To set off an earthquake

Newsworthy papers include Nanoparticles need 'stripes' for cellular success, Genetic variants affect cancer risk in alcohol drinkers, Conducting without pressure, A critical factor for maintaining blood stem cells, Understanding cocaine craving, Genetic clue to 'clubbing', Searching for cancer's 'Achilles' heel', Observing virus birth


For papers that will be published online on 25 May 2008

This press release is copyrighted to the Nature journals mentioned below.

This press release contains:

· Summaries of newsworthy papers:

Geoscience: To set off an earthquake

Materials: Nanoparticles need ‘stripes’ for cellular success

Genetics: Genetic variants affect cancer risk in alcohol drinkers

Geoscience: Observed upper atmosphere warming in line with models

Nature: Conducting without pressure

Immunology: A critical factor for maintaining blood stem cells

Nature: Understanding cocaine craving

Genetics: Genetic clue to ‘clubbing’

Nature: Searching for cancer’s ‘Achilles’ heel’

Nature: Observing virus birth

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

· Geographical listing of authors

PDFs of all the papers mentioned on this release can be found in the relevant journal’s section of Press contacts for the Nature journals are listed at the end of this release.

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[1] Geoscience: To set off an earthquake
DOI: 10.1038/ngeo204

A large earthquake can trigger distant smaller earthquakes throughout the world, independent of geologic setting, reports a study published online this week in Nature Geoscience. The study suggests that earthquake triggering — caused by deformation of the Earth’s crust as a result of the passage of surface seismic waves — is a common and widespread phenomenon.

Tom Parsons and colleagues analysed global and regional earthquake catalogues to identify small earthquakes indicative of triggering. They found that 12 out of 15 large earthquakes that had occurred since 1990 generated surface waves that in turn set off smaller quakes around the world. For example, the December 2004 mega-earthquake at the Sumatra–Andaman islands triggered small earthquakes as far away as Alaska, California and Ecuador.

This study identifies triggered earthquakes around the world that would otherwise have escaped attention. The variety of tectonic settings and triggering waves observed in relation to this phenomenon implies that many different physical mechanisms are involved.

Author contact:
Tom Parsons (United States Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA, USA)
Tel: +1 650 329 5074; E-mail: [email protected]

[2] Materials: Nanoparticles need ‘stripes’ for cellular success
DOI: 10.1038/nmat2202

Nanoparticles that can penetrate a cell without causing overt disruption are described online this week in Nature Materials. When covered with two different kinds of molecules in a 'striped' arrangement, these nanoparticles can pass directly through the highly protective barrier of the cell membrane without creating holes leading to cell death. This mechanism could be used to deliver biologically active molecules into the cell for therapeutic purposes.

Although some biomolecules can directly pass through cell membranes, for some time there has been controversy surrounding the possibility of a similar mechanism occurring for synthetic particles of a similar size. Usually, the uptake of synthetic objects into the cell results in them reaching only a limited area within small compartments rather than the main fluid section, called the cytosol, of the cell. Objects, such as positively charged nanoparticles, also create small transient holes that disrupt the membrane in the process and can cause cell death.

Francesco Stellacci and colleagues show that gold nanoparticles can penetrate the cell membrane without causing disruption, and reach the cytosol if the particles are coated with both negatively charged and hydrophobic ligands arranged in an alternating ‘striped’ fashion. If these ligands are arranged in a random way, but in the same ratio, on the nanoparticles, the particles can not directly pass through the membrane.

Author contact:
Francesco Stellacci (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA)
Tel: +1 617 452 3704; E-mail: [email protected]

[3] Genetics: Genetic variants affect cancer risk in alcohol drinkers
DOI: 10.1038/ng.151

Variants in certain genes lower the risk of various types of cancers in individuals who consume alcohol, reports a study published online this week in Nature Genetics. The genes, which encode enzymes that metabolize alcohol, reduce cancers of the mouth, larynx, pharynx and oesophagus.

