Hot Crops and Killer Electrons

Latest news from Nature and Nature journals 30 January 2012

This press release contains:

---Summaries of newsworthy papers:

Nature & Nature Genetics: Mutations associated with glioblastoma

Climate change: Hot crops age prematurely

Neuroscience: Remembrance of things past

Chemical Biology: Off-target in CML

Chemistry: Pore performance

Genetics: Pneumococcal genome sequencing

And finally…Physics: Where did the killer electrons go?

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

---Geographical listing of authors

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[1] & [2] Nature & Nature Genetics: Mutations associated with glioblastoma
DOI: 10.1038/nature10833
DOI: 10.1038/ng.1102

Mutations that are specifically associated with the paediatric forms of glioblastoma — a lethal brain tumourr — are identified in Nature and Nature Genetics this week. The reports suggest pathways that may be involved in the development of glioblastoma in young individuals. The discovery of such disease-relevant targets is crucial to aid the design of new therapeutic agents, given that conventional glioblastoma treatments universally fail.

Adult and paediatric glioblastoma are thought to be caused by largely different genetic alterations, but paediatric cases are less well characterized than adult disease. To address this imbalance, Nada Jabado and co-workers performed exome sequencing of 48 childhood glioblastoma samples; their work is reported in Nature. They identify somatic mutations in the H3.3-ATRX-DAXX chromatin remodelling pathway, which is responsible for remodelling of genetic material in chromosomes, in 44% of tumours. Mutations in H3F3A, which encodes histone 3 variant H3.3, were found in 31% of tumours. Histone H3 is responsible for organizing the DNA of every cell in the body and also for regulating the expression of the DNA code during normal development.

Paediatric diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG, a childhood cancer of brain stem glia) has a long-term survival rate of less than one in ten and is usually inoperable because the brain stem controls essential functions such as breathing. Suzanne Baker and co-workers report in Nature Genetics the whole-genome sequencing of DNA from DIPGs and matched germline tissues from seven affected individuals, identifying somatic mutations in two genes coding for histones H3.1 and H3.3. In following targeted sequencing in a validation cohort, these mutations were identified in 39 out of 50 paediatric DIPGs and 13 out of 36 non-brainstem paediatric glioblastomas.

The mutations identified in these studies are shown to be specific to glioblastoma and highly prevalent in children and young adults. These results suggest that changes affecting chromatin architecture may be the cause of disease in this population of paediatric glioblastoma patients. In addition, this is the first time that histone 3 variant H3.3 has been implicated in tumour development.

Author contacts:
Nada Jabado (McGill University, Montreal, Canada) Author paper [1]
Tel: +1 514 412 4400 ext. 23270; E-mail: [email protected]

Suzanne Baker (St Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN, USA) Author paper [2]
Tel: +1 901 595 2254; E-mail: [email protected]


[3] Climate change: Hot crops age prematurely
DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1356

Extreme heat can accelerate wheat aging — an effect that reduces crop yields and is currently underestimated in most crop models — according to a study published online this week in Nature Climate Change. These findings imply that climate warming presents even greater challenges to wheat production than current models predict.

An important source of uncertainty in anticipating the effects of climate change on agriculture is limited understanding of crop responses to extremely high temperatures. David Lobell and co-workers used satellite measurements of wheat growth in northern India to monitor the rates of wheat aging – known as senescence – following exposure to temperatures greater than 34 °C.

Simulations with two commonly used crop models suggest that existing models underestimate the effects of heat on senescence. Because the onset of senescence is an important limit to grain filling, and therefore grain yields, crop models likely underestimate yield losses. These findings suggest that the effectiveness of agricultural adaptations will depend on how well they reduce crop sensitivity to very hot days.

Author contact:
David Lobell (Stanford University, CA, USA)
Tel: +1 650 721 6207; E-mail: [email protected]


[4] Neuroscience: Remembrance of things past
DOI: 10.1038/nn.3038

The synchronized activity between brain areas is likely to be key for visually remembering things over short periods of time reports a paper published online this week in Nature Neuroscience.

Gregor Rainer and his colleagues recorded electrical activity in a visual area at the back of the brain and the prefrontal cortex, towards the front of the brain in monkeys. During these recordings, the monkeys had to remember a specific shape they had been shown, and, when presented with another set of shapes, they had to indicate which of these matched the shape they were holding in mind.

