Clues for flu, asthma, pain and obesity

Latest news from Nature and the Nature journals 26 March 2012

This press release contains:

---Summaries of newsworthy papers:

Geoscience: Up to three degrees of climate warming by 2050

Nature: Factor that gives a fighting chance against flu

Medicine: Antibiotic use fuels allergy and asthma

Neuroscience: New neurons, a recipe for obesity?

Medicine: Parsing out pain

Immunology: Clues to aging-related periodontitis

Geoscience: A more synchronous African split

Biotechnology: All four DNA bases detected in nanopore sequencer

Chemical Biology: A sweet success

Nanotechnology: Molecules make quantum waves

And finally…Geoscience: Is the Moon largely made of Earth material?

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

---Geographical listing of authors

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[1] Geoscience: Up to three degrees of climate warming by 2050
DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1430

Climate warming by 2050 is likely to be between 1.4 and 3 °C under a mid-range, no-mitigation scenario of greenhouse gas emissions, reports a study published online this week in Nature Geoscience. This range is broadly consistent with the expert assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but is based on simulations with several thousand distinct climate models that are consistent with observed temperature changes.

Daniel Rowlands and colleagues filter simulations of past and present climate change with a large ensemble of climate models according to their ability to match regional temperature changes over the past 50 years. On the assumption that models that simulate past warming realistically are the best candidates for future warming predictions, the authors conclude that a warming of 3 °C by 2050, compared with the 1960–1990 average, marks the upper end of the “likely range” of climate warming.

In an accompanying News and Views article, Isaac Held says that Rowlands and colleagues’ “massive perturbed physics ensemble is a valuable resource for further analysis of climate change.”

Author contacts:

Daniel Rowlands (University of Oxford, UK)
Tel: +44 7817 825622; E-mail: [email protected]

Isaac Held (Princeton University, NJ, USA) N&V author
Tel : +1 609 452 6512; E-mail: [email protected]


[2] Nature: Factor that gives a fighting chance against flu
DOI: 10.1038/nature10921

A protein that acts as a barrier against influenza virus A infection in mice and humans is described in Nature this week. Mice lacking this factor show unchecked virus replication and an enhanced inflammatory response when infected with influenza viruses. Variation in this protein in humans seems to be associated with severity of virus infection in a subset of individuals.

Interferon-inducible transmembrane (IFITM) proteins restrict the replication of a range of pathogenic viruses in cultured cells, but a role for these proteins in organisms has not yet been shown. Paul Kellam and colleagues show in mice that loss of one member of this protein family can transform a mild infection into one with remarkable severity. They demonstrate that IFITM3 is essential for protecting mice from developing pneumonia when infected with influenza viruses.

To study the role of IFITM3 in humans, the researchers sequenced the IFITM3 gene in individuals hospitalized with the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic virus or seasonal influenza. Compared with a control population, they found overrepresentation of a form of IFITM3 shown to have reduced antiviral activity. These results suggest that IFITM3 has a pivotal role in defence against influenza infection.

Author contact:

Paul Kellam (Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge, UK)
Tel: +44 1223 834 244; E-mail: [email protected]


[3] Medicine: Antibiotic use fuels allergy and asthma
DOI: 10.1038/nm.2657

Mice treated with antibiotics or bred in a sterile environment develop more severe allergy and asthma, indicates a study published online this week in Nature Medicine. The findings support the ‘hygiene hypothesis’, which purports that certain bacteria can protect against the development of allergic disease.

Numerous epidemiological studies have identified associations between alterations of gut bacteria and increased risk of developing allergic airway diseases, such as asthma. However, the precise cell types and molecules responsible for these effects remain unclear.

David Artis and colleagues found that mice treated with a combination of five antibiotics or bred in germ-free conditions develop more severe allergic airway disease in response to allergens derived from house dust mites. The antibiotic treatments resulted in elevated blood concentrations of IgE antibodies related to allergy, and of basophils, immune cells that are activated in allergy. Beneficial bacteria in the gut signal to immune B cells to limit their secretion of IgE. When beneficial gut bacteria are altered with antibiotic-treatment, B cells release more IgE, which act on bone marrow basophil precursors and promote their development.

These findings disclose a previously unrecognized link between how deliberate alterations of bacterial communities in the gut can influence basophil development in the bone marrow and drive allergic disease.

