Climate change: Satellite snaps capture ocean productivity

Summaries of newsworthy papers from Nature Vol.444 No.7120 including Key influenza virus molecule visualised, Navigating the mouse brain, Protein blocks brain tumour growth, Targets for improvement in the developing world, Crime and punishment, New stable ‘table top’ particle accelerator, Big brown bats feel the magnetic force ...


This press release is copyright Nature.

VOL.444 NO.7120 DATED 07 DECEMBER 2006

This press release contains:

* Summaries of newsworthy papers:

Climate change: Satellite snaps capture ocean productivity
Immunology: Key influenza virus molecule visualised
Neuroscience: Navigating the mouse brain
Cancer: Protein blocks brain tumour growth
Health: Targets for improvement in the developing world
Social dynamics: Crime and punishment
Particle physics: New stable ‘table top’ particle accelerator
Animal navigation: Big brown bats feel the magnetic force
Microscopy: Half microscope, half night-vision camera
Quantum physics: ‘Antibunching’ behaviour seen
Immunology: Cellular ‘dustbin’ modelled
And Finally… Big-tongued bat is a hit with big-funnelled flowers

* Mention of papers to be published at the same time with the same embargo
* Geographical listing of authors

Editorial contacts: While the best contacts for stories will always be the authors themselves, in some cases the Nature editor who handled the paper will be available for comment if an author is unobtainable. Editors are contactable via Ruth Francis on +44 20 7843 4562. Feel free to get in touch with Nature's press contacts in London, Washington and Tokyo (as listed at the end of this release) with any general editorial inquiry.

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[1] Climate change: Satellite snaps capture ocean productivity (pp 752-755; N&V)

Researchers have used ten-years-worth of satellite data to study the global and temporal changes in ocean productivity. Their results, published in this week’s Nature, suggest a clear link between climate change, photosynthesis and the layering of oceans.
Michael J. Behrenfeld and colleagues used satellite ocean-colour measurements to estimate the amount of photosynthesis performed by ocean-dwelling phytoplankton, and related this to changes in climate and ocean stratification. Reduced productivity is associated with increases in ocean temperature. The authors hope their data will help to predict the impact of future warming trends on global marine ecosystems.


Michael J. Behrenfeld (Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA)
Tel: +1 541 737 5289; E-mail: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>

Scott C. Doney (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, USA)
Tel: +1 508 289 3776; E-mail: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>

Please note: NASA sets briefing on how climate warming affects marine life
The teleconference will begin at 14.00 US EST on Wednesday 06 December.
Reporters must contact Steve Cole at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD for participation information: Tel: +1 301 286 3026; E-mail: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>.

Images and graphics supporting the briefing will be posted shortly before the briefing at:

[2] Immunology: Key influenza virus molecule visualised (AOP)
DOI: 10.1038/nature05379

***This paper will be published electronically on Nature's website on 06 December at 1800 London time / 1300 US Eastern time (which is also when the embargo lifts) as part of our AOP (ahead of print) programme. Although we have included it on this release to avoid multiple mailings it will not appear in print on 07 December, but at a later date.***

Researchers have visualised the structure of the influenza A virus nucleoprotein, a compound that plays an essential role binding viral nucleic acid and protein during virus infection.

Influenza A viruses, which include the avian H5N1 subtype, pose a threat to public health around the globe. The structure of the viral nucleoprotein has proved a tough nut to crack, but in this week’s Nature, Yizhi Jane Tao and colleagues do just that.

The molecule contains connected head and body regions with a groove in between where the viral RNA sits. Now that scientists can ‘see’ the contacts made by this protein with other parts of the virus particle, they may be more effectively able to develop antiviral therapeutics for influenza.


Yizhi Jane Tao (Rice University, Houston, TX, USA)
Tel: +1 713 348 4910; E-mail: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>

[3] Neuroscience: Navigating the mouse brain (AOP)
DOI: 10.1038/nature05453

***This paper will be published electronically on Nature's website on 06 December at 1800 London time / 1300 US Eastern time (which is also when the embargo lifts) as part of our AOP (ahead of print) programme. Although we have included it on this release to avoid multiple mailings it will not appear in print on 07 December, but at a later date.***

A comprehensive digital map of gene expression in the mouse brain, which will have an impact on the fields of neuroscience and mammalian genomics alike, is described in a paper published online in Nature this week. It details the expression patterns of approximately 20,000 genes in the mouse brain, 80% of which appear to be expressed above background levels.

