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Article Released Wed-11th-July-2007 18:18 GMT
Contact: Ruth Institution: Nature Publishing Group
 Emperor on taxonomy in Japan

Summaries of newsworthy papers include Developmental biology: Niche job for stem cells, Genetics: RNAi resource, Extrasolar planets: Water vapour on ‘hot Jupiters’?, Comets: The same inside out? and Ecology: Biodiversity matters

This press release is copyright Nature.

VOL.448 NO.7150 DATED 12 JULY 2007

This press release contains:

· Summaries of newsworthy papers:

Developmental biology: Niche job for stem cells

Genetics: RNAi resource

Extrasolar planets: Water vapour on ‘hot Jupiters’?

Emperor on taxonomy in Japan

Comets: The same inside out?

Ecology: Biodiversity matters

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

· Geographical listing of authors

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[1] Developmental biology: Niche job for stem cells (AOP)

DOI: 10.1038/nature06027

***This paper will be published electronically on Nature's website on 11 July 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 it on this release to avoid multiple mailings it will not appear in print on 12 July, but at a later date.***

It is thought that stem cells are directly influenced by cells in the local environment or ‘niche’, but the situation may be more complex than was previously thought. In this week’s Nature, researchers show that human embryonic stem (ES) cells can actually produce niche cells, which then release stem-cell nourishing proteins to help keep their ‘parents’ ticking over.

Mickie Bhatia and colleagues provide the first evidence that human ES cells can spontaneously generate human-ES-cell-derived fibroblast-like niche cells (hdFs) in vitro despite removal from their in vivo microenvironment. These hdFs then provide a continuous source of supportive proteins, including insulin-like growth factor 2 (IGF-II), which boosts stem cell survival and self renewal.

Researchers are interested in the relationship between stem cells and their niche, because the niche represents a route for modifying stem cell behaviour — if human ES cells can be reliably guided down a particular pathway, then they become more interesting from a therapeutic point of view. The new findings provide a useful in vitro model for studying the relationship between human ES cells and the surrounding niche cells.


Mickie Bhatia (McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada)
Tel: +1 905 525 9140 x28687; E-mail:

[2] Genetics: RNAi resource (pp 151-156)

A resource that could change the very nature of genetic research on fruitflies is published in Nature this week. Barry Dickson and colleagues present a library of transgenic flies in which genes can be inactivated by RNA interference (RNAi), and which covers 88% of the protein-coding genes in the fruitfly genome. This opens up the possibility of analysing gene functions in any tissue and at any stage of the Drosophila lifespan.

Systematic approaches to RNAi are common for investigating key functions of genes during embryonic development. But many genes are vital both in early development and later in the lifespan, and previous approaches knock out the gene in embryogenesis and leave the model devoid in later life. Fruitflies represent an ideal model in which gene function can be disrupted at any time — allowing researchers the option of analysing the function further down the developmental line.


Barry Dickson (Institute of Molecular Pathology, Vienna, Austria)
Tel: +43 1 797 30 3000; E-mail:

[3] Extrasolar planets: Water vapour on ‘hot Jupiters’? (pp 169-171; N&V)

There is water in the atmosphere of at least one of the extrasolar giant planets known as ‘hot Jupiters’ after all, a Nature paper reports.

Water should be among the most abundant molecular species in the atmospheres of close-in extrasolar giant plants. However, several attempts to find it have failed, or led to claims that should be treated with caution. Giovanna Tinetti and colleagues measured the radius of the hot Jupiter HD 189733b at different wavelengths by tracking how much starlight is blocked by the planet as it crosses in front of its parent star. The planet looked bigger at the wavelength bands that correspond to water. This suggests that water is present in the atmosphere, where it absorbs the radiation at these wavelengths.


Giovanna Tinetti (European Space Agency/Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris, France)
Tel: +33 6 29 74 51 71; E-mail:

Heather A. Knutson (Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA) N&V author

Tel: +1 617 223 1723; E-mail:

Emperor on taxonomy in Japan

An edited extract of a speech, given by His Majesty The Emperor of Japan to The Linnaean Society of London as part of the Tercentenary Celebrations of the birth of Carl Linnaeus, is published in Nature this week. The Emperor, himself a scientist who publishes on fish phylogeny, traces the history of taxonomy in Japan, from the 17th century to the present day.