Author contact:

David Artis (University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA)
Tel: +1 215 898 7920; E-mail: [email protected]


[4] Neuroscience: New neurons, a recipe for obesity?
DOI: 10.1038/nn.3079

A high fat diet in mice may cause an increase in the production of new neurons in a region of the brain known to regulate feeding behavior and energy usage reports a paper published online this week in Nature Neuroscience. If a similar mechanism is found in humans, these findings may present a new target for potential therapeutic intervention aimed at combating diet-induced weight gain and obesity.

The hypothalamus is a region of the brain involved in the regulation of many metabolic processes, including control of food intake, hormone secretion and energy expenditure. Seth Blackshaw and colleagues found that new neurons are being produced in a distinct region of the hypothalamus called the median eminence and that the production of these neurons is enhanced in mice fed a high-fat diet. If they block the formation of these new neurons, the authors find that the mice gained significantly less weight and exhibited increased energy consumption, even when fed a high-fat diet.

Consumption of foods high in fat has been associated with a number of health issues, including obesity. The results of this study suggest that some of these effects may be mediated by the formation of new hypothalamic neurons which, in turn, may decrease energy use and promote storage of this excess energy in the form of fat.

Author contact:

Seth Blackshaw (The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA)
Tel: +1 443 287 5609; E-mail: [email protected]


[5] Medicine: Parsing out pain
DOI: 10.1038/nm.2710

Genetic variation in a gene, P2RX7, affects how different people sense pain, reports a paper published online this week in Nature Medicine. Individual variations in pain sensation and responses to pain-relieving drugs make pain clinical trials quite challenging to interpret, and these findings could aid in the development of personalized pain therapeutics for patients based on this gene variant status.

Jeff Mogil, Michael Salter and colleagues looked at different pain sensitivities in a large number of mouse strains and linked the differences observed to a mutation in the mouse P2rx7 gene. They found that one variant of the gene allowed P2X7, a receptor that functions as an ion channel in the cell membrane, to form a large pore. Mice with this variant exhibited more pain than mice without this variant, and a peptide that blocked pore formation reduced pain only in mice with the larger pore-forming variant.

Salter and colleagues then extended the findings to humans, showing that individuals with post-mastectomy pain or arthritis exhibited less pain if their P2RX7 gene variant did not encode the P2X7 variant with the larger pore.

Author contact:

Jeffrey Mogil (McGill University, Montreal, Canada)
Tel: +1 514 398 6085; E-mail: [email protected]

Michael Salter (Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada)
Tel: +1 416 813 6272; E-mail: [email protected]


[6] Immunology: Clues to aging-related periodontitis

Why older individuals are more prone to developing periodontitis — an inflammatory disease that leads to loss of tooth-supporting bone — and perhaps other chronic inflammatory diseases is presented in a report published in Nature Immunology. These findings suggest a potential treatment to control the destructive inflammatory response associated with periodontal disease.

Periodontitis is marked by chronic recruitment of neutrophils, a class of immune cells that typically respond to the presence of microbes. Neutrophils release toxic molecules into the affected tissues but can also cause local tissue damage.

George Hajishengallis and colleagues found that in young mice a molecule called Del-1 antagonizes neutrophil recruitment, but that older mice express less Del-1 in gingival tissues. Del-1-deficient mice spontaneously develop severe periodontal bone loss, associated with increased numbers of activated neutrophils responding to oral bacteria. Local gingival injections of Del-1 in older mice could protect mice against periodontal inflammation and bone loss. The authors likewise find an inverse correlation of Del-1 expression in human patients with periodontitis.

Author contact:

George Hajishengallis (University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA)
Tel: +1 502 338 8078; E-mail: [email protected]


[7] Geoscience: A more synchronous African split
DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1432

The stretching and break-up of east Africa, a process that is ongoing, could have been prolonged and widespread, reports a study published online this week in Nature Geoscience.

Eric Roberts and colleagues reconstruct changes in drainage patterns and landscape development in east Africa, using dated volcanic ash deposits to help determine the precise timing of any changes. Eastern parts of Africa are today breaking away from the remainder of the continent, but the split divides into two segments — an eastern and a western branch. Stretching and sinking of the crust along the eastern branch was thought to have begun millions of years before the western branch. However, the data show that rivers in the area had reversed direction and begun to fill lakes created by the sinking crust in western parts before about 25 million years ago — a time coincident with sinking and stretching in the east.

The data imply that the initiation of break-up of eastern Africa could have been broadly synchronous with that of the western branch.