The characteristic properties of different cells within the mammalian central nervous system occur largely as a result of the unique combinations of gene products they express. Ed Lein and colleagues used automated, high-throughput techniques to map, at cellular resolution, gene expression in the adult mouse brain. They used their data to compile the Allen Brain Atlas, a highly standardized, open-access, primary data resource.

This map represents a significant new source of information to help scientists navigate the still relatively poorly characterized terrain of the mammalian brain, and is far more detailed than classical atlases based on gross anatomy. It reveals hidden structure and organization within the mouse brain itself, and, according to the authors, should serve as a baseline with which gene expression in other tissues, species and disease states could be compared.


Ed Lein (Allen Institute for Brain Science, Seattle, WA, USA)
Tel: +1 206 548 7039; E-mail: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>

[4] Cancer: Protein blocks brain tumour growth (pp 761-765)

A protein that blocks the growth of aggressive human brain tumours in a mouse model has been identified. It’s hoped the research will yield new treatments for glioblastomas, one of the most frequent and lethal of brain tumours, for which there is currently no cure.

It’s thought that glioblastomas are maintained by so-called cancer stem cells - a small population of tumour cells that can generate copies of themselves and of all the other cell types that make up a tumour. In this week’s Nature, Angelo L. Vescovi and colleagues now show that when mice, injected with human glioblastoma cells enriched for such cancer stem cells, are treated with a protein called bone morphogenetic protein 4 (BMP4), tumour growth is reduced.

The protein activates BMP receptors, which are also involved in normal development. But rather than killing the cancer stem cells, it seems that BMP4 pushes them to differentiate into benign, non-cancerous cells.


Angelo L. Vescovi (University of Milan Bicocca, Italy)
Tel: +39 02 6448 3351; E-mail: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>

Peter B. Dirks (The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada)
Tel: +1 416 813 6426; E-mail: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>

Health: Targets for improvement in the developing world

A challenge to researchers, funders, governments, aid agencies and investors around the world is set by the Global Health Diagnostics Forum in a Commentary in Nature this week. They argue that only by working together can new tools for diagnostics reach their promised impact on diseases in the developing world.

Millions of people in developing countries die each year from diseases that are preventable or treatable and three diseases alone, AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria kill over five million annually. But the standard diagnostic test for tb misses half of all cases. In the Commentary, the 51 members of the forum identify one or two points along the path of disease progression where a diagnostic could have the most impact, assuming that access to treatment is also available. They look at outcomes across a range of healthcare settings, including those with virtually no infrastructure, and predict how many lives could be saved if diagnostics were in place for each of six diseases.

The Forum concludes that effective diagnostic tools combined with access to treatment can have a dramatic improvement on global health.

Published alongside this issue is a supplement that is a result of a collaboration between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the RAND Corporation. The supplement is published by Nature Publishing Group and will be circulated with Nature, Nature Medicine, Nature Biotechnology and Nature Reviews Microbiology.

[5] Social dynamics: Crime and punishment (pp 718-723)

Reputation and punishment both play an important part in stabilizing cooperation within a population, a study in this week’s Nature suggests.

Cooperation is undoubtedly a good thing, but it comes with baggage. Cheats can reap its benefits, while contributing nothing. Some people choose to punish cheaters, but this incurs time and effort, so others choose to ignore them. Another strategy for maintaining cooperation is only to cooperate with those having a good reputation for cooperating. But which of the two strategies - reputation and punishment - is best?

Bettina Rockenbach and Manfred Milinski addressed this problem using human subjects who played strategically designed economic games for cash. They found that subjects used mixed tactics to maintain cooperation. Some people were ‘punishers’, some relied on reputation, and others used both strategies.


Manfred Milinski (MPI Limnology, Germany)
Tel: +49 4522 763 254 or +49 4522 763 253; E-mail: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>

[6] Particle physics: New stable ‘table top’ particle accelerator (pp 737-739; N&V)

A ‘table top’ particle accelerator that can generate reproducible, stable beams of electrons has been built.

Conventional particle accelerators, which can generate focussed beams of highly energetic electrons, are usually hundreds of metres long. Their smaller alternative - so-called laser-plasma-based accelerators - can fit within a large room, but the electron beams they generate are not stable enough for applications. In this week’s Nature, Victor Malka and colleagues describe a compact laser-plasma accelerator that uses two colliding laser pulses to produce highly stable and reproducible electron streams.

