Genetic factors for common traits in Asians

Protein cocktail directs production of new heart cells, Bright electronic paper, High rate of chromosomal instability in human embryos, The simple sense of smell, The dangers of double dipping, A greater Tibet, Light-activated enhancement of information processing, Easing the way to pluripotency, Ocean iron and Light, electrons, action!


For papers that will be published online on 26 April 2009

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

This press release contains:

· Summaries of newsworthy papers:

Nature: Protein cocktail directs production of new heart cells

Photonics: Bright electronic paper

Medicine: High rate of chromosomal instability in human embryos

Genetics: Genetic factors for common traits in Asians

Nature: The simple sense of smell

Neuroscience: The dangers of double dipping

Geoscience: A greater Tibet

Nature: Light-activated enhancement of information processing

Methods: Easing the way to pluripotency

Geoscience: Ocean iron

And finally … Chemical Biology: Light, electrons, action!

· 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] Nature: Protein cocktail directs production of new heart cells
DOI: 10.1038/nature08039

Researchers have discovered a cocktail of proteins that triggers the production of new heart muscle cells. The discovery, reported online in this week’s Nature, might be an important first step towards making new, therapeutically useful heart cells via cellular reprogramming.

Benoit Bruneau and Jun Takeuchi identified three proteins that, together, direct the differentiation of mouse embryonic cells into beating heart cells. The proteins are a mix of transcription factors, which bind to DNA and influence gene expression, and a heart-specific chromatin-remodelling protein.

The heart has little regenerative capacity after damage, so understanding the factors needed to produce new heart cells is of great interest. Although the authors used mesoderm cells (the middle embryonic tissue layer that gives rise to muscle, bone and connective tissue) as their starting point, in theory the paper provides a potential ‘recipe’ that could be used to reprogram other cell types to become heart muscle cells, a major goal of cell therapy

Author contact:

Benoit Bruneau (Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease, San Francisco, CA, USA)
Tel: +1 415 734 2708; E-mail: [email protected]

[2] Photonics: Bright electronic paper
DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2009.68

A design for a thin, electronic display that operates using ambient light and promises brightness and colour that mimics printed ink on paper is reported online this week in Nature Photonics. With a response speed on the millisecond timescale, display of video images should be possible.

The prototype displays made by Jason Heikenfeld and colleagues use electrically controllable forces to direct the spread of water-based coloured inks over the surface of polymer pixels that are coated with high-reflectivity aluminium.

With no electrical voltage applied, the ink remains in a small well in the centre of the pixel and the ambient light is strongly reflected by the aluminium. When a voltage is applied, the ink is pulled out of the well to cover the surface of the pixel, providing a strong vivid colour.

The research is still at an early stage and at present demonstrations with only one colour of ink have been reported. The future challenges are to create a full-colour version and integrate the design with necessary technology to allow for many shades of colour too.

Author contact:
Jason Heikenfeld (University of Cincinnati, OH, USA)
Tel: +1 513 556 4763; E-mail: [email protected]

[3] Medicine: High rate of chromosomal instability in human embryos
DOI: 10.1038/nm.1924

Abnormal chromosome structure in early human embryos is quite common, according to a report online this week in Nature Medicine. This high rate of chromosomal instability in early embryos could account for the relatively low fertility rate, and higher than expected miscarriage rate, in humans.

Chromosomal instability is characterized by duplications, deletions, or translocations of whole chromosomes, or of pieces of chromosomes. Joris Vermeesch and colleagues analyzed the genome of 23 early embryos from young women who were undergoing in vitro fertilization, and found that only 2 of them had chromosomes that were completely normal. The chromosomal alterations that the researchers identified in the other 21 embryos were likely due to errors that arose during cell division.

Author contact:
Joris Vermeesch (Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium)
Tel: +32 16 345 941; E-mail: [email protected]

[4] Genetics: Genetic factors for common traits in Asians
DOI: 10.1038/ng.357

Scientists in Korea have carried out the first large screen of health-related genes in an East Asian population. Their study, reported online this week in Nature Genetics, found that gene variants associated with metabolic traits related to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity and osteoporosis are partly shared between European and Asian populations, but the study also found new gene variants that either confer health risks specific to Asian ancestry or which show greater effects in combination with environmental factors prevalent in Asia.