Author contact:

Eric Roberts (James Cook University, Townsville, Australia)
Tel: +61 7 4781 6947; E-mail: [email protected]


[8] Biotechnology: All four DNA bases detected in nanopore sequencer
DOI: 10.1038/nbt.2171

A nanopore-based approach that can successfully discriminate between all four nucleotide bases in a DNA strand of known sequence is reported in a paper published online this week in Nature Biotechnology. This is the first time that this has been shown and represents a critical step in the quest for a nanopore technology that can sequence strands of DNA of unknown origin.

The use of nanopores for sequencing was proposed more than 20 years ago but it was not clear if this feat would be possible in actuality. Jens Gundlach and colleagues report experimental data showing that individual DNA nucleotides in a complex sequence can be differentiated based on an ionic current that is modulated as the DNA moves through a nanopore in a membrane. The authors find that the ionic current is affected by several nucleotides that are adjacent to the nucleotide passing through the narrowest opening in the nanopore. New algorithms will be required to decode the current measurements to sequence a DNA strand of unknown sequence.

Author contact:

Jens Gundlach (University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA)
Tel: +1 206 616 2960; E-mail: [email protected]


[9] Chemical Biology: A sweet success
DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.921

A method for engineering a bacterial strain to create eukaryotic glycoproteins is presented this week in Nature Chemical Biology. These results may have immediate importance for industrial production of glycoproteins that scientists use in looking for therapies for various diseases.

Presently, glycoproteins needed for medical treatments and scientific research are created using hard-to-manipulate eukaryotic cells to retain the specific glycans which are critical for biological function: Eukaryotic glycoproteins are labeled with a specific sugar-rich carbohydrate sequence that determines the localization, function, and stability of the corresponding protein. Bacteria also attach carbohydrates to some of their proteins, but the sugar structure is significantly different from the eukaryotic glycoproteins created.

Matthew DeLisa and colleagues now create an engineered E. coli cell that can produce a five-carbohydrate chain – the ‘core structure’ of the eukaryotic carbohydrate sequence – that can be further attached to several eukaryotic proteins made in the same cell.

Author contact:

Matthew DeLisa (Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA)
Tel: +1 607 254 8560; E-mail: [email protected]


[10] Nanotechnology: Molecules make quantum waves
DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2012.34

The build up of an interference pattern — the classic signature of wave-like behaviour — in an experiment performed with molecules is reported online this week in Nature Nanotechnology. The ability of particles to behave as waves is one of the defining features of quantum mechanics — the theory that describes the behaviour of matter on the smallest length scales — and the molecules in this work have typical wavelengths of a few picometres.

The observation of an electron interference pattern was once described as the “most beautiful experiment in physics”. The experiment involved recording the slow build up of an interference pattern as individual electrons hit a detection screen after passing through two narrow slits. More recently, Markus Arndt and co-workers observed such wave-like behaviour in experiments with molecules containing more than 400 atoms. Now Arndt and co-workers have combined these two feats to record a movie showing the build up of an interference pattern as individual molecules (which contain either 58 or 114 atoms) are detected after passing through slits.

A classic way to demonstrate wave-like behaviour is to send a beam of light, which is a wave, through a pair of narrow slits and measure how the intensity of the light hitting a screen behind the slits changes with position. Peaks are seen in the intensity wherever a maximum in the wave that has passed through one slit coincides with a maximum in the wave that has passed through the other slit, and troughs are observed wherever two minima coincide with each other. Such a pattern of peaks and troughs is known as an interference pattern. If this experiment is repeated with a beam of ordinary particles we will see two peaks, each formed by the particles that have passed through a particular slit. However, if we use a beam of quantum particles we will see an interference pattern with multiple peaks, just as we do for light. As Bum Suk Zhao and Wieland Schöllkopf write in an accompanying News and Views article, the latest experiments “should provide new insights into the differences between the quantum and classical worlds”.

Author contact:

Markus Arndt (University of Vienna, Austria)
Tel: +43 1 4277 51210; E-mail: [email protected]


[11] And finally…Geoscience: Is the Moon largely made of Earth material?
DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1429

A large part of the material that makes up the Moon came from the early Earth, reports a study published online this week in Nature Geoscience. The findings are in contradiction to numerical models of the formation of the Moon by the impact of a Mars-sized object with the early Earth.

