New analysis of Indian Ocean tsunami shows seafloor rupture was at least 1000 km long - Nature (14 July 2005)

GPS data confirm huge dimension of Boxing Day quake; Genes shine light on mosquito bacterial infections; Mutants arise from Sleeping Beauty; Birds' ancestors showed modern breathing mode; Three's a crowd; Raptors fly the flag for biodiversity

Seismology: GPS data confirm huge dimension of Boxing Day quake
Parasitology: Genes shine light on mosquito bacterial infections
Genetics: Mutants arise from Sleeping Beauty
Palaeontology: Birds' ancestors showed modern breathing mode
Astronomy: Three's a crowd
Developmental biology: Neural precursor cells survive inflammatory conditions
Chemistry: Acetylene achieves splendid isolation
Cell biology: A moving discovery about actin
Earth science: Mantle plume heads get second pulse
Optics: Extreme ultraviolet laser one step closer
And finally… Raptors fly the flag for biodiversity

[1] Seismology: GPS data confirm huge dimension of Boxing Day quake (pp 201-206)

The most comprehensive analysis to date has confirmed the huge dimension of the earthquake that caused the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami on the 26 December 2004. The study, which involved some 60 Global Positioning System (GPS) monitoring stations across Southeast Asia, shows that the seafloor rupture was at least 1,000 kilometres long.
Christophe Vigny and colleagues compiled data from numerous GPS sites positioned at distances of between 400 and 3,000 kilometres from the quake's epicentre. They used the displacement recorded at each site to test different models of the earthquake's characteristics, including the length of rupture and direction of thrust.
The data are best explained by a model in which the rupture was 1,000 kilometres long and proceeded rapidly northwards from its origin, rather than spreading in a slow, 'aseismic' manner, the researchers report in this week's Nature. Stations in Thailand, for example, were jolted into their new positions less than 10 minutes after the earthquake occurred.

C. Vigny (Laboratoire de Géologie, ENS/CNRS, Paris, France)
Tel: +33 1 44 32 22 14 / +33 1 44 32 22 11; E-mail: [email protected]

[2] Parasitology: Genes shine light on mosquito bacterial infections (pp 257-260; N&V)

Geneticists have made a key step forward in understanding how a bacterial infection can make mosquitoes effectively infertile. The discovery could aid efforts to tackle the spread of mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and filariasis.
Mosquitoes infected with the bacterium Wolbachia are often reproductively incompatible with uninfected mosquitoes, which can lead to the bacteria's rapid spread throughout mosquito populations. This effect often occurs in complex patterns, particularly when different strains of Wolbachia are involved.
Analysis of the genomes of different Wolbachia strains now shows that much of their differences stem from genes that encode ankyrin protein domains, which can disrupt reproduction by interfering with cell division, report Steven Sinkins and colleagues in this week’s Nature. Many of these genes originate from viruses that infect the bacteria, adding an extra layer of complexity to the evolution of these molecules.
Mosquitoes may also have evolved mechanisms to overcome this reproductive inhibition, the authors report. "Host genome evolution may yet be a barrier to the long-term aim of using Wolbachia for suppressing pest populations," notes Ary Hoffmann in an accompanying News & Views article.

Steven P. Sinkins (University of Oxford, and Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, UK)
Tel: +44 1865 281047; E-mail: [email protected]

Ary Hoffmann (University of Melbourne, Australia)
E-mail: [email protected] Please note we are trying to find the best phone number for this News & Views author

[3] & [4] Genetics: Mutants arise from Sleeping Beauty (pp 272-276 & 221-226; N&V)

Scientists have succeeded in developing a new system that enables random mutagenesis in animals. They offer this method as a powerful new tool for understanding the importance of gene function, including its influence on tumour formation.
In the 14 July 2005 issue of Nature, two groups report on an engineered version of Sleeping Beauty, a discrete piece of DNA known as a transposon that can jump around the genome. It is so named because it typically slumbers as inactive DNA. But researchers have now succeeded in resurrecting its jumping functions in mice. This allows them to efficiently produce random mutations in mammals.
David Largaespada and his colleagues designed a Sleeping Beauty transposon with the ability to enhance or disrupt genes by jumping and inserting itself in different parts of the DNA sequence. Meanwhile, Nancy Jenkins and her fellow researchers engineered the transposon to be smaller, and created mice that express more amounts of the protein responsible for its jumping.
"The technology is likely to be very powerful, because the transposase can be designed to be expressed selectively in a specific cell type, or developmental stage, so that transposition will occur only in those cells or at that time," Keith Weiser and Monica Justice write in an accompanying News & Views piece.

