Trapping nuclear waste

A new role for prion protein; Proteins implicated in magnetoreception; Clocking perceptual speed; Risk variants for pancreatic cancer; Getting to the bones of echolocation; Jupiter’s moons diverged through bombardment; New chemistry clicks and Levitated half-tonne magnet recreates planetary plasmas


For papers that will be published online on 24 January 2010

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

This press release contains:

· Summaries of newsworthy papers:

Chemistry: Trapping nuclear waste

Neuroscience: A new role for prion protein

Nature: Proteins implicated in magnetoreception

Neuroscience: Clocking perceptual speed

Genetics: Risk variants for pancreatic cancer

Nature: Getting to the bones of echolocation

Geoscience: Jupiter’s moons diverged through bombardment

Chemical Biology: New chemistry clicks

And finally…Physics: Levitated half-tonne magnet recreates planetary plasmas

· 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] Chemistry: Trapping nuclear waste
DOI: 10.1038/nchem.519

A material with an open framework that can selectively trap and hold onto a form of potentially dangerous nuclear waste, caesium ions, is described in Nature Chemistry this week. A radioactive isotope of caesium, caesium-137, is highly toxic and is believed to be the main source of radiation still present around Chernobyl.

Nan Ding and Mercouri Kanatzidis created a sulfide material that has a flexible structure containing organic cations that can swap places with caesium ions in an aqueous solution. This triggers the structure to change shape such that windows in the sulfide framework ‘close’ around the caesium ions, in a manner reminiscent of a Venus flytrap, so that they cannot escape. Other similar ions are not trapped by the material, even when present in much greater concentrations.

Caesium-137 can be produced by nuclear fission. It is water-soluble and highly toxic, and so poses a high risk if released into the environment, where it can persist for many years.

Author contact:
Nan Ding (Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA)
Tel: +1 847 467 1541; E-mail: [email protected]

Mercouri Kanatzidis (Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA)
Tel: +1 847 467 1541; E-mail: [email protected]

[2] Neuroscience: A new role for prion protein
DOI: 10.1038/nn.2483

Prion protein, previously implicated in “mad cow disease”, is also critical for maintaining the myelin sheath that surrounds the axons of peripheral nerves, reports a study published online this week in Nature Neuroscience. This suggests a novel role in normal brain function for the mysterious prion protein.

Adriano Aguzzi and colleagues studied mice which were deficient in the prion protein. These mice are known to be resistant to prion infections. However, they also show a number of abnormalities, including a late-onset degeneration of the peripheral neurons and the myelin that surrounds them. To determine how the prion protein contributes to the maintenance of peripheral myelin, the researchers compared the effects of prion deficiency in the neurons themselves to prion deficiency in the surrounding Schwann cells which make the myelin sheath. Surprisingly, they found that only loss of neuronal prion protein resulted in loss of the myelin sheath and degeneration of peripheral axons. Eliminating prion protein in the Schwann cells had no effect.

Demyelinated neurons lead to serious health problems, and the discovery of a new player in the process of myelin maintenance presents the possibility for novel avenues of treatment.

Author contact:
Adriano Aguzzi (University Hospital Zurich, Switzerland)
Tel: +41 1 255 2107; E-mail: [email protected]

[3] Nature: Proteins implicated in magnetoreception
DOI: 10.1038/nature08719

Two light sensitive receptor proteins have been implicated in the ability of insects to navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field. The find is reported in this week’s Nature.

The photoreceptor Cry1 is already known involved in the light-dependent magnetic sense of flies. But in this paper, Steven Reppert and colleagues implicate Cry1 and a related butterfly protein, Cry2, in magnetoreception. The team show that Cry1 and Cry2 can restore magnetosensation to flies genetically engineered to lack Cry1, albeit by an unclear, unconventional photochemical mechanism.

Author contact:
Steven Reppert (University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA, USA)
Tel: +1 508 856 6148; E-mail: [email protected]

[4] Neuroscience: Clocking perceptual speed
DOI: 10.1038/nn.2485

How long does it take to discriminate perceptual information? A study published online this week in Nature Neuroscience reports that monkeys need only about 30 milliseconds to distinguish perceptual information such as colors.

Studying perceptual speed is difficult, because it requires dissociating the time taken to perceive a stimulus from other processes, such as making an action to indicate what has been seen.