Junjun Zhang and colleagues compared the isotopic signature of titanium in lunar and terrestrial samples, and corrected the lunar signature for secondary alterations associated with exposure to cosmic rays. They found that the isotopic titanium signature of the Earth is identical to that of the Moon within about four parts per million. Because the Mars-sized impactor is expected to have been isotopically different, the measurements suggest that the Moon is either made of material from Earth’s mantle, or that intense mixing occurred after the impact.

In an accompanying News and Views article, Matthias Meier suggests that this finding “shifts the focus of future work on the giant impact towards the later part of the story.”

Author contacts:

Junjun Zhang (Chicago Centre for Cosmochemistry, IL, USA)
Tel: +1 773 899 4066; E-mail: [email protected]

Matthias Meier (Lund University, Sweden) N&V author
Tel: +46 462 227864; E-mail: [email protected]


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

Nature (

[12] Telomerase RNA biogenesis involves sequential binding by Sm and Lsm complexes
DOI: 10.1038/nature10924

[13] DBIR complex integrates alternative mRNA splicing with RNA polymerase II transcript elongation
DOI: 10.1038/nature10925


[14] A proteomics approach for the identification and cloning of monoclonal antibodies from serum

[15] Design of a dynamic sensor-regulator system for production of chemicals and fuels derived from fatty acids

[16] Inhibition of natural antisense transcripts in vivo results in gene-specific transcriptional upregulation


[17] Src42A-dependent polarized cell shape changes mediate epithelial tube elongation in Drosophila
DOI: 10.1038/ncb2456

[18] Drosophila Src regulates anisotropic apical surface growth to control epithelial tube size
DOI: 10.1038/ncb2467

[19] The ATM–BID pathway regulates quiescence and survival of haematopoietic stem cells
DOI: 10.1038/ncb2468


[20] Rationally designed families of orthogonal RNA regulators of translation
DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.919

[21] Diazepam-bound GABAA receptor models identify novel benzodiazepine site ligands
DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.917

[22] Rapid and orthogonal logic gating with a gibberellin-induced dimerization system
DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.922


[23] A molecular ruthenium catalyst with water-oxidation activity comparable to that of photosystem II
DOI: 10.1038/nchem.1301

[24] Electronic coherence lineshapes reveal hidden excitonic correlations in photosynthetic light harvesting
DOI: 10.1038/nchem.1302

[25] A stable germanone as the first isolated heavy ketone with a terminal oxygen atom
DOI: 10.1038/nchem.1305

[26] Elucidation of the timescales and origins of quantum electronic coherence in LHCII
DOI: 10.1038/nchem.1303


[27] Evaluation of climate models using palaeoclimatic data
DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1456

[28] A decade of weather extremes
DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1452


[29] Genetics of gene expression in primary immune cells identifies cell type–specific master regulators and roles of HLA alleles
DOI: 10.1038/ng.2205

[30] Bayesian inference analyses of the polygenic architecture of rheumatoid arthritis
DOI: 10.1038/ng.2232

[31] Meta-analysis identifies nine new loci associated with rheumatoid arthritis in the Japanese population
DOI: 10.1038/ng.2231

[32] Two new susceptibility loci for Kawasaki disease identified through genome-wide association analysis
DOI: 10.1038/ng.2227

[33] A genome-wide association study identifies three new risk loci for Kawasaki disease
DOI: 10.1038/ng.2220


[34] A mantle-driven surge in magma supply to Kīlauea Volcano during 2003–2007
DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1426


[35] Bidirectional regulation of neutrophil migration by mitogen-activated protein kinases


[36] A super-oscillatory lens optical microscope for subwavelength imaging
DOI: 10.1038/nmat3280


[37] NOD2 triggers an interleukin-32–dependent human dendritic cell program in leprosy
DOI: 10.1038/nm.2650


[38] Derivation, expansion and differentiation of induced pluripotent stem cells in continuous suspension cultures
DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.1939


[39] Observation of quantum interference in molecular charge transport
DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2012.37


[40] Astrocyte signaling controls spike timing-dependent depression at neocortical synapses
DOI: 10.1038/nn.3075

[41] Mitochondrial Ca2+ mobilization is a key element in olfactory signaling
DOI: 10.1038/nn.3074

[42] Control of timing, rate and bursts of hippocampal place cells by dendritic and perisomatic inhibition
DOI: 10.1038/nn.3077

[43] A toolbox of Cre-dependent optogenetic transgenic mice for light-induced activation and silencing
DOI: 10.1038/nn.3078

Nature PHYSICS (

[44] Emergence of superlattice Dirac points in graphene on hexagonal boron nitride
DOI: 10.1038/nphys2272