The speech explains how, during Japan’s two hundred years or so of isolation, European doctors lodged in the Dutch Trading House on the artificial island of Dejima were an important conduit of scientific information into and out of the country. Drawings of Japanese plants by one such doctor, for example, are described in the first edition of Linnaeus’ Species plantarum in 1753. A later Trading House physician was Linnaeus’ pupil Carl Peter Thunberg; he wrote the influential book Flora Japonica, after staying in Japan for a year. This book’s 1829 Japanese translation is believed to be the first official appearance of Linnaean nomenclature in Japan.

The Emperor goes on to illustrate how botany and taxonomy flourished further at the end of the 19th century, when isolation ended and scholars and samples were free to come and go. He reminisces about his own research, before describing his encounter with DNA classification techniques. The full text of this speech will be published later this year by The Linnaean.


Please contact the Nature press office for more information.

[4] Comets: The same inside out? (pp 172-175)

A well-studied comet appears to be remarkably uniform in chemical composition, a paper reveals in this week’s Nature. The finding challenges current ideas about comet chemistry.

Neil Dello Russo and colleagues studied two fragments from the disintegrating comet 73P/Schwassmann–Wachmann 3, which passes close by the Earth every 5.34 years. The fragments reveal a range of different depths, and the team found that they were very similar in nature.

This goes against the theory that comet exteriors are heavily processed by repeated brushes with solar radiation, cosmic rays, solar winds and the like, making their outsides chemically different to their insides.


Neil Dello Russo (Johns Hopkins University, Laurel, MD, USA)
Tel: +1 240 228 2132; E-mail:

[5] Ecology: Biodiversity matters (pp 188-190)

Studies that consider single ecosystem processes only may severely underestimate the levels of biodiversity required for fully functioning ecosystems, a Nature paper suggests.

Mankind benefits from many ecosystem-derived resources and processes, such as waste decomposition and crop pollination. And previous studies have suggested a positive relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem services. But most of the research has focused on individual ecosystem processes, despite the fact that most ecosystems are managed for several ecosystem services.

Andy Hector and Robert Bagchi analysed published data from grassland biodiversity experiments to look at the relationship between biodiversity and multiple ecological processes. They find that different species often influence different ecosystem functions, so studies that look at just one ecosystem process may miss the big picture. Multifunctional ecosystems require greater biodiversity than has been suggested by previous studies, they say.


Andy Hector (University of Zurich, Switzerland)
Tel: +41 44 635 4804; E-mail: or


[6] High-resolution spectroscopy of two-dimensional electron systems (pp 176-179)

[7] Reversal of the net dinitrogen gas flux in coastal marine sediments (pp 180-182)

[8] Spreading rate dependence of gravity anomalies along oceanic transform faults (pp 183-187)

[9] An intracellular P2X receptor required for osmoregulation in Dictyostelium discoideum (pp 200-203)

[10] An efflux transporter of silicon in rice (pp 209-212)


***These papers will be published electronically on Nature's website on 11 July 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 12 July, but at a later date.***

[11] Identification of the transforming EML4–ALK fusion gene in non-small-cell lung cancer

DOI: 10.1038/nature05945

[12] A flagellin-induced complex of the receptor FLS2 and BAK1 initiates plant defence

DOI: 10.1038/nature05999


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.


Vienna: 2


Hamilton: 1

London: 1


Meudon: 4

Paris: 3


Cologne: 12

Tubingen: 12


Frascati: 3


Chuo: 10

Saitama: 11

Tochigi: 11

Tokyo: 10, 11

Tsukuba: 10


Bellaterra: 3

Granada: 1


Basel: 12

Zurich: 5


Taipei: 3


London: 3

Manchester: 9

Norwich: 12

Oxford: 5



Tucson: 3


Pasadena: 3


Laurel: 4


Cambridge: 6

Woods Hole: 8

New Jersey

Murray Hill: 6

Rhode Island

Narragansett: 7


For North America and Canada

Katie McGoldrick, Nature Washington

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

For Japan, Korea, China, Singapore and Taiwan

Mika Nakano, Nature Tokyo

Tel: +81 3 3267 8751; E-mail:

For the UK/Europe/other countries not listed above

Helen Jamison, Nature London

Tel: +44 20 7843 4658; E-mail

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Keywords associated to this article: developmental biology, stem cells, genetics, RNAi, extrasolar planets, taxonomy, Japan, comets, ecology, biodiversity
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