The authors found that when the animals were trying to remember the shape they had seen, there was increased synchronization in brain oscillatory activity happening at a particular set of frequencies known as the theta band. Moreover, the greater this synchronization, the more likely it was that an animal would remember the shape correctly.

Author contact:
Gregor Rainer (Université de Fribourg, Switzerland)
Tel: +41 263 008 689; E-mail: [email protected]


[5] Chemical Biology: Off-target in CML
DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.775

The expected benefits from a new kind of drug presently in clinical trials for treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) is questioned in a study published online this week in Nature Chemical Biology.

Formation of the BCR-ABL fusion oncoprotein is the defining molecular event in CML. Inhibition of the activity of this oncoprotein by targeted drugs, such as imatinib, has improved outcomes for patients with CML, but resistance to imatinib can ultimately become a problem. Another important event in CML is the activation of the gene regulatory factor STAT5. In normal and some malignant cell types, STAT5 is activated by the kinase JAK2. Because of this linkage, JAK2 inhibitors have been developed as drugs and are currently in clinical trials for CML.

Giulio Superti-Furga, Veronika Sexl and colleagues show that the activity of some of these JAK2 inhibitors is independent of JAK2 expression and likely stems from the inhibition of BCR-ABL. This study suggests that in CML patients that have the BCR-ABL gene fusion, JAK2 may not be the best molecular target.

Author contacts:
Giulio Superti-Furga (Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna, Austria)
Tel: +43 1401607 0001; E-mail: [email protected]

Veronika Sexl (Veterinary University Vienna, Austria)
Tel: +43 125077 2910; E-mail: [email protected]


[6] Chemistry: Pore performance
DOI: 10.1038/nchem.1253

The most complex zeolite structure yet discovered is reported online in Nature Chemistry this week. Its three-dimensional intersecting pore structure makes it a promising catalyst in the petrochemical industry for the conversion of naphtha to diesel fuel, which currently has no commercial catalyst.

Zeolites are materials with pores that are ideally sized for interacting with small molecules and they are used as ‘molecular sieves’ or to catalytically ‘crack’ larger molecules into smaller ones. Unfortunately, this porous nature means they often form only small particles or powders, making it hard to discover their structures using standard tools such as X-ray crystallography. Xiaodong Zou, Avelino Corma and colleagues have now used electron crystallography to discover the structure of a zeolite with the most complex system of pores — in crystals only a few nanometres in size.

Its potential use as a catalyst for the conversion of naphtha to diesel fuel is of interest because there is currently an oversupply of naphtha and high demand for diesel.

Author contacts:
Xiaodong Zou (Stockholm University, Sweden)
Tel: +46 8 162389; E-mail: [email protected]

Avelino Corma (Universidad Politecnica de Valencia, Spain)
Tel: +34 96 3877800 E-mail: [email protected]


[7] Genetics: Pneumococcal genome sequencing
DOI: 10.1038/ng.1072

Bacterial genome sequencing is used to track current pneumococcal epidemics, such as pneumonia, in a study reported this week in Nature Genetics.

Steptococcus pneumoniae is a major cause of pneumonia as well as other invasive pneumococcal diseases including bacterial meningitis. Peter Donnelly and colleagues report sequencing of 62 isolates of S. pneumoniae. These isolates were selected for epidemiological interest from within a CDC national monitoring program that included 27,000 samples isolated from patients at ten different locales in the United States from 2000-2007. The authors consider the effects of the introduction of the PCV7 pneumococcal vaccine in the US in 2000, and the selection that this imposed on the bacterial genome. They examine the pneumococcal evolution in these populations over time, and identify an important role for multi-fragment recombination.

Author contact:
Peter Donnelly (University of Oxford, UK)
Tel: +44 1865 287725; E-mail: [email protected]


[8] And finally…Physics: Where did the killer electrons go?
DOI: 10.1038/nphys2185

Geomagnetic storms caused by energetic eruptions from the Sun can drive streams of high-energy electrons that travel close to the speed of light through the Van Allen radiation belts that encircle the Earth. These 'killer electrons' can play havoc with telecommunications satellites in geosynchronous orbit. But sometimes a geomagnetic storm can have the opposite effect, causing the electron flux to fall dramatically, by many orders of magnitude in just a few hours. Until now, no-one knew where these killer electrons were disappearing to. Now, using data collected at many different altitudes above the Earth, researchers report online in Nature Physics this week that they may have found the answer.