[45] Attosecond control of collective electron motion in plasmas
DOI: 10.1038/nphys2269

[46] Nature of magnetic excitations in superconducting BaFe1.9Ni0.1As2
DOI: 10.1038/nphys2268

[47] The energy–speed–accuracy trade-off in sensory adaptation
DOI: 10.1038/nphys2276


[48] Crystal structure of a heterodimeric ABC transporter in its inward-facing conformation
DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.2267

[49] Structure of the ternary initiation complex aIF2–GDPNP–methionylated initiator tRNA
DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.2259

[50] Exploiting a natural conformational switch to engineer an interleukin-2 ‘superkine’
DOI: 10.1038/nature10975



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.

Canberra: 7
Clayton: 1
Crawley: 7
North Ryde: 27
Sydney: 24
Townsville: 7
Vienna: 10, 21
Liege: 13
Rio de Janeiro: 37
Montreal: 5
Toronto: 5, 24, 30, 31, 38
Beijing: 35, 46
Dalian: 23
Shanghai: 35
Medellin: 4
Lyngby: 39
Evry: 31
Gif-sur-Yvette: 27, 45, 49
Palaiseau: 45, 49
Paris: 1, 31
Aachen: 41
Berlin: 41
Dresden: 6, 47
Frankfurt am Main: 18
Heidelberg: 47
Karlsruhe 10
Munich: 3, 13
Potsdam: 28
Szeged: 18
Rehovot: 19
Tel Aviv: 10
Milan: 41
Naples: 2
Trieste: 1
Verona: 26
Aichi: 31
Asahi: 33
Chiba: 3, 33
Ehime: 31
Funabashi: 33
Gobo: 33
Hashimoto: 33
Hyogo: 31
Izumiotsu: 33
Kanagawa: 31
Kashiwa: 27
Kawaguchi: 31
Kinokawa: 33
Koshigaya: 33
Kurashiki: 33
Kyoto: 25, 31
Mie: 31
Niigata: 4, 31
Ohta: 33
Okazaki: 26
Osaka: 31
Saitama: 25
Sendai: 33
Tokyo: 31, 33
Toyama: 31
Tsukuba: 44
Wakayama: 33
Yachiyo: 33
Yamanashi: 31
Yokohama: 3, 31, 33
Amsterdam: 21
Groningen: 30, 39
Leiden: 31, 39
Utrecht: 30
Wellington: 1
Braga: 20
Cape Town: 1
Seoul: 6, 23, 37, 42
Tarragona: 23
Stockholm: 23, 30, 31
Basel: 10
Bern: 11, 40
Geneva: 44
Zurich: 17, 22, 48, 50
Changhua: 32
Hsinchu: 32
Kaohsiung: 32
Taichung: 32
Taipei: 32
Taoyuan: 32
Bristol: 36, 46
Cambridge: 2, 29
Didcot: 46
Edinburgh: 2
Liverpool: 2
London: 1, 2, 6, 13
Manchester: 30, 31
Newcastle: 1
Oxford: 1, 29
Reading: 1
Roslin: 2
Southampton: 36
South Mimms: 13
Birmingham: 8
Tucson: 44
Berkeley: 15, 20, 26
Emeryville: 15, 20
La Jolla: 33
Los Angeles: 30, 37
San Diego: 33
San Francisco: 16
Santa Monica: 37
Stanford: 5, 26, 50
Boulder: 1, 27
Jupiter: 16
Miami: 16
Athens: 22
Atlanta: 29
Hawaii National Park: 34
Chicago: 11, 18, 35
Evanston: 18
Louisville: 6
Baltimore: 4, 9, 47
Bethesda: 6
Boston: 2, 5, 30, 31, 43
Cambridge: 24, 30, 31, 43, 44
Charlestown: 2
Danvers: 14
East Lansing: 7
Kansas City: 12
New Hampshire
Durham: 7
New Jersey
Newark: 42, 43
Piscataway: 46
Princeton: 18, 26
New York
Ithaca: 20, 22
Manhasset: 30, 31
New York: 4, 7, 42
Yorktown Heights: 47
North Carolina
Chapel Hill: 5
Durham: 9, 32
Research Triangle: 5
Eugene: 27
Portland: 43
Philadelphia: 3, 6, 30
University Park: 1, 24
Knoxville: 46
Austin: 42
Ashburn: 42, 43
Seattle: 8, 43
Vancouver: 34



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Published: 25 Mar 2012

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