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Article Released Wed-25th-October-2006 17:12 GMT
Contact: Ruth Institution: Nature Publishing Group
 Honeybee genome sequenced

Nuclear forensics, Global cooling preceded life on Earth, DNA degradation link to rheumatoid arthritis, Lampreys, the supreme survival specialists, The conductivity of mantle minerals, Largest avian skull runs rings around agility theory


This press release is copyright Nature.

VOL.443 NO.7114 DATED 26 OCTOBER 2006

This press release contains:

· Summaries of newsworthy papers:

Genetics: Honeybee genome sequenced

Commentary: Nuclear forensics

Climate change: Global cooling preceded life on Earth

Immunology: DNA degradation link to rheumatoid arthritis

Palaeontology: Lampreys, the supreme survival specialists

Mineral physics: The conductivity of mantle minerals

And finally... Largest avian skull runs rings around agility theory

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

· Geographical listing of authors

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[1] Genetics: Honeybee genome sequenced (pp 931-949; N&V)

The western honeybee (Apis mellifera) has become the third insect to have its genome sequenced. The data, published in Nature this week, lend insight to the insect's complex social behaviour and its geographical origins.

The honeybee is a striking creature, one of relatively few species for which evolution culminated in advanced society. Queens produce offspring and non-reproductive workers gather food, care for young, build nests and defend colonies. But these two castes develop from the same genome. George M. Weinstock and colleagues discovered novel microRNAs (strands of RNA that are thought to regulate expression of other genes) that have caste- and stage-specific expression, suggesting a role in social diversification.

Apis mellifera follows in the footsteps of the fruitfly and the mosquito, the first two insects to have their genome deciphered. Compared with the genomes of these insects, the honeybee genome has evolved more slowly. Furthermore, certain genes, such as those involved in biological rhythms, are more similar to vertebrate genomes. The honeybee also has more genes related to smell, and novel genes for nectar and pollen utilization, compared with the fruitfly and mosquito.

Apis mellifera originated in Africa, the data suggest, then spread to Europe and Asia in two separate migrations. The infamous African 'killer' bees, Apis mellifera scutellata, were introduced to Brazil in 1956, and have almost replaced the 'European' honeybees that were present in the region.

Please note this paper is published online and in print at the same time as related papers in Genome Research, PNAS and Science.


George M. Weinstock (Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA)
Tel: +1 713 798 4357; E-mail:

Please note the author is travelling next week so will only have intermittent phone access. It may be easier to contact one of the authors below:

Gene Robinson (University of Illinois, Urbana, IL, USA)

Tel: +1 217 265 0309; E-mail:

Richard Gibbs (Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA)
Tel: +1 713 798 1290; E-mail:

Kim Worley (Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA)
Tel: +1 713 798 8292; E-mail:

Edward O Wilson (Harvard University, Cambridge, MI, USA) (N&V author)

Contact: Kathy Horton, Assistant with Edward Wilson, Harvard University

E-mail:; Fax: +1 617 495 1224

Commentary: Nuclear forensics

An international data bank of nuclear explosives would help to determine the source of nuclear materials following a terrorist explosion, argues a Commentary in Nature this week. Michael May, Jay Davis and Raymond Jeanloz reason that although the likelihood of a nuclear terrorist attack is uncertain, a database would help in the process of determining where the nuclear explosive came from, who was responsible and what the chances of another explosion were. Such a databank would also deter the criminal transfer of nuclear materials because they would be traceable.

Although several small databases are in existence, they are privately held or incomplete. Recommendations for a comprehensive, validated international data bank are outlined in the Commentary. Features include the avoidance of political bias by conducting analyses in laboratories in different countries, and validation whenever possible by archiving tiny samples of known nuclear materials. The authors recommend maintaining as much transparency as possible while accepting the need for parts of the database to be classified as secrets of political and economic value could be revealed.

The authors conclude that the establishment of such a data bank 'would greatly reduce the time between this most terrible of events and the ability to respond to it.'


Raymond Jeanloz (University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA)
Tel: +1 510 642 2639/4213/7073; E-mail:

[2] Climate change: Global cooling preceded life on Earth (pp 969-972; N&V)

New data may help to resolve a dispute over the early temperature of the Earth's oceans. The results, published in this week's Nature, hint that a lengthy period of ocean cooling preceded the diversification of life on Earth.

Marc Chaussidon and François Robert analysed silicon isotopes in samples of a silica-rich oceanic sedimentary rock called chert. Their results, which mirror data derived from oxygen isotopes, suggest that the Earth cooled from around 70 degrees Celsius 3,500 million years ago to around 20 degrees Celsius 800 million years ago.