Emilio Salinas and colleagues avoided this problem by training monkeys to withhold the action – which would indicate their perception of presented colored spots – until they see a later cue. The scientists also construct a computational model to explain the processes underlying the monkeys' behavior, which confirms their data that a color needs to be presented for 30-50 milliseconds in order to influence the actions later made by the monkeys.

Author contact:
Emilio Salinas (Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC, USA)
Tel: +1 336 713 5176; E-mail: [email protected]

[5] Genetics: Risk variants for pancreatic cancer
DOI: 10.1038/ng.522

Genetic variants associated with increased risk of pancreatic cancer have been identified in a new report, published online this week in Nature Genetics.

Each year there are approximately 200,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer worldwide, with mortality rates nearly equal to incidence rates. Less than 5% of individuals diagnosed with this type of cancer are still alive five years after diagnosis.

Stephen Chanock and colleagues conducted the largest genetic association study to date for pancreatic cancer, analyzing the genomes of nearly 4,000 cases. The authors found genetic variants at 3 loci on different chromosomes are associated with increased risk of pancreatic cancer. The variant on one of these chromosomes is located near the CLPTM1L and TERT genes, both of which have previously been implicated in other forms of cancer, including brain tumors, lung cancer, and melanoma.

Author contact:
Stephen Chanock (National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD, USA)
Tel: +1 301 435 7559; E-mail: [email protected]

[6] Nature: Getting to the bones of echolocation
DOI: 10.1038/nature08737

A bony connection distinguishes bats that use larynx-generated signals to echolocate from other bats, a Nature paper suggests. The finding reopens basic questions about the evolutionary timing and origin of flight and echolocation in bats.

Not all bats echolocate, but most that do, listen to the reflected echoes of sounds produced in the larynx. Brock Fenton and colleagues studied 26 bat species and found that in laryngeal echo-locators, the stylohyal bone of the throat is connected to the tympanic bone in the ear region of the skull.

This condition is also found in the oldest known fossil bat, Onychonycteris finneyi, which was previously thought unable to echolocate. So Onychonyceteris may have used laryngeal echolocation after all, challenging the idea that flight evolved before echolocation.

Author contact:
Brock Fenton (University of Western Ontario, London, Canada)
Tel: +1 519 661 2111 x86464; E-mail: [email protected]

[7] Geoscience: Jupiter’s moons diverged through bombardment
DOI: 10.1038/ngeo698

Differences in the energy delivered by impacts to Jupiter’s large moons Callisto and Ganymede during the period of late heavy bombardment, about 3,800 to 4,100 million years ago, can explain their divergent characteristics, according to a study published online this week in Nature Geoscience. The findings explain why Ganymede has a large core of rock and metal, whereas the separation of ice and rock within Callisto is incomplete, even though the moons are very similar in size and composition.

Amy Barr and Robin Canup developed a model of melting and core formation in the presence of planetary impacts. They found that, if sufficient energy is released during a series of impacts, the process of ice–rock separation and core formation can become self-sustaining and will drive itself to completion. Ganymede experienced such self-sustaining separation, they suggest, whereas Callisto did not, because Jupiter’s gravity field directed more impact energy towards Ganymede.

Author contact:
Amy Barr (Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, CO, USA)
Tel: +1 720 240 0142; Email: [email protected]

[8] Chemical Biology: New chemistry clicks
DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.311

A new method for tracking modified lipids in living cells is described online this week in Nature Chemical Biology. This robust technology, like its related chemical reaction – called ‘click’ chemistry – could provide a generalizable platform for studying any cellular process, such as protein functions and modifications.

The most famous example of click chemistry is the linkage of a triple bond, or alkyne, with three nitrogens, or an azide, to create a 5-membered ring. This reaction is used to attach fluorescent labels or other tagging agents to a variety of cellular molecules, which can then be easily visualized and studied. However, this is a permanent modification, making it harder to tell what the true structure or function of the biological target is.

Alex Brown and colleagues use cobalt molecules to bind alkynes that have been inserted in long lipid tails. The reaction is as specific as the click companion, but reversible, so the lipids attached to cobalt can be extracted from cells, but then characterized normally. As in the lab, alkynes can be inserted in a large number of molecules without causing functional changes; this technique should expand the ability of chemists and biologists to better understanding cellular function.