Alcohol consumption is a risk factor for cancers of the upper aerodigestive tract, and some published evidence supports the notion that variation in the enzymes that metabolize alcohol – alcohol dehydrogenases (ADH) – might influence cancer susceptibility.

Paul Brennan and colleagues genotyped 6 ADH variants in more than 3,800 individuals with aerodigestive cancer and over 5,200 controls. One variant each in ADH1B and ADH7 were significantly protective against aerodigestive cancer specifically in individuals who were alcohol drinkers, and most strongly in those who had higher alcohol intake. Individuals with the protective variant in ADH1B are known to metabolize alcohol up to 100 times faster than those without it, suggesting that lower exposure to alcohol is protective against the disease.

Author contact:
Paul Brennan (International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France)
Tel: +33 4 7273 8391; E-mail: [email protected]

[4] Geoscience: Observed upper atmosphere warming in line with models (N&V)
DOI: 10.1038/ngeo208

Whether the tropical upper atmosphere has been warming, and at what rate, has been a controversial issue over the past decades, given the differences between direct observations and climate model simulations. New observational data published online this week in Nature Geoscience show a warming rate of about 0.65ºC per decade since 1970, which is broadly in line with model simulations, and therefore increases confidence in the climate models.

Previous studies using satellite and direct temperature measurements of the troposphere – the lowest region of the earth’s atmosphere – failed to show the warming trend predicted by climate models; most likely because of biases within the methods. To get around these potential biases, Robert Allen and Steven Sherwood used wind measurements, which are more robust than temperature observations, and a meteorological equation linking winds to temperatures, to derive temperature trends. Their results show a warming maximum in the upper atmosphere over the tropics, as expected from climate models.

In an accompanying News and Views article, Peter Thorne states that the authors ‘provide [. . .] long-awaited experimental verification of model predictions.’ He suggests that ‘this story of tropical tropospheric warming highlights the fact that monitoring climate change requires a fundamentally different observational approach to that used in weather forecasting.’

Author contacts:
Robert Allen (Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA)
Tel: +1 203 848 9967; E-mail: [email protected]

Steven Sherwood (Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA)
Tel: +1 203 432 3167; E-mail: [email protected]

News and Views author:
Peter Thorne (Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, Exeter, UK)
Tel: +44 1392 886 552; E-mail: [email protected]

[5] Nature: Conducting without pressure
DOI: 10.1038/nature07045

Scientists have created a new material that is superconducting at high temperatures without the need for high pressure. They say online in Nature this week that it provides a new material base for studying the origin of high-temperature superconductivity.

Since the discovery of high-transition-temperature superconductivity in layered copper oxides, extensive effort has been devoted to exploring the phenomenon. A recent paper in Nature showed an iron-arsenide-based material superconducting at 43 Kelvin with the application of pressure. Xianhui Chen and colleagues now report bulk superconductivity in samarium-arsenide oxides with a transition temperature of 43 Kelvin without this pressure.

Author contact:

Xianhui Chen (University of Science & Technology of China, Anhui, China)
Tel: +86 551 3601654; E-mail: [email protected]

[6] Immunology: A critical factor for maintaining blood stem cells
DOI: 10.1038/ni.1617

A gene whose altered expression has previously associated with human leukaemias and Ewing’s sarcoma—a type of malignant bone tumour found in young adults—is required for the proper functioning of blood stem cells. In a study published online this week in Nature Immunology, scientists report that the gene, known as Erg, maintains normal numbers of blood stem cells that generate a constant supply of short-lived mature cells in the blood.

Using a genetic screen in mice, Benjamin Kile and co-workers uncovered a mutation in the Erg gene that affects stem cell populations. By evaluating the capacity of different populations of primitive blood cells to form mature blood cells, they determined that production and/or survival of blood stem cells is reduced in mice with the Erg mutation. Thus some mutations in Erg lead to reduced numbers of blood stem cells while others are associated with human leukaemias.