While the majority of association studies have been carried out in European populations, Hyung-Lae Kim and colleagues launched their large genome-wide association study in population based cohorts recruited in Korea. Genetic variants previously associated with common traits such as height and body mass index overlapped in both European and Asian populations. However, several new variants in previously unreported loci were identified specifically in East Asians in association with biomedical traits such as blood pressure, bone density, pulse rate, and obesity.

Author contact:
Hyung-Lae Kim (National Institute of Health, Seoul, Korea)
Tel: +82 2 380 2960; E-mail: [email protected]

[5] Nature: The simple sense of smell
DOI: 10.1038/nature07983

Attraction and repulsion to simple scents are controlled by individual neuronal centres rather than an array of several centres, reports a study published online in Nature this week.

Each distinct scent activates several types of olfactory neurons in the fruitfly Drosophila. These olfactory neurons alternatively aggregate into distinct neuronal centres — the glomeruli. A scent activates numerous glomeruli depending on how complex it is. However, the pattern of glomeruli necessary to process innate scents, such as vinegar, which trigger an unlearned behavioural response, has been unknown.

Jing W. Wang and colleagues created fruitflies with genetic variations that allowed the scientists to activate individual glomeruli, while muting the rest. Fruitflies with only one glomerulus activated were exposed to low concentrations of apple cider vinegar. The scientists found that the genetically varied fruitflies were just as attracted to the scent of the vinegar as the wild-type flies. This shows that for some scents, one glomerulus is sufficient in processing the scent.

Next, the authors activated a second glomerulus and exposed the flies to higher concentrations of vinegar. They found that this second glomerulus is sufficient for turning a pleasant scent into a repulsive one as the intensity of the odour increases.

Author contact:
Jing W. Wang (University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA)
Tel: +1 858 534 5597; E-mail: [email protected]

[6] Neuroscience: The dangers of double dipping
DOI: 10.1038/nn.2303

Analyses of data from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and studies tracking electrical activity in the brain can generate misleading results, suggests an article online this week in Nature Neuroscience.

Techniques such as fMRI, which provides images of the brain, and electrophysiology, which record electrical activity from many neurons at once, generate a large amount of data. Some of this data is intrinsically ‘noisy’, being accompanied by other background activity, like listening to a radio station with poor signal quality. In order to enhance the signal of interest, the raw data is substantially analyzed, often using complex transformations.

Nikolaus Kriegeskorte and Chris Baker analysed some artificially generated ‘noise’ data, unrelated to experimental variables, but still obtained results This shows that in many cases, analysis can generate spurious results entirely unconnected with real experimental results.

These spurious results arise from a practice the authors call ‘double dipping’. For example, scientists may hypothesize that a brain region responds more strongly to one particular stimulus compared to another. An incorrect, ‘double dipping’ analysis would look for areas that were more active with the original stimulus and selectively analyze only these areas to test the hypothesis. However, some areas may activate more to one stimulus than another purely by chance, and restricting further analysis only to these areas would yield a misleading result.

Author contacts:
Nikolaus Kriegeskorte (National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA)
Tel: +1 301 402 1342; E-mail: [email protected]

Chris Baker (National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA)
Tel: +1 301 435 6058; E-mail: [email protected]

[7] Geoscience: A greater Tibet
DOI: 10.1038/ngeo503

Isolated high, flat surfaces in the northwest Himalaya may be remnants of the Tibetan plateau, suggests a paper online in Nature Geoscience. These surfaces seem to have persisted over the past 40 million years, confirming that the plateau formed soon after the India–Asia continental collision.

Peter van der Beek and colleagues studied the landscape of northwest Himalaya and the western Tibetan plateau, identifying broad, high regions beyond the western margin of the Tibetan plateau. They found that these surfaces had been eroded very slowly over tens of millions of years — in marked contrast with prominent Himalayan peaks, but similar to the western Tibetan plateau. This similarity to the erosion history of the Tibetan plateau indicates that in the past, the plateau must have extended further than its current western boundary.