David A. Largaespada (The University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Minneapolis, MN, USA)
Tel: +1 612 626 4979 / +1 612 626 6971; E-mail: [email protected]

Nancy A. Jenkins (National Cancer Institute, Frederick, MD, USA)
Tel: +1 301 846 1260; E-mail: [email protected]

Monica Justice (Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA)
Tel: +1 713 798 5440; E-mail: [email protected]

[5] Palaeontology: Birds' ancestors showed modern breathing mode (pp 253-256)

The dinosaur ancestors of today's birds probably breathed in a similarly sophisticated way to their modern descendants, according to a new analysis. Researchers have found the best evidence yet that theropod dinosaurs pumped air into hollow sacs in their skeletons, much as birds do today.
Birds help to fuel their highly active lifestyles by using a series of extra air sacs that allow the lungs a constant supply of oxygen-rich air, rather than relying on inward and outward breaths as mammals do. Because these sacs penetrate hollow spaces in the bones, evidence for them had been seen in theropod dinosaurs, but researchers have been unsure whether the system was sufficiently sophisticated to function in the same way as in today's birds.
A new fossil of Majungatholus atopus, a primitive theropod that could reach several metres in length, now shows that it had all the equipment it needed for this breathing style. As Patrick O'Connor and Leon Claessens report in this week's Nature, the creature's vertebrae show markedly similar breathing adaptations to those of the modern sarus crane, indicating that the system evolved long before birds themselves did.

Patrick M. O’Connor (Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine, Athens, OH, USA)
Tel: +255 746 443 958; E-mail: [email protected]

[6] Astronomy: Three's a crowd (pp 230-233; N&V)

There is a planet orbiting the star HD 188753 that shouldn't be there, according to standard theories of planet formation. This planet, spotted by Maciej Konacki of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, appears to be a 'gas giant' with about the same mass as Jupiter. It circles its parent star in a close orbit, revolving once every 3–9 days, making it a 'hot Jupiter': one of several such extrasolar planets among the 155 or so discovered so far.
But there is a problem. HD 188753 is not a single star, but a triple star. The central, primary star, about the same mass as our Sun, is orbited at an average distance of 12.3 times the Sun–Earth separation (that is, 12.3 astronomical units, AU) by a pair of stars that are themselves closely bound together in a binary system. This companion star-pair should have prevented the Jupiter-like planet from forming, according to the usual model for the origin of hot Jupiters.
Such planets could not have arisen in their current positions, close to the parent star, because it will have been too hot there for the formation of the icy nucleus around which the planetary gas condenses. So it is generally thought that hot Jupiters formed further away from their suns, and then moved inwards. But the paired companion stars to HD 188753's primary star would have burnt away the disk of gas and dust — the raw material for planet formation — beyond a distance of about 1.3 AU from the primary. Current theories say that a hot Jupiter would have to form further from the parent star than this. So where did it come from? Konacki suggests that the answer to this question might provide new understanding of planet-formation processes in general.

Maciej Konacki (California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA)
Tel: +1 626 395 4274; E-mail: [email protected]

Artie P Hatzes (Thuringia State Observatory, Tautenburg, Germany)
Tel: +49 36427 863 51; E-mail: [email protected]

[7] Developmental biology: Neural precursor cells survive inflammatory conditions (pp 266-271)

Central nervous system disorders that are characterized by chronic inflammation include multiple sclerosis and brain tumours. So it is no surprise that the transplantation of neural precursor cells to treat these degenerative disorders has generated a great deal of interest. But much remains unknown about the way neural precursor cells behave in this context.
Now, a paper in the forthcoming issue of Nature describes how, in inflammation of the central nervous system, these cells promote neuroprotection by exerting unexpected immune-like functions. Using a mouse model, Gianvito Martino and colleagues find that injection of cells into the general blood stream protected against relapses of a nervous system infection. The authors also suggest that neural precursor cells survive recurrent inflammatory episodes by remaining in an undifferentiated state and maintaining the ability to proliferate.

Gianvito Martino (Vita-Salute University, San Raffaele Hospital, Milano, Italy)
Tel: +39 02 2643 4853 / +39 02 2643 4867; E-mail: [email protected]

[8] Chemistry: Acetylene achieves splendid isolation (pp 238-241; N&V)

A porous material that very selectively adsorbs acetylene could be used to purify the gas, according to research published in 14 July 2005 issue of Nature.
Acetylene is commonly used as a fuel for high-temperature flames, but it is also widely used in the chemical and electronics industries. However, it explodes if compressed too much, which can make it tricky to store in large amounts.
Susumu Kitagawa and colleagues found that acetylene could be efficiently separated from its close molecular cousin carbon dioxide using a porous metal–organic compound. The material can also store acetylene at a density 200 times the safe compression limit of free acetylene at room temperature.
"The possible extension of their methods to other strategically important gases makes their paper an outstanding contribution to this field of research," comments Gérard Férey in a related News and Views article.

