Genomic guides for date sex

Summaries of newsworthy papers - Climate Change: Costing effective forest conservation; Immunology: An innate clue to asthma; Climate Change: Access to the Arctic; Medicine: BIN-ning muscle disease; Nanotechnology: A cool new microscope; And finally…Neuroscience: Success at suppression


For papers that will be published online on 29 May 2011

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

This press release contains:

Summaries of newsworthy papers:

Biotechnology: Genomic guides for date sex
Climate Change: Costing effective forest conservation
Immunology: An innate clue to asthma
Climate Change: Access to the Arctic
Medicine: BIN-ning muscle disease
Nanotechnology: A cool new microscope
And finally…Neuroscience: Success at suppression

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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HYPE: We take great care not to hype the papers mentioned on our press releases, but are sometimes accused of doing so. If you ever consider that a story has been hyped, please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected], citing the specific example.


[1] Biotechnology: Genomic guides for date sex
DOI: 10.1038/nbt.1860

High-throughput DNA sequencing has identified a region of the date palm genome that is linked to gender. The finding, reported online this week in Nature Biotechnology, may have important implications for production of this staple food in many Middle Eastern and North African nations.

Date palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.) is one of the three most economically important woody palms—the two others being the oil and coconut palms. Approximately 100 million date palm trees throughout the world produce 15 million metric tons of fruit annually. Unlike most plants, date palms are either male of female. However, breeders need to wait at least five years before the plants reach maturity to discover whether a plant is a fruit-bearing female, or a barren male.

Joel Malek and colleagues assembled a draft of the date palm genome, the first of its kind for a member of the palm family. Comparisons of the genomic sequences from male and female date palms belonging to nine different varieties reveal sequences linked to gender. Thee authors also propose that date palm uses an XY-type system of gender inheritance, similar to that seen in humans. The authors also identified genetic markers likely to facilitate breeding of traits such as superior fruit quality and more convenient ripening times into the best current cultivars.

Author contact:
Joel Malek (Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, Doha, Qatar)
Tel: +974 4492 8420; E-mail: [email protected]

[2] Climate Change: Costing effective forest conservation
DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1119

Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation — a key goal of international climate policy known as REDD+ — can lead to lost opportunities for local communities who depend on forest resources for their livelihoods. An analysis based on a case study for Tanzania, published online in Nature Climate Change, shows that it is possible to conserve forests, and avoid carbon leakage through forest displacement, while also protecting people’s livelihoods

Brendan Fisher and co-workers suggest that although this approach to the international climate policy REDD+ would be expensive compared with conventional estimates – at around US$12 per tonne of carbon dioxide – it could still be cost competitive relative to other mitigation measures. The team compared the carbon losses from deforestation in Tanzania with the opportunity costs of carbon conservation, and also investigated the implementation costs of alleviating the demand for forest conversion to agriculture and for charcoal.

In an accompanying News & Views, Luca Tacconi says this “is a new direction for both scientific and policy-related research on the implementation of REDD+”.

Author contacts:
Brendan Fisher (Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, USA)
Tel: +1 609 258 2448; E-mail: [email protected]

Luca Tacconi (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia) N&V author
Tel: +61 2 6125 7554; E-mail: [email protected]

[3] Immunology: An innate clue to asthma
DOI: 10.1038/ni.2045

A new immune-response cell type found in the lung has an important role in virus-induced asthma, reports a study published online this week in Nature Immunology. The identification of these cells in the lung and the molecules involved in their activation and function should provide new targets for the control of asthma exacerbated by viral infection.

Asthma, a chronic disease of the airways, can often be triggered by influenza infection. It is classically thought to be caused by inappropriate activation of an ‘adaptive’ immune response composed of T cells and B cells of the immune response, which have unique antigen receptors for recognizing foreign elements and retain memory for such recognition. ‘Innate’ immune responses, on the other hand, are composed of various nonspecific cells of the immune system and have not been linked to asthma.

Dale Umetsu and colleagues have identified a cell of the innate immune response that resides in the lung and has an important role in influenza-induced asthma. These so-called ‘natural helper cells’ respond to molecular triggers released by lung cells after influenza infection and drive asthma symptoms in a completely T cell– and B cell–independent manner.

Author contact:
Dale Umetsu (Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA)
Tel +1 617 919 2414; E-mail: [email protected]

[4] Climate Change: Access to the Arctic
DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1120

By 2050 Arctic states could suffer 11 to 82 per cent decline in the land area accessible by winter roads, but will benefit from faster sea travel during the summer months, with an estimated increase in maritime-accessible ocean area of 5 to 28 per cent. The findings, published online in Nature Climate Change, offer quantitative estimates of the extent that transport might change in the Arctic, providing a basis for planning and adaptation of human activity.

Scott Stephenson and colleagues present a new modelling framework to quantify changing access to oceans and landscapes northward of 40 degrees N by mid-century. They project that the North Sea Route, Arctic Bridge and North Pole shipping routes will become fully accessible from July to September by mid-century, with transport times averaging about 11, 15 and 16 days, respectively.