The greater Tibetan plateau probably began disintegrating around 20 million years ago, when Himalayan deformation intensified, altering drainage patterns and leading to incision of the plateau.

Author contact:
Peter van der Beek (University of Grenoble, France)
Tel: +33 476 51 40 62; E-mail: [email protected]

[8] & [9] Nature: Light-activated enhancement of information processing

DOI: 10.1038/nature07991
DOI: 10.1038/nature08002

A particular type of electrical activity, driven by a specific subset of neurons, has been shown to boost information processing in brain circuits. The discovery, reported online in two Nature papers this week, was made possible by a genetic technique that enables the functional components of neural circuitry to be teased apart, and may boost our understanding of schizophrenia.

In a previous Nature paper (published online 18 March 2009), Karl Deisseroth and colleagues described a genetic switch that uses light to control nerve cell activity. Here, Deisseroth’s team expressed the switch in a particular type of nerve cell (parvalbumin-expressing interneurons) that has been proposed to have a role in information processing. The team shows that these neurons generate a type of brain wave, called gamma oscillations, to boost signal transmission within and between cortical cellular circuits.

In a related paper, Christopher Moore’s team used the same technique to activate the same population of interneurons (also known as fast-spiking interneurons), and similarly amplified gamma oscillations. Activating a different type of nerve cell, known as pyramidal neurons, had no such effect, thus demonstrating the specificity of the manipulation. Moore and colleagues went on to show that depending on when sensory stimulation (in this case, whisker deflection) occurred in relation to the gamma oscillation, the size, timing and precision of this signal were affected when processed by the appropriate brain areas.

The technique enables the activity of specific, discrete populations of neurons to be controlled, helping to elucidate the function of this particular group of interneurons within the context of a related neural circuit. Because abnormalities in parvalbumin interneurons have been implicated in schizophrenia, the studies may help to shed light on the cells and circuits that underlie this disorder.

Author contacts:
Karl Deisseroth (Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA) Author paper [8]
Tel: +1 650 736 4325; E-mail: [email protected]

Christopher Moore (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA)

Author paper [9]
Tel: +1 617 876 2819; E-mail: [email protected]

[10] Methods: Easing the way to pluripotency
DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.1325

Tools to selectively drive the expression of genes in pluripotent stem cells while leaving differentiated cells untouched are reported online this week in Nature Methods.

Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) are made by reprogramming mature cells; they have the potential to differentiate into different mature cell types, but the process of reprogramming is very inefficient.

James Ellis and colleagues describe how virus-derived vectors that drive gene expression exclusively in iPS cells improve the selection of iPS cells. The authors use these vectors to impart antibiotic resistance to emerging iPS cells by driving the expression of an antibiotic resistance gene. Ellis and colleagues derive mouse and human iPS cells modeled for the neurodevelopmental disorder Rett syndrome. This new method will prove useful for studying diseases in the laboratory since it simplifies the isolation of both mouse and human iPS cell lines.

The approach is likely to be particularly useful for making test tube models of diseases, where iPS cells are derived by reprogramming cells of patients with a particular disorder.

Author contact:
James Ellis (SickKids Hospital, Toronto, Canada)
Tel: +1 416 813 7295; E-mail: [email protected]

[11] Geoscience: Ocean iron
DOI: 10.1038/ngeo501

The mineral make-up of iron-containing particles determines their solubility in sea water, according to a study published online in Nature Geoscience. Iron can stimulate biological productivity in many regions of the world ocean, but only if it exists in a readily dissolvable form.

Andrew Schroth and colleagues analysed the solubility and mineral make-up of iron in aerosols derived from arid soils, glacial weathering products and oil combustion products. Less than 1% of the iron in arid soils was soluble, whereas 2–3% of the iron in glacial products and over 77% of the iron in oil combustion products dissolved. Iron solubility was directly linked to the chemical form of the iron.