This finding uncovers a key function of Erg independent of its effects on human cancers and demonstrates the importance of using mouse models and genetic screens to identify the influence of specific genes involved in human cancers and other human diseases.

Author contact:
Benjamin Kile (Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Melbourne, Australia)
Tel: +61 3 9345 2555; E-mail: [email protected]

[7] Nature: Understanding cocaine craving
DOI: 10.1038/nature06995

After withdrawal from cocaine, the number of certain receptors in the brain linked to cocaine cravings increase over time, according to research online in Nature this week. The research, in rats, suggests that these receptors could be a potential target for treating relapse.

One of the biggest challenges in treating drug addiction is danger of relapse after quitting. Drug-associated cues can trigger persistent drug cravings that grow stronger the longer the abstinence, but what mediates the increasing reactivity of the brain to these cues is not well understood.

It's known that cocaine-seeking depends on activation of glutamatergic AMPA receptors in the nucleus accumbens. Marina Wolf and colleagues now show that rats that undergo prolonged withdrawal from cocaine have greater numbers of a certain type of synaptic AMPA receptor which leads to the increased reactivity of nucleus accumbens neurons to cocaine-related cues and increased drug-seeking by the animals.

Author contact:

Marina Wolf (Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, North Chicago, IL, USA)
Tel: +1 847 578 8659; E-mail: [email protected]

[8] Genetics: Genetic clue to ‘clubbing’
DOI: 10.1038/ng.153

Scientists have identified a mutation in a gene that causes digital clubbing, a deformity of the fingers and fingernails that is associated with a number of diseases of the heart and lungs. The finding, published online this week in Nature Genetics, may have immediate implications for the diagnosis of a range of disorders that are associated with clubbing.

Sometimes called ‘Hippocratic fingers’—Hippocrates may have been the first to propose clubbing as a sign of disease—bulbous or club-shaped fingers are one of the first clinical features that medical students are taught to look for in conducting an examination. It is almost always the sign of serious disease, notably lung cancer, heart disease, hyperthyroidism, and disorders of the gastrointestinal tract.

David Bonthron and colleagues studied three Pakistani families with primary hypertrophic osteoarthropathy (PHO), a disorder in which clubbing is accompanied by painful joint enlargement. They mapped a mutation in the gene encoding 15-hydroxyprostaglandin dehydrogenase, which is the main enzyme responsible for the degradation of prostaglandins —fatty compounds. They went on to show that the individuals with PHO had chronically elevated levels of one particular prostaglandin called E2. The known functions of prostaglandins provide a plausible explanation for the clinical features of PHO, and suggest that other disorders where clubbing is secondary to lung cancer or heart disease may also be explained by consistent exposure to elevated levels of circulating prostaglandins.

The authors suggest that a straightforward urine test for levels of prostaglandin E2 may be a useful first step in the diagnosis of individuals with unexplained clubbing.

Author contact:
David Bonthron (University of Leeds, UK)
Tel: +44 113 343 8648; E-mail: [email protected]

[9] Nature: Searching for cancer’s ‘Achilles’ heel’
DOI: 10.1038/nature06973

A new approach to finding genes important in the onset of cancer is described in this week’s Nature. The findings could help to identify new targets for tumour therapy.

Several genes, or ‘oncogenes’, cooperate with each other to transform normal cells into cancer cells. Hartmut Land and colleagues have now identified a list of other genes — termed ‘cooperation response genes’ (CRGs) — that are regulated downstream of these ‘oncogenes’. By interfering with each CRG individually, the team were able to show that 14 out of 24 of them had a critical role in tumour formation. Restoring expression of these genes to the levels observed in normal cells prevented the formation of tumours. What’s more, genetic perturbations of CRGs with relatively smaller effects when examined on their own show evidence of being essential when analysed in combination.

The findings represent an important step in the search for the chink in the armour in human cancer — the elusive gene that cancer cells simply cannot live without.