Author contact:
Alex Brown (Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA)
Tel: +1 615 936 3888; E-mail: [email protected]

[9] And finally…Physics: Levitated half-tonne magnet recreates planetary plasmas
DOI: 10.1038/nphys1510

The production of hot dense plasmas in the lab, similar to those generated by the interaction of the solar wind with a planet's magnetic field is reported online this week in Nature Physics. While providing a means to study the dynamics of planetary magnetospheres, the device could also enable new approaches to achieving fusion-based power generation.

The unconventional device used to create the plasmas — based on a levitated half-tonne superconducting magnet — recreates an unusual effect often seen in space plasmas but never before in the laboratory. This effect, known as a 'turbulent pinch', enables the density at the core of a hot plasma to be significantly increased. Turbulence in a plasma usually smoothes out variations in its density or temperature, and so should cause the core density of a plasma to decrease. But when a plasma is trapped by certain magnetic-field configurations, such as those generated near a planet, turbulence can have the opposite effect, and drive the diffusion of particles against a density gradient.

Michael Mauel and colleagues believe that if such turbulence-induced density enhancement could be realized in larger devices, it could enable them to recreate the conditions necessary to sustain fusion reactions in a tritium-free plasma. Tritium is one of the two hydrogen isotopes (along with deuterium) that are essential to fusion reactions that will take place in ITER, the International Experimental Fusion Reactor currently being built in Cadarache, France. But because tritium is radioactive and does not occur naturally, generating and handling it represents one of the key engineering challenges faced in the development of fusion-based power stations.

Author contact:
Michael Mauel (Columbia University, New York, NY, USA)
Tel: +1 212 854 4455; E-mail: [email protected]


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


[10] DNA zip codes control an ancient mechanism for gene targeting to the nuclear periphery
DOI: 10.1038/ncb2011

[11] PINK1/Parkin-mediated mitophagy is dependent on VDAC1 and p62/SQSTM1
DOI: 10.1038/ncb2012

[12] Planar polarization of node cells determines the rotational axis of node cilia
DOI: 10.1038/ncb2020


[13] Domino access to highly substituted chromans and isochromans from carbohydrates
DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.302


[14] A concentric planar doubly [pi]-aromatic B19- cluster
DOI: 10.1038/nchem.534


[15] Population resequencing reveals local adaptation of Arabidopsis lyrata to serpentine soils
DOI: 10.1038/ng.515

[16] On the biological basis of epistasis: prevalent positive epistasis without functional interaction
DOI: 10.1038/ng.524


[17] Variable winter moisture in the southwestern United States linked to rapid glacial climate shifts
DOI: 10.1038/ngeo754

[18] Links between ocean temperature and iceberg discharge during Heinrich events
DOI: 10.1038/ngeo752


[19] Temporal changes in dendritic cell subsets, cross-priming and costimulation via CD70 control CD8+ T cell responses to influenza
DOI: 10.1038/ni.1838


[20] Portrait of the potential barrier at metal–organic nanocontacts
DOI: 10.1038/nmat2625

[21] Multimeric small interfering ribonucleic acid for highly efficient sequence-specific gene silencing
DOI: 10.1038/nmat2626


[22] Transferrin therapy ameliorates disease in beta-thalassemic mice
DOI: 10.1038/nm.2073

[23] The Rho exchange factor Arhgef1 mediates the effects of angiotensin II on vascular tone and blood pressure
DOI: 10.1038/nm.2079

[24] Genomic instability and myelodysplasia with monosomy 7 consequent to EVI1 activation after gene therapy for chronic granulomatous disease
DOI: 10.1038/nm.2088

[25] Amplification of LAPTM4B and YWHAZ contributes to chemotherapy resistance and recurrence of breast cancer
DOI: 10.1038/nm.2090


[26] Systems analysis of EGF receptor signaling dynamics with micro-western arrays
DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.1418


[27] Connectivity reflects coding: A model of voltage-based spike-timing-dependent-plasticity with homeostasis


[28] An ultra-small, low-power, all-optical flip-flop memory on a silicon chip
DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2009.268

[29] Quasi-periodic distributed feedback laser
DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2009.285

Nature PHYSICS (

[30] Observation of parity–time symmetry in optics
DOI: 10.1038/nphys1515

[31] Naturally occurring resonators in random lasing of pi-conjugated polymer films
DOI: 10.1038/nphys1509