The basic idea was proposed over a decade ago, but until now, physicists have struggled to control the systems. Faure’s team hope their method of introducing and accelerating electrons will find application in radiotherapy for medicine and radiography for materials science.


Victor Malka (ENSTA-CNRS, Palaiseau, France)
E-mail: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>

Jerome Faure (ENSTA-CNRS, Palaiseau, France) Co-author
Tel: +33 1 69 31 99 01; E-mail: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>

Tom Katsouleas (University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA)
Tel: +1 213 740 8069; E-mail: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>

[7] Animal navigation: Big brown bats feel the magnetic force (p 702)

Bats may use the Earth's magnetic field to navigate over long distances, a Brief Communication in this week's Nature suggests. The finding adds to the already impressive array of sensory abilities used by these mammals to find their way around in the dark.

Richard A. Holland and colleagues exposed big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) to a magnetic field that was rotated by 90 degrees either clockwise or anticlockwise relative to magnetic North. The animals were then released from a site that was 20 kilometres north of their roost and tracked via radio telemetry as they attempted to fly home. Both groups flew off in the wrong direction - the clockwise collection headed east and the counterclockwise animals headed west - whereas a control group relying on the natural magnetic field headed south, directly towards home.

The study suggests that these bats rely on a magnetic compass to return to their home roost. Some of the bats corrected their heading angle and made it home during the same night, hinting that the animals may sometimes override magnetic cues with navigational ones.


Richard A. Holland (Princeton University, NJ, USA)
Tel: +1 609 258 9722; E-mail: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>

[8] Microscopy: Half microscope, half night-vision camera (740-743)

It's like a cross between a microscope and a night-vision camera. Researchers have developed a microscope that detects infrared radiation emitted from a sample very close to its surface. The device, reported in this week’s Nature, allows them to study thermally excited electronic surface waves in the sample.

The resolution of standard microscopes is usually limited by the wavelength of the light used, the so-called diffraction limit. But near-field scanning optical microscopy (NSOM) finds a way around this limit by using a probe that is smaller than the wavelength of the incident light to map out the electromagnetic field produced at the sample surface.

Yannick De Wilde and colleagues had to do away with external illumination altogether to develop their 'thermal radiation scanning tunnelling microscope'. It acts like an NSOM, but senses emitted infrared light at a resolution of about 100 nanometres, two orders of magnitude smaller than the wavelength of infrared light.


Yannick De Wilde (ESPCI-CNRS, Paris, France)
Tel: +33 1 40 79 45 39; E-mail: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>

[9] Quantum physics: ‘Antibunching’ behaviour seen (pp 733-736)

An intriguing quantum noise phenomenon without classical parallel is described in this week's Nature. The techniques used could be applied to the exploration of unusual quantum phases in ultracold atomic systems.

Immanuel Bloch and colleagues used optical lattices to demonstrate the antibunching behaviour of neutral potassium atoms. Antibunching is a type of noise correlation characteristic of quantum particles known as fermions.

Although others have demonstrated fermionic antibunching before, Bloch's group are the first to use neutral atoms in optical lattice traps - criss-crossing laser beams that capture ultracold atoms in optical wells. When the beams are shut off, the resulting cloud of atoms expands and the atoms move away, enabling their noise properties to be studied. Such measurements provide information about the ordering and temperature of the atoms in the lattice, and may facilitate the detection of new fermionic quantum phases in these systems.


Immanuel Bloch (Johannes Gutenberg-Universitaet, Mainz, Germany)
Tel: +49 6131 39 26234; E-mail: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>

[10] Immunology: Cellular ‘dustbin’ modelled (AOP)
DOI: 10.1038/nature05380

***This paper will be published electronically on Nature's website on 06 December at 1800 London time / 1300 US Eastern time (which is also when the embargo lifts) as part of our AOP (ahead of print) programme. Although we have included it on this release to avoid multiple mailings it will not appear in print on 07 December, but at a later date.***

A detailed model of the phagosome, the cellular ‘dustbin’ that engulfs and destroys foreign matter, is unveiled in this week’s Nature. It’s hoped the model will provide a new framework for studying immunity and the relationship between hosts and their pathogens.

