Bird skulls resemble those of juvenile dinosaurs and more of the latest news from Nature

A study of the evolution of bird skulls from their primitive reptilian ancestors reveals that the skulls of adult birds are very similar to those of young dinosaurs. Retention of juvenile features in the adult may have had an important role in the evolution of bird skulls, according to the report in Nature this week.

This press release contains:

---Summaries of newsworthy papers:

Materials: Biosensors for which less is more
Geoscience: Greenland glacier retreat 1930s versus 2000s
Medicine: Peroxide for viral inactivation in attenuated vaccines
Chemical biology: Activating Bax as a new anti-cancer approach
And finally…Nature: Bird skulls resemble those of juvenile dinosaurs

---Geographical listing of authors

[1] Materials: Biosensors for which less is more

DOI: 10.1038/nmat3337

Biosensors that generate a signal that is larger when the concentration of the target molecule is lower are reported online in Nature Materials this week. This inverse sensitivity allows the detection of the cancer biomarker prostate-specific antigen in whole serum at a concentration at least ten times lower than the limit of detection of current ultrasensitive assays.

Because conventional sensors generate a signal that is directly proportional to concentration, it is difficult to detect ultralow concentrations of a target molecule with confidence. Molly Stevens and colleagues designed a signal-generation mechanism that makes the signal–concentration dependence inversely proportional. They used gold nanostars as plasmonic nanosensors, and the enzyme glucose oxidase (GOx), which controls the rate of crystallization of silver nanocrystals. At low concentrations of GOx, the slow crystallization rate leads to the growth of a conformal silver coating on the nanostars, which induces a large signal in the form of a shift in their localized surface plasmon resonance. High GOx concentrations result in a smaller signal because fast crystal growth leads to the formation of silver nanocrystals in solution, and thus to less silver deposited on the nanostars.

Because GOx can be bound to antibodies, the nanosensors can be generally used to detect ultralow concentrations of antigens in enzyme-linked immunoassays. The authors also show that the nanosensors are robust against interference by other proteins.

Author contacts:
Molly Stevens (Imperial College London, UK)
Tel: +44 20 7594 6804; E-mail: [email protected]

Roberto de la Rica (Imperial College London, UK)
Tel: +44 20 7594 6804; E-mail: [email protected]


[2] Geoscience: Greenland glacier retreat 1930s versus 2000s

DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1481

Southeast Greenland glaciers that reach the ocean retreated faster in the past decade than in the 1930s, whereas the opposite is true for land-terminating glaciers, reports a study published online this week in Nature Geoscience. Air and ocean temperatures were similar during the two periods, indicating that the sensitivities of the different glacier types to warming have changed.

Anders Bjørk and colleagues assembled historical aerial photographs taken in 1932–33 during a systematic survey of the southeastern Greenland coast, as well as air photos obtained by the US military during the Second World War and satellite images, to study changes in the southeastern Greenland margin over the past 80 years. They find that overall glacier retreat was as vigorous in the 1930s warming period as it has been in the 2000s. However, the response of different glacier types to warming varies.

In an accompanying News and Views article, Benjamin Smith writes that the research “indicates that the retreat [of Greenland glaciers] in the 2000s was a typical response of the ice sheet to warmer air and ocean temperatures”.

Author contacts:
Anders Bjørk (Natural History Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen, Denmark)
Tel: +45 29921742; E-mail: [email protected]

Benjamin Smith (University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA) N&V Author
Tel: +1 206 616 9176; E-mail: [email protected]


[3] Medicine: Peroxide for viral inactivation in attenuated vaccines

DOI: 10.1038/nm.2763

A new technology platform that uses hydrogen peroxide to inactivate virus strains used for vaccine production is reported in Nature Medicine this week.
Live-attenuated vaccines created from live but weakened viruses are widely used and easy to produce. One of the main problems with this type of vaccines is that current inactivating agents decrease the neutralizing antibody response in the body owing to destruction of key viral proteins that would normally trigger an immune response.

Mark Slifka and colleagues show that hydrogen peroxide treatment circumvents this problem. This approach resulted in protective antibody-mediated immunity in mice vaccinated against two lethal viruses and protective cellular-mediated immunity in mice vaccinated against chronic viral infection.
Whether the cellular immunity induced can be shown in humans, and whether it is equivalent to that from live recombinant vaccines remain to be shown.

Author contact:
Mark Slifka (Oregon Health & Sciences University, Portland, OR, USA)
Tel: +1 503 418 2751; E-mail: [email protected]


[4] Chemical biology: Activating Bax as a new anti-cancer approach

DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.995

A compound that activates cell death pathways via a new mechanism is reported this week in Nature Chemical Biology.

The Bcl-2 family of proteins forms a complex protein-protein interaction network that can either promote or counter cell death, depending on the activation state of the different members. In cancer cells, the balance of activity from this network is often disrupted to promote cancer cell survival. Anti-cancer strategies targeting this family have largely aimed to inhibit the activity of family members that promote cell survival. The activation of one protein in this family called Bax can be sufficient to activate cell death pathways.