[32] Attosecond imaging of molecular electronic wavepackets
DOI: 10.1038/nphys1511


[33] Yeast telomerase subunit Est1p has guanine quadruplex–promoting activity that is required for telomere elongation
DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.1760

[34] CDK8 is a positive regulator of transcriptional elongation within the serum response network
DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.1752

[35] Aberrant alternative splicing and extracellular matrix gene expression in mouse models of myotonic dystrophy
DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.1720

[36] Solution structures of the two PBZ domains from human APLF and their interaction with poly(ADP-ribose)
DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.1747

[37] Structural insights into the human GW182-PABC interaction in microRNA-mediated deadenylation
DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.1768

[38] Structural basis of respiratory syncytial virus neutralization by motavizumab
DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.1723


***The following papers were published electronically on Nature Biotechnology and Nature Neuroscience’s website on 17 January at 1800 London time / 1300 US Eastern time. These paper are therefore no longer under embargo. The rest of the above articles on this release remain under embargo until 24 January at 1800 London time / 1300 US Eastern time ***

[39] Expansion and maintenance of human embryonic stem cell—derived endothelial cells by TGFβ inhibition is Id1 dependent
DOI: 10.1038/nbt.1605

[40] Ultrafast optogenetic control
DOI: 10.1038/nn.2495


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.

Graz: 27
Vienna: 6, 15

Brussels: 25
Ghent: 28

Hamilton: 6
London: 6
Quebec: 37
Toronto: 5, 6

Guangzhou: 16
Kunming: 16
Shanghai: 33

Copenhagen: 5
Lyngby: 25, 28

Helsinki: 5, 22

Angers: 23
Ecully: 28
Gif-sur-Yvette: 18, 32
Grenoble: 18
Lyon: 5
Nantes: 23
Paris: 32
Suresnes: 23

Aachen: 2
Bad Nauheim: 23
Berlin: 24, 40
Clausthal-Zellerfeld: 30
Frankfurt: 24
Goettingen: 2, 13
Hannover: 24
Heidelberg: 5, 24
Idar-Oberstein: 24
Stuttgart: 20
Tuebingen: 11
Wurzburg: 2

Haifa: 30
Jerusalem: 22

Florence: 29
Milan: 5
Pisa: 29
Trieste: 20

Aichi: 12
Fukuoka: 12
Hyogo: 12
Osaka: 12

Daejeon: 21

Eindhoven: 28
Utrecht: 5

Asturias: 5
Barcelona: 5

Umea: 5

Lausanne: 20, 27
Zurich: 2, 24, 29

Miaoli County: 26

Etlik: 31

Aberdeen: 15
Birmingham: 12
Cambridge: 6, 29, 36
Hertfordshire: 36
London: 5, 20, 24
Manchester: 36
Sheffield: 27


Berkeley: 37
Davis: 15
La Jolla: 12
Los Angeles: 15
Oakland: 5
Pasadena: 2
San Francisco: 5, 12
Santa Barbara: 15
Santa Clara: 35
Santa Cruz: 35
Stanford: 40

Boulder: 7, 34
Denver: 23

New Haven: 5

Gainesville: 35
Orlando: 30

Athens: 5
Atlanta: 5

Evanston: 1, 10
Chicago: 1, 10, 26

Baltimore: 5
Bethesda: 5, 38
Frederick: 5
Gaithersburg: 5
Hagerstown: 5

Boston: 5, 25
Cambridge: 9, 26
Worcester: 3

Ann Arbor: 16

Minneapolis: 5
Rochester: 5, 19

New Mexico
Albuquerque: 17

New York
Bronx: 22
Buffalo: 5
New York: 6, 22, 39
Rochester: 35

North Carolina
Winston-Salem: 4

Pittsburgh: 5

Rhode Island
Providence: 14

Nashville: 5, 8

Houston: 5

Logan: 14
Salt Lake City: 31


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)
Michael Francisco
Tel: +1 212 726 9288; E-mail: [email protected]

Nature Cell Biology (London)
Sowmya Swaminathan
Tel: +44 20 7843 4656; E-mail: [email protected]

Nature Chemical Biology (Boston)
Sarah Daniels
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 9324; 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)
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 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)
Sabbi Lall
Tel: +1 212 726 9326; E-mail: [email protected]

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Published: 24 Jan 2010

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