The authors suggest that changes in the distribution of deserts, glaciers and fossil-fuel combustion could have a pronounced effect on aerosol iron solubility, and therefore on biological productivity and the ocean carbon cycle.

Author contact:
Andrew Schroth (US Geological Survey, Woods Hole Science Center, MA, USA)
Tel: +1 508 457 2295; E-mail: [email protected]

[12] Chemical Biology: Light, electrons, action!
DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.174

Scientists have discovered a natural function for green fluorescent protein, according to a paper published online this week in Nature Chemical Biology. This report provides the first glimpse of an answer to the riddle of what fluorescent proteins ‘do’.

Green fluorescent protein (GFP) and its colorful fluorescent family members are vital tools for biological research, and have been employed as markers for specific proteins or as readouts of a particular cell state. Though these proteins are ubiquitous in science labs, the function they serve in their host organisms was not known.

Konstantin Lukyanov and colleagues now demonstrate that, upon exposure to light, GFP can donate electrons to chemical and biological molecules. As electron transfer plays an important role in many biological processes, this means that GFP and its family members may have an important function in vivo. The study also serves as a cautionary note for experiments utilizing these trusted proteins.

Author contact:
Konstantin Lukyanov (Shemiakin-Ovchinnikov Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry, Moscow, Russia)
Tel: +7 495 429 8020; E-mail: [email protected]

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


[13] Allelic imbalance sequencing reveals that single-nucleotide polymorphisms frequently alter microRNA-directed repression
DOI: 10.1038/nbt.1540

[14] Antibacterial discovery in actinomycetes strains with mutations in RNA polymerase or ribosomal protein S12
DOI: 10.1038/nbt.1538


[15] RAD18 transmits DNA damage signalling to elicit homologous recombination repair
DOI: 10.1038/ncb1865

[16] PP1-mediated dephosphorylation of phosphoproteins at mitotic exit is controlled by inhibitor-1 and PP1 phosphorylation
DOI: 10.1038/ncb1871


[17] A new screening assay for allosteric inhibitors of cSrc
DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.162

[18] Impact of linker strain and flexibility in the design of a fragment-based inhibitor
DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.163

[19] FTIR analysis of GPCR activation using azido probes
DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.167


[20] Aberrant ERG expression cooperates with loss of PTEN to promote cancer progression in the prostate
DOI: 10.1038/ng.370

[21] Cooperativity of TMPRSS2-ERG with PI3-kinase pathway activation in prostate oncogenesis
DOI: 10.1038/ng.371


[22] Intense localized rock uplift and erosion in the St Elias orogen of Alaska
DOI: 10.1038/ngeo502

[23] Magmatic filtering of mantle compositions at mid-ocean-ridge volcanoes
DOI: 10.1038/ngeo504


[24] Electric modulation of conduction in multiferroic Ca-doped BiFeO3 films
DOI: 10.1038/nmat2432


[25] Endothelial basement membrane laminin alpha5 selectively inhibits T lymphocyte extravasation into the brain
DOI: 10.1038/nm.1957

[26] Adjuvant IL-7 antagonizes multiple cellular and molecular inhibitory networks to enhance immunotherapies
DOI: 10.1038/nm.1953


[27] Super-resolution video microscopy of live cells by structured illumination
DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.1324


[28] Trilayer graphene is a semimetal with a gate-tuneable band overlap

[29] Ultrafast permeation of water through protein-based membranes

[30] Alternating patterns on single-walled carbon nanotubes

[31] Broadband all-photonic transduction of nanocantilevers


[32] A precise form of divisive suppression supports population coding in the primary visual cortex
DOI: 10.1038/nn.2310


[33] Co-existence of strongly and weakly localized random laser modes
DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2009.67

[34] Bulk heterojunction solar cells with internal quantum efficiency approaching 100%
DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2009.69

Nature PHYSICS (

[35] Atomic wavefunctions probed through strong-field light–matter interaction
DOI: 10.1038/nphys1251

[36] Cooper-pair-mediated coherence between two normal metals
DOI: 10.1038/nphys1252

[37] Signatures of universal four-body phenomena and their relation to the Efimov effect
DOI: 10.1038/nphys1253


[38] Structure of the RAG1 nonamer binding domain with DNA reveals a dimer that mediates DNA synapsis
DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.1593

[39] Three-dimensional reconstruction of the Shigella T3SS transmembrane regions reveals 12-fold symmetry and novel features throughout
DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.1599

[40] A conserved structural motif mediates formation of the periplasmic rings in the type III secretion system
DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.1603


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.

