly coupling cavity photons to the photo-association resonances of pairs of atoms in a strongly interacting Fermi gas generates pair polaritons—hybrid excitaions coherently mixing photons, atom pairs and molecules.

    • Hideki Konishi
    • Kevin Roux
    • Jean-Philippe Brantut
  • Article | | Open Access

    A single electromagnetically trapped proton is sympathetically cooled to below ambient temperature by coupling it through a superconducting LC circuit to a laser-cooled cloud of Be+ ions stored in a spatially separated trap.

    • M. Bohman
    • V. Grunhofer
    • S. Ulmer
  • Article |

    Restricting the initial growth temperatures used for chemical vapour deposition of graphene on metal foils produces optimum conditions for growing large areas of fold-free, single-crystal graphene.

    • Meihui Wang
    • Ming Huang
    • Rodney S. Ruoff
  • Article |

    Rechargeable Na/Cl2 and Li/Cl2 batteries are produced with a microporous carbon positive electrode, aluminium chloride in thionyl chloride as the electrolyte, and either sodium or lithium as the negative electrode.

    • Guanzhou Zhu
    • Xin Tian
    • Hongjie Dai
  • Article |

    Liquid ultrafast electron scattering measures structural responses in liquid water with femtosecond temporal and atomic spatial resolution to reveal a transient hydrogen bond contraction then thermalization preceding relaxation of the OH stretch.

    • Jie Yang
    • Riccardo Dettori
    • Xijie Wang
  • Article |

    The aboveground carbon stock of a montane African forest network is comparable to that of a lowland African forest network and two-thirds higher than default values for these montane forests.

    • Aida Cuni-Sanchez
    • Martin J. P. Sullivan
    • Etienne Zibera
  • Article | | Open Access

    Principles from the field of fair division are used to develop selection algorithms for citizens’ assemblies that produce panels that are representative of the population while simultaneously selecting individuals with near-equal probabilities.

    • Bailey Flanigan
    • Paul Gölz
    • Ariel D. Procaccia
  • Article |

    Alanine-scanning mutagenesis is used to identify the PF4 epitope that is recognized by anti-PF4 antibodies in patients with vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopaenia, revealing that the epitope corresponds to the heparin-binding site on PF4.

    • Angela Huynh
    • John G. Kelton
    • Ishac Nazy
  • Article |

    Lineage tracing by barcoding of individual cells using a lentivirus library shows that cycling and non-cycling drug-tolerant persister cells in cancer arise from different lineages with distinct transcriptional and metabolic programs.

    • Yaara Oren
    • Michael Tsabar
    • Aviv Regev
  • Article | | Open Access

    AlphaFold predicts protein structures with an accuracy competitive with experimental structures in the majority of cases using a novel deep learning architecture.

    • John Jumper
    • Richard Evans
    • Demis Hassabis
  • Article | | Open Access

    AlphaFold is used to predict the structures of almost all of the proteins in the human proteome—the availability of high-confidence predicted structures could enable new avenues of investigation from a structural perspective.

    • Kathryn Tunyasuvunakool
    • Jonas Adler
    • Demis Hassabis
  • Article |

    Structural and mechanistic data of the ADP-ribosyltransferase DarT demonstrate the role of ADP-ribosylation of DNA by this enzyme in generating toxicity and regulating cellular signalling processes in bacteria.

    • Marion Schuller
    • Rachel E. Butler
    • Ivan Ahel
  • Matters Arising

Amendments & Corrections

Nature Outlook

  • Nature Outlook |

    Sickle-cell disease

    Everyone wants the best for their children, but sometimes biological miscues obstruct that hope. This is true for sickle-cell disease, a disorder in which red blood cells take on an abnormal shape — leading to pain, organ damage and shorter lives.

Nature Briefing

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