Potential tsunami risk in the Bay of Bengal

Summaries of newsworthy papers include Killer asteroid shower identified, Protein duo make up tip links, Clue to HIV vaccine success, Materials: Tickle me!, SYNERGY sheds light on gene evolution, Symbiotic evolution: Host genes incorporated and finally… Jaws II

This press release is copyright Nature.

VOL.449 NO.7158 DATED 06 SEPTEMBER 2007

This press release contains:

· Summaries of newsworthy papers:

Geology: Potential tsunami risk in the Bay of Bengal

Planetary science: Killer asteroid shower identified

Hearing: Protein duo make up tip links

Immunology: Clue to HIV vaccine success

Materials: Tickle me!

Genetics: SYNERGY sheds light on gene evolution

Symbiotic evolution: Host genes incorporated

And finally… Jaws II

· Mention of papers to be published at the same time with the same embargo

· Geographical listing of authors

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[1] Geology: Potential tsunami risk in the Bay of Bengal (pp 75-78; *Press Briefing*)

A potential for giant earthquakes in the Bay of Bengal could expose a large and vulnerable population to a significant tsunami hazard, suggests a paper in Nature this week. The study combines recent geological and geodetic data with an account of an historical earthquake in the region to produce a simulation of the tsunami that may have accompanied it.

It is now recognised that another large earthquake is likely to occur off central Sumatra, just east of the 2004 Sumatra–Andaman earthquake location. But there has been little concern about the subduction zone to the north, in the northern Bay of Bengal along the coast of Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Phil R. Cummins reviews observations from GPS and geological data which indicate that, contrary to some previous studies, the plate boundary in this region is probably at sea, hidden below the thick layer of sediments in the Bengal Fan. This means that a subduction-zone earthquake would be likely to generate a tsunami. Evidence of a large earthquake in Arakan in Myanmar in 1762 also indicates an off-shore origin. Local reports at the time describe how the river at Dhaka rose suddenly and drove boats ashore, and there is evidence of 3 to 7 metres of uplift along the coast.

The author’s tsunami simulation for this earthquake depicts the severe impact such an event might have today on this low-lying area that is home to over 60 million people. He concludes that the next giant earthquake may not be as large as in 1762 and may not occur for another 200 years, but a smaller event could occur sooner, threatening this heavily populated region.


Phil R. Cummins (Geoscience Australia, Canberra, Australia)

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Chris Thompson (Communications Section, Geoscience Australia, Canberra, Australia)

Tel: +61 2 6249 9642; E-mail: [email protected]

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A telephone briefing related to this paper will take place UNDER STRICT EMBARGO on:
Tuesday 04 September at 0930 London time (BST) / 1730 Japanese Standard Time / 1830 Australian Eastern time

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The author will speak about his research followed by questions from the media.

[2] Planetary science: Killer asteroid shower identified (pp 48-53; N&V)

The catastrophic breakup of an asteroid 160 million years ago produced a shower of debris that was the most likely source of the impact event at the Cretaceous/Tertiary (K/T) boundary, suggests a report in Nature this week. This breakup took place in the inner asteroid belt of the Solar System, and is thought to have doubled for a while the number of impacts occurring on the terrestrial planets. A fragment from the breakup that eventually struck Earth is widely believed to have caused the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous period — the largest in 250 million years.

Several recent studies have noted an increase in the number of asteroid impacts in recent geologic history — the impact ‘flux’ has at least doubled over the last 100–200 million years. William Bottke and colleagues used computer simulations to show that this surge was probably triggered by the catastrophic disruption of a 170-km-diameter asteroid about 160 million years ago. This breakup produced a cluster of fragments known as the Baptistina asteroid family. By combining their numerical results with meteoritic constraints, they conclude that this asteroid shower is over 90% likely to be the source of the K/T impactor.

The authors suggest that the K/T event was part of a much larger process, occurring throughout the inner Solar System that may have created the Tycho crater on the Moon and many large craters on Venus and Mars. The breakup event is also likely to be the source of roughly one-third of present-day near-Earth objects.


William Bottke (Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, CO, USA)
Tel: +1 303 546 6066; E-mail: [email protected]

Philippe Claeys (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium) N&V author

E-mail: [email protected]

[3] Hearing: Protein duo make up tip links (pp 87-91)

Tip links, the filamentous structures found on certain cells in the inner ear, are made up of two proteins, reveals a paper in this week’s Nature. The finding offers insights into the mechanisms underlying certain forms of deafness.

The hair cells of the inner ear have tiny hair-like projections that help convert head movement and sound into electrochemical signals, which are then perceived as balance and hearing. In a rodent study, Ulrich Müller and colleagues now show that tip links — the structures connecting the tips of these projections — are made from two proteins, cadherin 23 and protocadherin 15.

Mutation of these cadherins causes deafness in humans, and one such mutation disrupts the interactions between the two molecules. The study has implications for understanding cadherin function.


Ulrich Muller (The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA, USA)
Tel: +1 858 784 7288; E-mail: [email protected]

[4] Immunology: Clue to HIV vaccine success (pp 101-104; N&V)

A neutralizing human antibody has previously been shown to protect against HIV in a monkey model. Dennis R. Burton and colleagues report in this week's Nature that the protective effect is not only due to the antibody's neutralizing activity, that is, its ability to block viral entry into target cells, but also to antiviral responses due to the antibody's ability to bind to Fc receptors on effector cells. Antibody-activated effector cells can act against both free virus and against virus-infected cells.