Author contact:
Hartmut Land (University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY, USA)
Tel: +1 585 273 1442; E-mail: [email protected]

[10] And finally… Nature: Observing virus birth
DOI: 10.1038/nature06998

Scientists have been able to visualise the assembly of viruses in living cells in real time for the first time. The research, published online this week in Nature, looks specifically at HIV-1 but could help us better understand how other viruses work.

Viruses enter cells and hijack the protein-making machinery to produce their own proteins. These new proteins then have to assemble correctly to form an infectious virus particle — a virion — before being released to infect more cells. Sanford Simon and colleagues used a state-of-the-art real-time imaging technique called total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy to measure and analyse directly the assembly of proteins to form HIV-1 virions in infected cells — something that was not previously possible to measure with conventional techniques. The whole process was found to take around 5–6 minutes.

Author contact:

Sanford Simon (The Rockefeller University, New York, NY, USA)
Tel: +1 212 327 8130; E-mail: [email protected]

Items from other Nature journals to be published online at the same time and with the same embargo:

Nature (

[11] Modest stabilization by most hydrogen-bonded side-chain interactions in membrane proteins
DOI: 10.1038/nature06977

[12] Structural basis for EGFR ligand sequestration by Argos
DOI: 10.1038/nature06978


[13] Targeted gene inactivation in zebrafish using engineered zinc-finger nucleases
DOI: 10.1038/nbt1398

[14] Heritable targeted gene disruption in zebrafish using designed zinc-finger nucleases
DOI: 10.1038/nbt1409

[15] Rapid genome sequencing with short universal tiling probes
DOI: 10.1038/nbt1405

[16] Proteome-derived, database-searchable peptide libraries for identifying protease cleavage sites
DOI: 10.1038/nbt1408


[17] Inactivation of Cdh1 by synergistic action of Cdk1 and polo kinase is necessary for proper assembly of the mitotic spindle
DOI: 10.1038/ncb1729


[18] Prader-Willi phenotype caused by paternal deficiency for the HBII-85 C/D box small nucleolar RNA cluster
DOI: 10.1038/ng.158


[19] Coupled caldera subsidence and stirring inferred from analogue models
DOI: 10.1038/ngeo206

[20] Elevated weathering rates in the Rocky Mountains during the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum
DOI: 10/1038/ngeo205


[21] Regulation of Tcrb recombination ordering by c-Fos-dependent RAG deposition
DOI: 10.1038/ni.1614

[22] The chromatin-remodeling enzyme BRG1 coordinates CIITA induction through many interdependent distal enhancers
DOI: 10.1038/ni.1619


[23] SUMOylation of Krüppel-like transcription factor 5 acts as a molecular switch in transcriptional programs of lipid metabolism involving peroxisome proliferator–activated receptor-delta
DOI: 10.1038/nm1756

[24] Identification of calcium-modulating cyclophilin ligand as a human host restriction to HIV-1 release overcome by Vpu
DOI: 10.1038/nm1778


[25] Efficient targeted transcript discovery via array-based normalization of RACE libraries
DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.1216


[26] A self-sustaining ultrahigh-frequency nanoelectromechanical oscillator
DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2008.125

[27] Atomically resolved mechanical response of individual metallofullerene molecules confined inside carbon nanotubes (N&V)
DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2008.126


[28] Reward prediction based on stimulus categorization in primate lateral prefrontal cortex
DOI: 10.1038/nn.2128


[29] Incoherent spatial solitons in effectively instantaneous nonlinear media
DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2008.81

[30] Lasing spaser
DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2008.82


[31] Crystal structure of the aquaglyceroporin PfAQP from the malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum
DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.1431

[32] Two distinct mechanisms generate endogenous siRNAs from bidirectional transcription in Drosophila melanogaster
DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.1438

[33] Triple-helix structure in telomerase RNA contributes to catalysis
DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.1420


***The following paper will be published online on the Nature Genetics website on Thursday 22 May at 1900 London time (BST) / 1400 US Eastern time, when the embargo will lift. All other material on this press release remains under embargo until Sunday 25 May at 1800 London time (BST) / 1300 US Eastern time.***

[34] Mouse segmental duplication and copy-number variation
DOI: 10.1038/ng.172


The following list of places refers to the whereabouts of authors on the papers numbered in this release. 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.