Marc Chaussidon (Centre de Recherches Pétrographiques et Géochimiques,

Vandoeuvre-lès-Nancy, France)
Tel: + 33 3 83 59 42 25; E-mail:

François Robert (Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France)
Tel: +33 1 40 79 35 38; E-mail:

Christina De La Rocha (Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research,

Bremerhaven, Germany)

Tel: +49 471 4831 1040; E-mail:

[3] Immunology: DNA degradation link to rheumatoid arthritis (pp 998-1002)

A failure to degrade DNA properly may contribute to the development of rheumatoid arthritis, a mouse study suggests.

Every day in the human body, hundreds of millions of cells commit suicide, expelling their DNA along the way. This, and other excess DNA, is engulfed by scavenger cells called macrophages, which break it down using an enzyme called DNase II. But mice lacking the enzyme develop rheumatoid-arthritis-like symptoms, Shigekazu Nagata and colleagues report in a paper published in this week's Nature.

Macrophages without DNase II, carrying the undigested DNA, produce the inflammatory tumour necrosis factor (TNF-alpha) protein, and treatment with an anti-TNF-alpha antibody prevents the mice from developing symptoms.


Shigekazu Nagata (Osaka University Medical School, Japan)
Tel: +81 6 6879 3310; E-mail:

[4] Palaeontology: Lampreys, the supreme survival specialists (pp 981-984; N&V)

A newly uncovered fossil fish has added a new chapter to the already impressive legend of lampreys. The discovery shows that the ancestors of these 'living fossils' developed their characteristic specialized body structures even longer ago than palaeontologists had thought. The body forms have persisted for a staggering 360 million years, all the way up to the present.

The new fossil is the oldest lamprey-like fossil ever found, and is the earliest example of a lamprey having teeth, say Michael Coates and his colleagues, who announce the find in Nature.

The creature, found in an ancient estuary in Grahamstown, South Africa, boasted an impressive mouth - far bigger relative to its body size than those of modern lampreys. But in absolute terms, the new species was a tiddler: just 4.2 centimetres long. Nonetheless, it is impressive, the authors note, that specialized structures such as teeth evolved so long ago and persisted almost unchanged in an evolutionary lineage.


Michael Coates (University of Chicago, IL, USA)
Tel: +1 773 834 8417; E-mail:

Philippe Janvier (Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France)

Tel: +33 1 40 79 34 50; E-mail:

[5] & [6] Mineral physics: The conductivity of mantle minerals (pp 973-976 & 977-980; N&V)

The uppermost region of the Earth's mantle has an unusually high electrical conductivity, which some believe is due to a chemical reaction between water and the olivine minerals found in the rock. But the effect of water on such minerals, thorough the incorporation of hydrogen has yet to be determined in the laboratory. In Nature this week, two groups present such laboratory data, constraining the effect of hydrogen on the electrical conductivity of olivine.

Takashi Yoshino and colleagues present measurements of the electrical conductivity of single crystals of olivine, while Shun-ichiro Karato and colleagues make measurements on olivine aggregates. Although both groups find that small amounts of hydrogen increase the electrical conductivity of olivine by two to three orders of magnitude, their conclusions regarding whether such hydration can explain the observed conductivity of the mantle are at odds. More work is needed to resolve the discrepancy.


Takashi Yoshino (Okayama University, Japan)

Tel: +81 858 43 3734; E-mail:

Author paper [5]

Shun-ichiro Karato (Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA)

Tel: +1 203 432 3147; E-mail:

Author paper [6]

Greg Hirth (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, USA)

Tel: +1 508 289 2776; E-mail:

N&V author

[7] And finally... Largest avian skull runs rings around agility theory (p929)

A horse-sized fossil skull of an extinct giant terror bird with a vicious eagle-like bill, together with an associated limb bone, is challenging views about the running agility of these flightless birds. The skull of this gigantic phorusrhacid is from the middle Miocene (about 14 million years ago) and is described in a Brief Communication in this week's Nature.

Phorusrhacids, large carnivorous flightless birds, were dominant predators in South America during the Cenozoic. This example of a phorusrhacid skull from the mid-Miocene is almost complete and is 716 millimetres in length, making it the largest known avian skull; it is estimated to be around ten per cent larger than previously reported members of its family. Luis Chiappe and colleagues claim that the somewhat portly reconstructions of gigantic phorusrhacids based on their smaller relatives are unwarranted and that assumptions about body size and running ability need to be re-evaluated in light of their find.