The study implies that prevention of HIV infection may require activity against both free virions and infected cells, and that vaccine efficacy may be crucially dependent on its ability to elicit a combination of antibody and cell-mediated immunity.


Dennis R. Burton (The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA, USA)
Tel: +1 858 784 9298; E-mail: [email protected]

John Mascola (NIH, Bethesda, MD, USA) N&V author
Tel: +1 301 594 8487; E-mail: [email protected]

[5] Materials: Tickle me! (pp 72-74)

A new approach to triggering change in the electronic state of a solid material is presented in Nature this week. Matteo Rini and colleagues report that ultrafast pulses of terahertz radiation can be used to 'tickle' individual molecules. This alone is sufficient to drive the material from a stable insulating phase to a metastable, conducting one.

There are various subtle ways of changing the electronic state in a solid: for example, a pulse of light or electrical current can be used to inject 'hot' charges that change the electronic state of the system under investigation. The team use a different approach and show that, with strongly correlated electrons, even subtle changes in the crystal structure can have a profound effect on the properties of the material.


Matteo Rini (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA, USA)

Tel: +1 510 486 6558; E-mail: [email protected]

[6] Genetics: SYNERGY sheds light on gene evolution (pp 54-61)

A new method that maps the detailed evolutionary history of gene duplication and loss is revealed in this week’s Nature.

The technique, called SYNERGY, can reconstruct the history of speciation, duplication and loss events for all genes in multiple genomes. And its creators, Aviv Regev and colleagues, have already applied their strategy to the genomes of 17 Ascomycota fungal species spanning 300 million years of evolution.

SYNERGY provides a comprehensive overview of gene duplication and loss, which are known to lead to functional innovation, in the yeast lineage as well as the biological constraints governing gene evolution. The results suggest evolutionary principles, in particular for gene duplication, that are applicable not only to fungi, but more widely too.


Aviv Regev (Massachusetts Institute of Technology / Broad Institute, Cambridge, MA, USA)
Tel: +1 617 324 4911; E-mail: [email protected]

[7] Symbiotic evolution: Host genes incorporated (pp 83-86)

Researchers provide an insight into the evolutionary interactions between a virus — phage — and its bacterial host in a study in this week’s Nature. Using a genome-wide approach they analyse gene expression patterns in a marine phage–host system over the course of infection.

Phages have a major impact on the evolution of their bacterial hosts. Although the analysis of single genes offers some information on this relationship, a broader approach is essential for a better understanding of co-evolutionary processes. Sallie Chisholm and colleagues describe the first whole-genome expression profiling of the marine cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus and its T7-like cyanophage, during infection. They report that the phage has evolved to take on bacterial host genes involved in energy production and DNA synthesis, a useful resource in energy-limited waters.

The interactions between host and phage clearly affect the gene content of both, and the current findings may prove useful for modelling the population dynamics and oceanic distribution of this phage–host system — both of which have wider implications for carbon cycling in ocean ecosystems.


Sallie Chisholm (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA)
Tel: +1 617 253 1771; E-mail: [email protected]

[8] And finally… Jaws II (pp 79-82; N&V)

Most bony fishes capture their prey by sucking in their victims and then processing them with a second set of jaws lying deep within their throat. However, this is not the case for the predatory moray eel (Muraena retifera), which launches its second jaws forward into its mouth in order to seize its unwitting prey.

Despite the moray eel’s predominance as the top predator of many coral reef systems, its feeding mechanisms had remained poorly understood. As a result of its characteristically long and narrow body, it is unable to rely on the conventional suction mechanism used by most bony fishes. In this week’s issue of Nature, Rita Mehta and Peter Wainwright report their finding that moray eels have an extremely mobile set of jaws in their throat that project forward into the mouth and grasp their prey, a feat made possible by elongation of the muscles controlling the jaws, coupled with the reduction of adjacent gill-arch structures. These second jaws then take the prey back into the throat.

This remarkable innovation may have contributed to the success of moray eels as reef predators, allowing them to live in confined spaces while retaining the ability to feed on large fish and cephalopods.


Rita Mehta (University of California, Davis, CA, USA)
Tel: +1 530 752 6784; E-mail: [email protected]

Andy Fell (News Service, University of California, Davis, CA, USA)

Tel: +1 530 752 4533; E-mail: [email protected]

Mark Westneat (Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, IL, USA) N&V author
Tel: +1 312 665 7734; E-mail: [email protected]


[9] Dragging of inertial frames (pp 41-47)

[10] Entanglement of single atom quantum bits at a distance (pp 68-71)

[11] Temporal precision in the neural code and the timescales of natural vision (pp 92-95)

[12] Polo inhibits progenitor self-renewal and regulates Numb asymmetry by phosphorylating Pon (pp 96-100)

[13] p53 is regulated by the lysine demethylase LSD1 (pp 105-108)


[14] Insulin modulates gluconeogenesis by inhibition of the coactivator TORC2

DOI: 10.1038/nature06128


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.


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Vienna: 13


Prague: 2


Berlin: 7

Freiburg: 7


Haifa: 7

Jerusalem: 6


Lecce: 9


Tokyo: 5

Tsukuba: 5


Suwon: 14


Utrecht: 4


Singapore: 12


Didcot: 5

Oxford: 5



Berkeley: 5

Davis: 8

Irvine: 4

La Jolla: 3, 4, 14

Palo Alto: 12


Boulder: 2


Storrs: 11


Covington: 4


Bethesda: 3

College Park: 10


Boston: 7

Cambridge: 6, 7, 11


Ann Arbor: 10

New York

New York: 11


Philadelphia: 13


Smithville: 13


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