Loren Walensky and colleagues report BAM7, a small molecule that can selectively activate Bax in cells by triggering a conformational change in the protein and that promotes cell death. Because both normal and cancer cells express Bax, it remains to be seen whether this strategy can be effective in anti-cancer treatment, but the discovery and validation of BAM7 as a selective activator of Bax represents a new approach to killing cancer cells.

Author contact:
Loren Walensky (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA, USA)
Tel: +1 617 632 6307; E-mail: [email protected]


[5] And finally…Nature: Bird skulls resemble those of juvenile dinosaurs

DOI: 10.1038/nature11146

A study of the evolution of bird skulls from their primitive reptilian ancestors reveals that the skulls of adult birds are very similar to those of young dinosaurs. Retention of juvenile features in the adult may have had an important role in the evolution of bird skulls, according to the report in Nature this week. Birds represent one of the most successful animal groups in terms of species number and diversity, and much of this success is attributed to their unique skulls.

To understand how the anatomy of birds evolved from that of dinosaurs, Bhart-Anjan Bhullar and colleagues analysed a large sample of bird and dinosaur skulls. They observe a shift in development in birds, and report similarities between the skulls of adult bids and those of dinosaur embryos and juveniles. The authors suggest that this phenomenon (called paedomorphosis), which occurred in four distinct episodes, may account for many features of birds, such as their relatively large brains and eyes. Conversely, an opposite process known as peramorphosis (development of adult features) is implicated in the development and evolution of the beak.

Author contact:
Bhart-Anjan Bhullar (Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA)
Tel: +1 402 689 5998; E-mail: [email protected]



[6] Generalized Lévy walks and the role of chemokines in migration of effector CD8+ T cells
DOI: 10.1038/nature11098

[7] Astrocyte glypicans 4 and 6 promote formation of excitatory synapses via GluA1 AMPA receptors
DOI: 10.1038/nature11059


[8] Optimization of affinity, specificity and function of designed influenza inhibitors using deep sequencing
DOI: 10.1038/nbt.2214

[9] Isolation of primitive endoderm, mesoderm, vascular endothelial and trophoblast progenitors from human pluripotent stem cells
DOI: 10.1038/nbt.2239


[10] Caenorhabditis elegans screen reveals role of PAR-5 in RAB-11-recycling endosome positioning and apicobasal cell polarity
DOI: 10.1038/ncb2508


[11] Divergence of multimodular polyketide synthases revealed by a didomain structure
DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.964

[12] Deciphering biased-agonism complexity reveals a new active AT1 receptor entity
DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.961

[13] A biased ligand for OXE-R uncouples Ga and Gbg signaling within a heterotrimer
DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.962


[14] The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks
DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1547

[15] Vole and lemming activity observed from space
DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1537

[16] Asymmetric European summer heat predictability from wet and dry southern winters and springs
DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1536

[17] Thermal tolerance and the global redistribution of animals
DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1539


[18] Whole-genome sequencing of liver cancers identifies etiological influences on mutation patterns and recurrent mutations in chromatin regulators
DOI: 10.1038/ng.2291

[19] Genome-wide survey of recurrent HBV integration in hepatocellular carcinoma
DOI: 10.1038/ng.2295

[20] Common variation near CDKN1A, POLD3 and SHROOM2 influences colorectal cancer risk
DOI: 10.1038/ng.2293

[21] Mutations in the PCNA-binding domain of CDKN1C cause IMAGe syndrome
DOI: 10.1038/ng.2275

[22] Mutations in NNT encoding nicotinamide nucleotide transhydrogenase cause familial glucocorticoid deficiency
DOI: 10.1038/ng.2299

[23] Manipulating nucleosome disfavoring sequences allows fine-tune regulation of gene expression in yeast
DOI: 10.1038/ng.2305


[24] Timing and pattern of biotic recovery following the end-Permian mass extinction
DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1475

[25] Landslide erosion coupled to tectonics and river incision
DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1479

[26] Volcanic arcs fed by rapid pulsed fluid flow through subducting slabs
DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1482


[27] Regulation of TH2 development by CXCR5+ dendritic cells and lymphotoxin-expressing B cells

[28] TGF-beta signaling to T cells inhibits autoimmunity during lymphopenia-driven proliferation


[29] High intergrain critical current density in fine-grain (Ba0.6K0.4)Fe2As2 wires and bulks
DOI: 10.1038/nmat3333

[30] Giant magnetocaloric effect driven by structural transitions
DOI: 10.1038/nmat3334

[31] In silico screening of carbon-capture materials
DOI: 10.1038/nmat3336

[32] Extracellular-matrix tethering regulates stem-cell fate
DOI: 10.1038/nmat3339