Luis Chiappe (Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, CA, USA)
Tel: +1 213 763 3323; E-mail:


[8] Evidence for superfluidity of ultracold fermions in an optical lattice (pp 961-964)

[9] Exploration of molecular dynamics during transient sorption of fluids in mesoporous materials (pp 965-968)

[10] Regulatory constraints in the evolution of the tetrapod limb anterior posterior polarity

(pp 985-988)

[11] Effects of biodiversity on the functioning of trophic groups and ecosystems (pp 989-992)

[12] Amplification of histone genes by circular chromosome formation in Saccharomyces cerevisiae (pp 1003-1007)

[13] Distinct catalytic and non-catalytic roles of ARGONAUTE4 in RNA-directed DNA methylation (pp 1008-1012)


***These papers will be published electronically on Nature's website on 25 October at 1800 London time / 1300 US Eastern time (which is also when the embargo lifts) as part of our AOP (ahead of print) programme. Although we have included them on this release to avoid multiple mailings they will not appear in print on 26 October, but at a later date.***

[14] Movement of 'gating charge' is coupled to ligand binding in a G-protein-coupled receptor

DOI: 10.1038/nature05259

[15] Two modes of fusion pore opening revealed by cell-attached recordings at a synapse

DOI: 10.1038/nature05250

[16] An RNA map predicting Nova-dependent splicing regulation

DOI: 10.1038/nature05304


The following list of places refers to the whereabouts of authors on the papers numbered in this release. For example, London: 4 - this means that on paper number four, there will be at least one author affiliated to an institute or company in London. 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: 1

Sydney: 1


Ribeirão Preto: 1

Sao Paulo: 1


Ghent: 1

Leuven: 1


Montreal: 1, 10

Toronto: 16

Vancouver: 11


Beijing: 6, 13

Guiyang: 6

Famagusta: 16

Copenhagen: 1


Gif-sur-Yvette: 1

Paris: 2

Saint-Gely-du-Fesc: 1

Sophia Antipolis: 1

Strasbourg: 1

Vandoeuvre-les-Nancy: 2

Villeurbanne: 1

Berlin: 1

Dusseldorf: 1

Halle: 1

Heidelberg: 1

Leipzig: 9

Würzburg: 1

Jerusalem: 1, 14

Tel Aviv: 14


Ibaraki: 1

Kobe: 3

Nagoya: 1

Okayama: 5

Osaka: 3

Takizawa: 3

Tokyo: 1

Yokohama: 1


Dunedin: 1

Bratislava: 1


Johannesburg: 4


L'Hospitalet: 1


Umea: 1


Geneva: 1, 10


Cambridge: 1, 16

Leeds: 11

Liverpool: 1

Oxford: 1

Surrey: 1



Tempe: 1

Tuscon: 1

Berkeley: 1

Cupertino: 1

Irvine: 1

La Jolla: 16

Los Angeles: 7

Moffet Field: 1

Mountain View: 13

Oakland: 1

Santa Barbara: 11

New Haven: 6, 16

Storr: 6


Athens: 1

Burr Ridge: 1

Chicago: 4, 14

Urbana: 1


West Lafayette: 1


Lawrence: 1

Manhattan: 1

Baltimore: 14

Beltsville: 1

Bethesda: 1, 15

Amherst: 9


Boston: 12

Cambridge: 1, 8


Las Vegas: 1

Reno: 9
New York

Cold Harbor: 13

Ithaca: 1

Mount Kisco: 1

New York: 1, 11, 16

Stony Brook: 13
North Carolina

Durham: 11

Raleigh: 1

Winston-Salem: 1

Delaware: 11


Stillwater: 1

Philadelphia: 1

Austin: 1

College Station: 1

Houston: 1

Navasota: 1

Weslaco: 1


Blacksburg: 1

Gloucester Point: 11

Pullman: 1


Madison: 14


For North America and Canada

Katie McGoldrick, Nature Washington

Tel: +1 202 737 2355; E-mail:

From Japan, Korea, China, Singapore and Taiwan

Itsumi Kitahara, Nature Tokyo

Tel: +81 3 3267 8751; Fax: +81 3 3267 87


For the UK/Europe/other countries not listed above

Katherine Anderson, Nature London

Tel: +44 20 7843 4502; E-mail

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Keywords associated to this article: Genetics, Honeybee genome, Nuclear forensics, Climate change, Global cooling, Immunology, rheumatoid arthritis, Palaeontology, Lampreys, Mineral physics, conductivity, mantle minerals, Largest avian skull, agility theory
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