Author contact:
Scott Stephenson (University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA)
Tel: +1 818 209 6334; E-mail: [email protected]

[5] Medicine: BIN-ning muscle disease
DOI: 10.1038/nm.2374

Missplicing of the RNA of the BIN1 gene is associated with improper muscle activity in a common form of muscular dystrophy, called myotonic dystrophy. These findings, reported online this week in Nature Medicine, identify a new mechanism that explains an important aspect of this disease.
Myotonic dystrophy is characterized by improper muscle activity, or myotonia, and muscle wasting. The disease is caused by mutations in certain genes that result in an expansion of tri-nucleotide repeats in their corresponding RNAs. These repeated nucleotide sequences then sequester important RNA processing enzymes that result in missplicing of the RNA of other genes.

Nicolas Charlet-Berguerand and his colleagues find that one of the RNAs affected is for the gene BIN1. BIN1 is known to be critical in the formation of a membrane structure in skeletal muscle cells that allows for the proper coupling of excitation and contraction of the muscles. Missplicing of BIN1 results in the expression of a defective BIN1 isoform such that this membrane structure and excitation-contraction coupling is defective, likely explaining the myotonia.

Author contact:
Nicolas Charlet-Berguerand (University of Strasbourg, Illkirch, France)
Tel: +33 388 653 309; E-mail: [email protected]

[6] Nanotechnology: A cool new microscope
DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2011.80

A cold-atom scanning probe microscope is reported this week in Nature Nanotechnology. This new device could be used to make more accurate measurements of the interactions between atoms and surfaces.

Andreas Günther and colleagues created the microscope by replacing the solid tip of an atomic force microscope with a gas of rubidium atoms that was cooled to close to absolute zero. They used magnetic fields to trap and cool the gas, which was then moved close to the surface they wanted to study. By measuring the number of atoms lost from the gas as a result of interactions with the surface, they were able to measure the position and height of structures made from carbon nanotubes and individual free-standing nanotubes. The resolution of the device was improved by cooling the atoms even more so that they formed a special type of ultracold gas called a Bose–Einstein condensate. The researchers also showed that it was possible to study the surface by measuring changes in the way the condensate moved back and forth in the magnetic trap when the microscope was moved close to the sample.

The new device cannot yet rival the resolution of the atomic force microscope, but it could be used to make more accurate measurements of the dispersion forces between atoms or between an atom and a surface.

Author contact:
Andreas Günther (Universität Tübingen, Germany)
Tel: +49 7071 29 76281; E-mail: [email protected]

[7] And finally…Neuroscience: Success at suppression
DOI: 10.1038/nn.2823

People's success at doing a particular task correlates with the level of activity triggered by irrelevant stimuli in the background in a diffuse group of brain areas known as the default network. The results, published online in Nature Neuroscience, suggest a new role for this group of brain areas.

Often, performing a task involves ignoring distracting information that may be irrelevant to the task at hand. Adam Gazzaley and colleagues used functional magnetic resonance imaging to track peoples' brain activity as they saw superimposed pictures of faces and houses. During some trials, the subjects had to remember the faces and ignore the houses, and on others, the reverse.

In keeping with previous work, the authors found changes in visual parts of the brain related to whether participants are paying attention to faces or houses. More interestingly, they found coordinated decreases in activity between these parts of the brain and a group of brain areas known as the default network. Unlike other brain areas, the default network is known to be more active during rest compared to when people are engaged in a task. Gazzaley and colleagues found that the less activity in the default network as participants tried to ignore irrelevant stimuli, the faster they were at doing the task. This suggests that the default network has a previously undiscovered role in suppressing information irrelevant to the task.

Author contact:
Adam Gazzaley (University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA)
Tel: +1 415 476 2162; E-mail: [email protected]

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


[8] Regulation of angiogenesis by a non-canonical Wnt–Flt1 pathway in myeloid cells
DOI: 10.1038/nature10085

[9] Single-molecule fluorescence reveals sequence-specific misfolding in multidomain proteins
DOI: 10.1038/nature10099

[10] A gene regulatory network controlling the embryonic specification of endoderm
DOI: 10.1038/nature10100

[11] Latent TGF-b binding protein 3 identifies a second heart field in zebrafish
DOI: 10.1038/nature10094


[12] Global gene disruption in human cells to assign genes to phenotypes by deep sequencing
DOI: 10.1038/nbt.1857


[13] Origin and role of distal visceral endoderm, a group of cells that determines anterior–posterior polarity of the mouse embryo
DOI: 10.1038/ncb2251


[14] FrsA functions as a cofactor-independent decarboxylase to control metabolic flux
DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.589

[15] Kinase inhibitors modulate huntingtin cell localization and toxicity
DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.582


[16] Losers and winners in coral reefs acclimatized to elevated carbon dioxide concentrations
DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1122


[17] An integrated approach to characterize genetic interaction networks in yeast metabolism
DOI: 10.1038/ng.846