Susumu Kitagawa (Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan)
Tel: +81 75 383 2733; E-mail: [email protected]

Gérard Férey (Universite de Versailles Saint Quentin, France
Tel: +33 1 39 25 43 59; E-mail: [email protected]

[9] Cell biology: A moving discovery about actin (AOP)
DOI: 10.1038/nature03810

During meiosis — the process by which reproductive cells are formed — chromosomes are captured and aligned on a spindle to form an appropriate arrangement for cell division. Exactly what orchestrates this line up of chromosomes has interested scientists a great deal. The generally accepted model is that cylindrical protein structures called microtubules capture these chromosomes and move them in the right direction. But a new paper appearing online in Nature this week finds that these microtubules are too short to complete the job in the very large nuclei of animal eggs.
Jan Ellenberg and colleagues find that chromosome capture and movement involve the action of protein filaments called actin. The team observed the formation of these actin networks in starfish eggs using 4D imaging. They suggest that this coordinated action of actin is an evolutionarily conserved mechanism, and one that is important in avoiding the formation of cells with an abnormal number of chromosomes.

Jan Ellenberg (European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), Heidelberg, Germany)
Tel: +49 6221 387328; E-mail: [email protected]

[10] Earth science: Mantle plume heads get second pulse (pp 250-252)

Enormous mushroom-shaped plumes of buoyant rock naturally deliver a double pulse of heat to the Earth's surface, according to research published in Nature (14 July 2005).
Most of the massive outpourings of basalt rock called large igneous provinces are kilometres thick, spread over 10,000 square kilometres or more and are thought to have been erupted at geologically rapid rates, within several million years. But a puzzling problem has been that some appear to have been laid down in two or more separate events over tens of millions of years.
Shu-Chaun Lin and Peter van Keken argue that this is a natural consequence of convection currents set up within the hot plume, when variations in composition are also taken into account. After a large pulse of thermally-buoyant rock reaches the surface, a second compositionally-buoyant pulse will follow it to create a separate eruption with different physical and chemical properties. Their computer simulation of this process reproduces the characteristic timescale for such events seen at large igneous provinces on the Earth.

Shu-Chaun Lin (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI USA)
Tel: +1 734 764 6377; E-mail: [email protected]

[11] Optics: Extreme ultraviolet laser one step closer (pp 234-237)

Lasers produce light waves of a single frequency that all overlap with each other perfectly, but scientists have not been able to build lasers that work efficiently at certain important frequencies such as the extreme ultraviolet (XUV). Christoph Gohle and colleagues now unveil a significant step towards an XUV laser in this week's Nature.
Their device emits XUV pulses at several very specific frequencies that are sufficiently far apart to allow just one of the frequencies to be picked out and used in isolation, just like a true laser. This means the XUV light could be used to shape materials that are just billionths of a metre in size, or help investigate the behaviour of electrons within atoms with greater precision than ever before.

Christoph Gohle (Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik, Garching, Germany)
Tel: +49 89 32905 266 / +49 89 32905 257; E-mail: [email protected]

[12] Biodiversity: Raptors fly the flag for biodiversity (p 92)

Conservationists often use charismatic predators to attract support for environmental protection schemes; a strategy that has been criticised for being unscientific. However, a Brief Communication in Nature (14 July 2005) suggests that the use of top predators for this purpose may be justified because their presence acts as an indicator of biodiversity in the region.
Fabrizio Sergio and colleagues compared the biodiversity in areas of the Italian Alps that contained breeding raptors — owls, hawks and other predatory birds — to that of control sites. The research shows that the areas occupied by top predators have more varied species of birds, trees and butterflies. Therefore, protecting networks of areas that house top predators should lead to greater overall biodiversity.

Fabrizio Sergio (Estación Biológica de Doñana, Seville, Spain)
Tel: +34 95423 2340; E-mail: [email protected]

ALSO IN THIS ISSUE (14 July 2005)…

[13] Common mechanisms of nerve and blood vessel wiring (pp 193-200)

[14] The discovery of a galaxy-wide superwind from a young massive galaxy at redshift z≈3 (pp 227-229)

[15] Regional insolation forcing of late Quaternary climate change in the Southern Hemisphere (pp 242-245)

[16] Trace-element fractionation in Hadean mantle generated by melt segregation from a magma ocean (pp 246-249)

[17] Long-term sensory deprivation prevents dendritic spine loss in primary somatosensory cortex (pp 261-265)

[18] Gli3 and Plzf cooperate in proximal limb patterning at early stages of limb development (pp 277-281)

[19] An Arabidopsis hAT-like transposase is essential for plant development (pp 282-284)

[20] A substrate-specific inhibitor of protein translocation into the endoplasmic reticulum(pp 285-289)

[21] Selective inhibition of cotranslational translocation of vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 (pp 290-293)

[22] A role for cell-cycle-regulated histone H3 lysine 56 acetylation in the DNA damage response (pp 294-298)

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Published: 19 Jul 2005

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