Buenos Aires: 3

Carlton: 6
Melbourne: 6
Parkville: 6

Goiania: 3
Pelotas: 3
Rio de Janeiro: 3
Sao Paulo: 3

Montreal: 19
Toronto: 22
Vancouver: 16, 19

Anhui: 5
Hong Kong: 27
Nanjing: 21
Shanghai: 21

Zagreb: 3

Havana: 3

Olomouc: 3
Prague: 3, 9

Evry: 3
Lyon: 3

Freiburg: 16
Hamburg: 27
Stuttgart: 27

Athens: 3

Haifa: 29

Aviano: 3
Padova: 3
Pordenone: 3
Turin: 3

Kanagawa: 28
Kumamoto: 21
Sapporo: 28
Tokyo: 23, 28
Toyama: 23

Eindhoven: 27

Oslo: 3

Lodz: 3
Poznan: 8
Warsaw: 3

Bucharest: 3

Moscow: 3

Proteos: 17

Banska Bystrica: 3

Barcelona: 3, 25

Stockholm: 15
Uppsala: 15

Geneva: 3, 25
Lausanne: 25

Kharkov: 30

Aberdeen: 3
Bradford: 8
Cambridge: 25
Edinburgh: 3
Glasgow: 3
Leeds: 3, 8
Newcastle: 3
Nottingham: 27
Southampton: 30
York: 8


Berkeley: 3, 14
La Jolla: 11
Los Angeles: 11
Menlo Park: 1
Pasadena: 26
Richmond: 13, 14
Rohnert Park: 20
San Francisco: 31

Santa Barbara:
Santa Clara: 25

Boulder: 17, 20, 29, 33

New Haven: 4

Atlanta: 24

Chicago: 7

Iowa City: 31

Baltimore: 7
Bethesda: 34

Boston: 2, 25
Worcester: 13

Ann Arbor: 34

Rochester: 24

New York
New York: 10, 32
Rochester: 9

Tulsa: 18

Philadelphia: 12

Nashville: 24

El Paso: 1
Houston: 18

Salt Lake City: 1

Seattle: 34

Madison: 20


For media inquiries relating to embargo policy for all the Nature Research Journals:

Rachel Twinn (Nature London)
Tel: +44 20 7843 4658; E-mail: [email protected]

Katherine Anderson (Nature New York)
Tel: +1 212 726 9231; E-mail: [email protected]

Ruth Francis (Head of Press, Nature, London)
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Nature Cell Biology (London)
Bernd Pulverer
Tel: +44 20 7843 4892; E-mail: [email protected]

Nature Genetics (New York)
Orli Bahcall
Tel: +1 212 726 9311; E-mail: [email protected]

Nature Geoscience (London)
Heike Langenberg
Tel: +44 20 7843 4042; E-mail: [email protected]

Nature Immunology (New York)
Laurie Dempsey
Tel: +1 212 726 9372; E-mail: [email protected]

Nature Materials (London)
Alison Stoddart
Tel: +44 20 7843 4593; E-mail: [email protected]

Nature Medicine (New York)
Juan Carlos Lopez
Tel: +1 212 726 9325; E-mail: [email protected]

Nature Methods (New York)
Hugh Ash
Tel: +1 212 726 9627; E-mail: [email protected]

Nature Nanotechnology (London)
Peter Rodgers
Tel: +44 20 7014 4019; Email: [email protected]

Nature Neuroscience (New York)
Sandra Aamodt (based in California)
Tel: +1 530 795 3256; E-mail: [email protected]

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Michelle Montoya
Tel: +1 212 726 9326; E-mail: [email protected]

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Published: 25 May 2008

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