[18] Subspecific origin and haplotype diversity in the laboratory mouse
DOI: 10.1038/ng.847

[19] Genome-wide association identifies three new susceptibility loci for Paget’s disease of bone
DOI: 10.1038/ng.845

[20] The splicing regulator Rbfox1 (A2BP1) controls neuronal excitation in the mammalian brain
DOI: 10.1038/ng.841


[21] Climatic control of denudation in the deglaciated landscape of the Washington Cascades
DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1159

[22] Nitric acid photolysis on forest canopy surface as a source for tropospheric nitrous acid
DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1164


[23] Transcription factor T-bet represses expression of the inhibitory receptor PD-1 and sustains virus-specific CD8+ T cell responses during chronic infection
DOI: 10.1038/ni.2046


[24] Dirac cones induced by accidental degeneracy in photonic crystals and zero-refractive-index materials
DOI: 10.1038/nmat3030

[25] Direct tomography with chemical-bond contrast
DOI: 10.1038/nmat3031

[26] Structural origin of enhanced slow dynamics near a wall in glass-forming systems
DOI: 10.1038/nmat3034


[27] Defective Wnt-dependent cerebellar midline fusion in a mouse model of Joubert syndrome
DOI: 10.1038/nm.2380


[28] Highly uniform and reproducible surface-enhanced Raman scattering from DNA-tailorable nanoparticles with 1-nm interior gap
DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2011.79


[29] Retinal origin of orientation maps in visual cortex
DOI: 10.1038/nn.2824

[30] Synaptic vesicle retrieval time is a cell-wide not an individual synapse property
DOI: 10.1038/nn.2828

[31] Distinct functions of kainate receptors in the brain are determined by the auxiliary subunit Neto1
DOI: 10.1038/nn.2837

[32] Rapid transcription of arc/arg3.1 and other immediate early genes in response to neuronal activity is mediated by a poised RNA polymerase II mechanism
DOI: 10.1038/nn.2839


[33] Broadband graphene polarizer
DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2011.102


[34] The nucleosome map of the mammalian liver
DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.2060

[35] Structure of the no-go mRNA decay complex Dom34-Hbs1 bound to a stalled 80S ribosome
DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.2057


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.

Balcarce: 1

Crawley: 19
Melbourne: 19
Nedlands: 19
Sydney: 19
Townsville: 16

Vienna: 12, 27

Antwerp: 19
Brussels: 19, 33
Leuven: 5

Edmonton: 15
Hamilton: 15
Toronto: 17

Hong Kong: 24
Nanjing: 11, 33
Suzhou: 24

Brno: 18

Cairo: 27

Helsinki: 5, 25
Tampere: 5
Vasa: 5

Bordeaux: 1
Creteil: 5
Grenoble: 25
Illkirch: 5
Lille: 5
Lyon: 5
Montpellier: 18
Paris: 5

Berlin: 35
Bremen: 16
Düsseldorf: 17
Martinsried: 35
Munich: 5, 35
Tubingen: 6

Szeged: 17

Florence: 19
Naples: 19
Siena: 19
Turin 19

Osaka: 5, 13
Sapporo: 31
Tokyo: 5, 26

Amsterdam: 12
Leiden: 19

Auckland: 19

Doha: 1

Singapore: 33

Ansan: 14
Bucheon: 14
Daejeon: 14, 28
Seoul: 14, 28
Yongin: 14

Salamanca: 19
San Sebastian: 5

Zurich: 9

Taipei: 18

Morogoro: 2

Bath: 17
Cambridge: 2, 3, 9, 17
Edinburgh: 19
Glasgow: 19
Leeds: 2
Liverpool: 19
London: 8
Norwich: 2


Tucson: 18

Davis: 3, 21
Livermore: 21
Los Angeles: 4, 20, 29
Pasadena: 10
Riverside: 1
San Diego: 27
San Francisco: 7, 8
Santa Cruz: 20
Stanford: 12, 21

New Haven: 31

District of Columbia
Washington: 2

Rickenbacker Causeway: 16

Athens: 1
Atlanta: 23

Bloomington: 22
West Lafayette: 22

Bar Harbor: 18

Frederick: 8

Boston: 3, 11, 15, 20
Cambridge: 11, 12
Charlestown: 11

Ann Arbor: 18, 22
East Lansing: 1
Grand Rapids: 8
Kalamazoo: 22

Minneapolis: 17

New Jersey
Princeton: 2

New York
Albany: 22
Bronx: 8, 31
Ithaca: 22
New York: 30
Stony Brook: 22

North Carolina
Chapel Hill: 18
Research Triangle: 32

Cincinnati: 8

Philadelphia: 23, 34

West Virginia
Morgantown: 20

Seattle: 3, 23

Madison: 11


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)
Carrie Meggs
Tel: +1 617 475 9241, E-mail: [email protected]

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

Nature Climate Change (London)
Olive Heffernan
Tel: +44 20 7014 4009; 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 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)
Sabbi Lall
Tel: +1 212 726 9326; E-mail: [email protected]

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Published: 30 May 2011

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