To solve the mystery, Drew Turner and colleagues analysed data collected during a geomagnetic storm that took place on 6 January 2011. This involved a total of 11 independent satellites and spacecraft — from the THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms), GOES (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite), and POES (Polar Operational Environmental Satellite) missions — run variously by NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites. The researchers found that during this event, the flux of high-energy electrons in the outer Van Allen radiation belt was directed out of the belt away from the Earth, being lost into outer space, rather than inward towards the Earth's atmosphere as suggested by some explanations of the loss.

Author contact:
Drew Turner (University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA)
Tel: +1 310 794 6377; E-mail: [email protected]


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

Nature (

[9] Hsp90 stress potentiates rapid cellular adaptation through induction of aneuploidy
DOI: 10.1038/nature10795

[10] G-protein-coupled receptor inactivation by an allosteric inverse-agonist antibody
DOI: 10.1038/nature10750

[11] Structural and functional conservation of key domains in InsP3 and ryanodine receptors
DOI: 10.1038/nature10751


[12] The LIMD1 protein bridges an association between the prolyl hydroxylases and VHL to repress HIF-1 activity
DOI: 10.1038/ncb2424

[13] APC/C-mediated multiple monoubiquitylation provides an alternative degradation signal for cyclin B1
DOI: 10.1038/ncb2425


[14] Spatiotemporal resolution of the Ntla transcriptome in axial mesoderm development
DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.772

[15] Menin-MLL inhibitors reverse oncogenic activity of MLL fusion proteins in leukemia
DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.773


[16] Good vibrations in enzyme-catalysed reactions
DOI: 10.1038/nchem.1223

[17] Taking Ockham’s razor to enzyme dynamics and catalysis
DOI: 10.1038/nchem.1244

[18] Quadruple bonding in C2 and analogous eight-valence electron species
DOI: 10.1038/nchem.1263


[19] Enhanced warming over the global subtropical western boundary currents
DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1353

[20] Land use alters the resistance and resilience of soil food webs to drought
DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1368


[21] Chromosome-scale selective sweeps shape Caenorhabditis elegans genomic diversity
DOI: 10.1038/ng.1050

[22] Rare MTNR1B variants impairing melatonin receptor 1B function contribute to type 2 diabetes
DOI: 10.1038/ng.1053

[23] Genome-wide association study identifies multiple loci influencing human serum metabolite levels
DOI: 10.1038/ng.1073

[24] Five amino acids in three HLA proteins explain most of the association between MHC and seropositive rheumatoid arthritis
DOI: 10.1038/ng.1076


[25] Network of off-axis melt bodies at the East Pacific Rise
DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1377

[26] Protracted timescales of lower crustal growth at the fast-spreading East Pacific Rise
DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1378


[27] Activation of autophagy by inflammatory signals limits IL-1beta production by targeting ubiquitinated inflammasomes for destruction


[28] Experimental realization of optical lumped nanocircuits at infrared wavelengths
DOI: 10.1038/nmat3230

[29] In situ evidence for chirality-dependent growth rates of individual carbon nanotubes
DOI: 10.1038/nmat3231


[30] MicroRNA-21 targets the vitamin D–dependent antimicrobial pathway in leprosy
DOI: 10.1038/nm.2584

[31] Preexisting influenza-specific CD4+ T cells correlate with disease protection against influenza challenge in humans
DOI: 10.1038/nm.2612

[32] Tau deficiency induces parkinsonism with dementia by impairing APP-mediated iron export
DOI: 10.1038/nm.2613

[33] A delivery system targeting bone formation surfaces to facilitate RNAi-based anabolic therapy
DOI: 10.1038/nm.2617


[34] In vivo protein crystallization opens new routes in structural biology
DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.1859

[35] Computational modeling of cellular signaling processes embedded into dynamic spatial contexts
DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.1861

[36] Lipidic phase membrane protein serial femtosecond crystallography
DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.1867


[37] Atomically localized plasmon enhancement in monolayer graphene
DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2011.252


[38] The toxic Abeta oligomer and Alzheimer's disease: an emperor in need of clothes
DOI: 10.1038/nn.3028

[39] Selective control of inhibitory synapse development by Slitrk3-PTPd trans-synaptic interaction
DOI: 10.1038/nn.3040

Nature PHYSICS (

[40] Probing and controlling non-Born–Oppenheimer dynamics in highly excited molecular ions
DOI: 10.1038/nphys2211

[41 Giant superfluorescent bursts from a semiconductor magneto-plasma
DOI: 10.1038/nphys2207

[42] Hanbury Brown and Twiss correlations across the Bose–Einstein condensation threshold
DOI: 10.1038/nphys2212



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.