[33] Melanoma exosomes educate bone marrow progenitor cells toward a pro-metastatic phenotype through MET
DOI: 10.1038/nm.2753

[34] The ephrin receptor tyrosine kinase A2 is a cellular receptor for Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus
DOI: 10.1038/nm.2805


[35] Unsupervised modeling of cell morphology dynamics for time-lapse microscopy
DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.2046


[36] Cell-free protein synthesis and assembly on a biochip
DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2012.65

[37] Emissive ZnO–graphene quantum dots for white-light-emitting diodes
DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2012.71

[38] An oxygen reduction electrocatalyst based on carbon nanotube–graphene complexes
DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2012.72

[39] Quantification of the affinities and kinetics of protein interactions using silicon nanowire biosensors
DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2012.82


[40] The calcium-activated chloride channel anoctamin 1 acts as a heat sensor in nociceptive neurons
DOI: 10.1038/nn.3111

[41] pHTomato, a red, genetically encoded indicator that enables multiplex interrogation of synaptic activity
DOI: 10.1038/nn.3126

[42] A non-canonical pathway for mammalian blue-green color vision
DOI: 10.1038/nn.3127

[43] A color-coding amacrine cell may provide a blue-Off signal in a mammalian retina
DOI: 10.1038/nn.3128


[44] Large spontaneous emission enhancement in plasmonic nanocavities
DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2012.112


[45] Controlling edge dynamics in complex networks
DOI: 10.1038/nphys2327

[46] Spin polarization of the quantum spin Hall edge states
DOI: 10.1038/nphys2322


[47] PABP and the poly(A) tail augment microRNA repression by facilitated miRISC binding
DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.2309

[48] Dominant missense mutations in ABCC9 cause Cantú syndrome
DOI: 10.1038/ng.2324


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.

Buenos Aires: 21

Melbourne: 48
Newtown: 6
Sydney: 6, 48
Taroona: 17
Warrnambool: 17

Graz: 13
Vienna: 35

Sao Paula: 21, 33

Burnaby: 17

Beijing: 38
Shanghai: 19
Shenzhen: 19
Wuhan: 24

Praha: 26

Aarhus: 2
Copenhagen: 2, 12, 19
Malov: 12
Odense: 13

Boulonge: 16
Castres: 12
Gif-sur-Yvette: 16
Toulouse: 12

Berlin: 22
Bochum: 26, 34
Bonn: 13
Cologne: 10, 22
Darmstadt: 30
Dresden: 10, 30
Erlangen: 26, 34
Frankfurt: 26
Grenzach-Wyhlen: 47
Heidelberg: 32, 34, 47
Kiel: 26
Munich: 9, 10
Munster: 26, 34
Neuherberg: 9
Stuttgart: 32
Wurzburg: 46

Hong Kong: 19

Budapest: 45

Bangalore: 37

Rehovot: 8, 9, 23, 36

Chiba: 6
Hiroshima: 18
Osaka: 18
Tokyo: 18
Wakayama: 18
Yokohama: 18

Gwangju: 37
Gyeonggi: 40
Seoul: 37, 40

Nijmegen: 32, 48
Utrecht: 48
Wageningen: 32

Tromso: 15

Lisbon: 33

Singapore: 19

Barcelona: 13
Madrid: 5, 33, 48
Vigo: 1

Stockholm: 15
Umea: 15

Lausanne: 26
Zurich: 10, 16, 32, 35

Istanbul: 22

Aberdeen: 48
Bristol: 24, 48
Cambridge: 10, 32
Exeter: 48
London: 1, 21, 22, 32, 40, 48
Luton: 22
Oxford: 48
Sheffield: 15

Birmingham: 27
Berkeley: 31, 33
Emeryville: 34
La Jolla: 7, 8
Los Angeles: 21
Menlo Park: 46
Palo Alto: 31
Riverside: 6
San Diego: 8, 19, 27
Santa Barbara: 46
Santa Cruz: 42
Stanford: 7, 9, 38, 41, 46
New Haven: 14, 39
Wilmingron: 19
District of Columbia
Washington: 14
Gainesville: 40
Tallahassee: 29
Chicago: 42
Indianapolis: 19
Bethesda: 33, 43
Boston: 4, 19
Cambridge: 5, 27, 44
Charlestown: 6
Southborough: 34
East Lansing: 8
Rochester: 27
New Hampshire
Durham: 40
New Jersey
New Brunswick: 33
Princeton: 33
New York
Bronx: 4
New York: 5, 33, 41
Old Westbury: 5
Columbus: 2, 14
Beaverton: 3
Eugene: 14
Bethlehem: 26
Philadelphia: 6, 14, 36
Nashville: 13, 34, 38
Oak Ridge: 38
Austin: 5, 11
Galveston: 11
Houston: 31
San Antonio: 11
Seattle: 8, 25, 28



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

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Published: 27 May 2012

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