Brussels: 3
Heverlee: 3
Leuven: 3

Edmonton: 15
Hamilton: 10
London: 10
Ottawa: 35
Quebec: 34
Toronto: 10, 26
Vancouver: 10, 40

Grenoble: 7
Issy les Moulineaux: 26
Nantes: 3
Strasbourg: 25
Talence: 35

Dortmund: 17
Freiburg: 19
Hanover: 26, 39
Karlsruhe: 33
Muenster: 25, 26

Rehovot: 35

Atsugi-shi: 28
Ibaraki: 14
Kisarazu: 14
Nagano: 14
Namiki: 29
Sengen: 29
Shizouka: 14
Tokyo: 28, 29
Yokohama: 1

Delft: 28

Islamabad: 7

Moscow: 12

Ansan: 4
Chuncheon: 4
Gwangju: 34
Seoul: 4
Suwon: 4, 15

Armilla: 25
Madrid: 10

Lund: 25
Stockholm: 25

Geneva: 28

HsinChu: 24

Bristol: 39
Cambridge: 23
London: 39
Oxford: 4, 39


Tucson: 7

Berkeley: 24
Davis: 21
La Jolla: 5
San Francisco: 1, 27
Santa Barbara: 34
Stanford: 8, 9

Boulder: 37

New Haven: 15, 16, 31, 38

Athens: 27

Honolulu: 23

Evanston: 36

West Lafayette: 22

Baltimore: 18, 38
Bethesda: 6

Boston: 20, 40
Cambridge: 9, 13
Woods Hole: 11

Ann Arbor: 15

Minneapolis: 40

Chesterfield: 38

New Hampshire
Hanover: 11

New York
Bronx: 12
New York: 19, 20, 21
Schenectady: 22
Upton: 39

North Carolina
Durham: 16, 32
Greensboro: 32

Cincinnati: 2

Bethlehem: 22
Philadelphia: 4, 9, 30, 32

Oak Ridge: 24

El Paso: 22

Ashburn: 27
Charlottesville: 26

Seattle: 40


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]

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

Ruth Francis (Head of Press, Nature, London)
Tel: +44 20 7843 4562; E-mail: [email protected]

For media inquiries relating to editorial content/policy for the Nature Research Journals, please contact the journals individually:

Nature Biotechnology (New York)
Craig Mak
Tel: +1 212 726 9384; E-mail: [email protected]

Nature Cell Biology (London)
Bernd Pulverer
Tel: +44 20 7843 4892; E-mail: [email protected]

Nature Chemical Biology (Boston)
Andrea Garvey
Tel: +1 617 475 9241, E-mail: [email protected]

Nature Chemistry (London)
Stuart Cantrill
Tel: +44 20 7014 4018; E-mail: [email protected]

Nature Genetics (New York)
Myles Axton
Tel: +1 212 726 9315; E-mail: [email protected]

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

Nature Materials (London)
Vincent Dusastre
Tel: +44 20 7843 4531; 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)
Kalyani Narasimhan
Tel: +1 212 726 9319; E-mail: [email protected]

Nature Photonics (Tokyo)
Oliver Graydon
Tel: +81 3 3267 8776; E-mail: [email protected]

Nature Physics (London)
Alison Wright
Tel: +44 20 7843 4555; E-mail: [email protected]

Nature Structural & Molecular Biology (New York)
Michelle Montoya
Tel: +1 212 726 9326; E-mail: [email protected]

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Published: 26 Apr 2009

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