Clayton: 32
Melbourne: 32
Victoria: 19, 24
Graz: 4
Vienna: 5, 42
Leuven: 38
Rio de Janeiro: 30
Halifax: 25
Montreal: 1, 22
Toronto: 1, 11, 23
Vancouver: 39
Beijing: 33
Changchun: 6
Guangzhou: 33
Qingdao: 19
Shanghai: 33
Shenzhen: 33
Tianjin: 33
Xiaman: 18
Kobenhaven: 20
Tartu: 24
Espoo: 24
Helsinki: 24
Kuopio: 24
Lahti: 20
Oulu: 24
Tampere: 24
Turku: 24
Bobigny: 22
Boulonge: 22
Essonnes: 22
La Riche: 22
Lille: 22
Nantes: 22
Orsay: 18, 22
Palaiseau: 42
Paris: 21, 22
Poitiers: 22
Villejuif: 22
Villeurbanne: 42
Augsburg: 1
Berlin: 35
Bremen: 1
Dusseldorf: 1
Garching: 34, 36
Halle: 1
Hamburg: 34, 36
Heidelberg: 1, 34, 36
Kiel: 19
Mannheim: 1
Munich: 34, 36
Nuremberg: 1
Siegen: 34
Tuebingen: 1, 4, 34
Wurzburg: 1
Hong Kong: 33
Budapest: 1
Debrecen: 1
Reykjavik: 12
Jerusalem: 18
Chiba: 10
Kyoto: 10
Maebashi: 39
Saitama: 39
Tokyo: 10, 19
Tottori: 10
Wako: 39
Yokohama: 10
Seoul: 23
Suwon: 11
Colima: 6
Mexico: 3
Utrecht: 23
Lodz: 1
Valencia: 6
Gothenburg: 36
Stockholm: 6, 23
Uppsala: 34, 36
Fribourg: 4
Lausanne: 5
Taoyuan: 31
Bristol: 17
Cardiff: 26
Cambridge: 1, 11, 22
Didcot: 10
Lancaster: 20
London: 4, 10, 12, 18, 22, 24, 31
Manchester: 4, 16, 23
Nottingham: 12
Oxford: 7, 12, 22, 24, 31, 40
Southampton: 31
Stevenage: 12
Flagstaff: 20
Tempe: 34, 36
Berkeley: 34, 36
Davis: 11
Los Angeles: 8, 30
Menlo Park: 34, 36
Stanford: 3, 13, 14, 36
Boulder: 19, 40
Gainesville: 41
Tallahassee: 41
Atlanta: 7
Honolulu: 19, 26
Bloomington: 24
Johnson: 21
Bethesda: 27, 31, 35
Boston: 13, 23
Cambridge: 23, 24, 26, 40
Woods Hole: 19, 25, 26
Worcester: 27
Ann Arbor: 15
Kansas City: 9
St Louis: 2, 12
Omaha: 5
New Jersey
Princeton: 21
New York
Manhasset: 23
Palisades: 25
Columbus: 29
Dayton: 29
Philadelphia: 28
Memphis: 2
Nashville: 34, 37
Oak Ridge: 37
Austin: 28
College Station: 19, 41
Houston: 29, 41
Charlottesville: 15
Richmond: 24
Seattle: 19



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Tel: +44 20 7843 4658; E-mail: [email protected]

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Elissa Bolt
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Nature Chemistry (London)
Stuart Cantrill
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Olive Heffernan
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Myles Axton
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Heike Langenberg
Tel: +44 20 7843 4042; E-mail: [email protected]

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Laurie Dempsey
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Nature Materials (London)
Vincent Dusastre
Tel: +44 20 7843 4531; E-mail: [email protected]

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Tel: +1 212 726 9627; E-mail: [email protected]

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Tel: +44 20 7014 4019; Email: [email protected]

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Tel: +44 20 7843 4555; E-mail: [email protected]

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Published: 30 Jan 2012

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