Lynda M. Stuart and colleagues used a blend of proteomics, bioinformatics and genomics to model the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster) phagosome. They identified over 600 phagosome-related proteins and were able to analyse many of the proteins’ complex interactions.

Phagosomes are formed when regions of a cell membrane fold in on themselves and bud off, forming a debris-filled membrane-bound sac. But certain pathogens, including some bacteria, have evolved strategies to evade this process. A detailed knowledge of the phagosome is therefore essential to understanding many aspects of immunity.


Lynda M Stuart (MGH/Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA)
Tel: +1 617 724 2890; E-mail: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>

[11] And Finally… Big-tongued bat is a hit with big-funnelled flowers (p 701)

The tongue of the nectar bat Anoura fistulata is so long that its base lies between the tiny mammal's heart and sternum, a Brief Communication in this week's Nature reports. It's likely that the animal's remarkable protuberance evolved to feed on flowers where the nectar is hidden at the end of equally long funnels called corollas.

Nathan Muchhala trained A. fistulata bats to drink sugared water from a modified straw, to gauge the length of their tongues. At around 85 millimetres, the tongues are around one and a half times longer than the animals' bodies, and double the length of the tongues of related bat species. On retraction they pass back through the mammal's neck and into the thoracic cavity.

A. fistulata lives in the cloud forests of the Andes of Ecuador, where it appears to be the sole pollinator of Centropogon nigricans, a flower with a corolla that is also around 85 millimetres long. The discovery probably represents - with anteaters - an example of convergent evolution, whereby organisms that are not closely related, independently evolve similar traits as they adapt to similar environments.


Nathan Muchhala (University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL, USA)
Tel: +1 305 284 6881; E-mail: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>


[12] The critical role of disks in the formation of high-mass stars (pp 703-706)

[13] Electrical activity in early neuronal development (pp 707-712)

[14] Insights into the dynamics of mantle plumes from uranium-series geochemistry (pp 713-717)

[15] Active galactic nuclei as scaled-up Galactic black holes (pp 730-732; N&V)

[16] Oxidation of the Ediacaran Ocean (pp 744-747)


***This paper will be published electronically on Nature's website on 06 December at 1800 London time / 1300 US Eastern time (which is also when the embargo lifts) as part of our AOP (ahead of print) programme. Although we have included it on this release to avoid multiple mailings it will not appear in print on 07 December, but at a later date.***

[17] The circumsporozoite protein is an immunodominant protective antigen in irradiated sporozoites (N&V)
DOI: 10.1038/nature05361


The following list of places refers to the whereabouts of authors on the papers numbered in this release. For example, London: 4 - this means that on paper number four, there will be at least one author affiliated to an institute or company in London. The listing may be for an author's main affiliation, or for a place where they are working temporarily. Please see the PDF of the paper for full details.

Queensland: 4
Sydney: 14

Montreal: 10

Copenhagen: 7

Aubervilliers: 8
Chatenay-Malabry: 8
Futuroscope: 8
Marseille: 8
Palaiseau: 6
Paris: 8, 14

Erfurt: 5
Goettingen: 3
Mainz: 9, 14
Plon: 5

Firenze: 12
Milan: 4

Saitama: 8
Tokyo: 17

Amsterdam: 15

Zurich: 14

Cambridge: 12
Edinburgh: 10
Leeds: 7
Southampton: 15

Berkeley: 3
La Jolla: 13
Pasadena: 16
Santa Barbara: 1
Coral Gables: 11
Champaign-Urbana: 7
Bloomington: 16
Orono: 1
Baltimore: 4, 10, 17
Greenbelt: 1
Boston: 10
Cambridge: 3, 12, 16
Kalamazoo: 7
New Jersey
New Brunswick: 1
Princeton: 1, 7
Rahway: 10
New York
New York: 17
Corvallis: 1
Rhode Island
Providence: 14
Austin: 2
Houston: 2, 3
Seattle: 3


For North America and Canada

Katie McGoldrick, Nature Washington
Tel: +1 202 737 2355; E-mail: [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>

From Japan, Korea, China, Singapore and Taiwan

Itsumi Kitahara, Nature Tokyo
Tel: +81 3 3267 8751; E-mail: [email protected]

For the UK/Europe/other countries not listed above

Helen Jamison, Nature London
Tel: +44 20 7843 4658; E-mail [email protected] <mailto:[email protected]>

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Published: 06 Dec 2006

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