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Article Released Sun-23rd-September-2007 18:29 GMT
Contact: Ruth Institution: Nature Publishing Group
 Catching bird flu in a droplet

Summaries of newsworthy papers include In charge of biosensing, Fountain of youth and Finding co-dependent genes in fission yeast


For papers that will be published online on 23 September 2007

This press release is copyrighted to the Nature journals mentioned below.

This press release contains:

· Summaries of newsworthy papers:

In charge of biosensing – Nature Nanotechnology

Catching bird flu in a droplet – Nature Medicine

Fountain of youth – Nature Immunology

Finding co-dependent genes in fission yeast – Nature Methods

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

· Geographical listing of authors

PDFs of all the papers mentioned on this release can be found in the relevant journal’s section of Press contacts for the Nature journals are listed at the end of this release.

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**************************************NATURE NANOTECHNOLOGY***********************************


[1] In charge of biosensing (N&V)

DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2007.293

A scanning probe microscope capable of detecting changes in the electrical charge on a surface is described in a report online this week in Nature Nanotechnology. This technique offers a rapid and sensitive way to sense biological targets, such as DNA and proteins.

Kelvin probe force microscopy (KPFM) is named after Lord Kelvin who investigated how charge is generated when two different materials are brought into close contact. Although KPFM is an established method that has been used to detect biomolecules in microarrays, Angela Belcher and Asher Sinensky have now applied it to measure binding events at the nanoscale. By considering much smaller feature sizes than previously studied, this development has increased both the speed and sensitivity of the technique.

The authors patterned single strands of DNA, which are negatively charged, onto gold substrates and measured their KPFM response. When complementary ‘target’ DNA strands were captured on the surface, the charge density in a given area was doubled and easily detected with KPFM. In this way, Sinensky and Belcher demonstrate the selective sensing of DNA sequences taken from the genes of anthrax and malaria.

Author contact:
Angela Belcher (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA)
Tel: +1 617 252 1163; E-mail:

Albena Ivanisevic (Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA)
Tel: +1 765 496 3676; E-mail: N&V author

Other papers from Nature Nanotechnology to be published online at the same time and with the same embargo:

[2] A virus-based single-enzyme nanoreactor

DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2007.299

[3] Nanopatterning the electronic properties of gold surfaces with self-organized superlattices of metallic nanostructures

DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2007.301

*******************************************Nature MEDICINE********************************************


[4] Catching bird flu in a droplet

DOI: 10.1038/nm1634

Detecting bird flu may soon get a whole lot easier, according to a report online in Nature Medicine this week. Juergen Pipper and colleagues describe a cheap, fast and effective droplet-based system for detecting the H5N1 virus directly from a throat swab sample in less than 30 minutes. The method could also be adapted to other viruses such as SARS, AIDS and hepatitis B.

In the event of a flu epidemic, its rapid containment would depend on the prompt identification of the first cases. But as routine surveillance may be problematic in countries with limited public health resources, low-cost, easy-to-use detection assays would be are advantageous.

The new system uses droplets that contain particles to automatically isolate, purify and concentrate viral RNA. The method is as sensitive as other available tests, but over one hundred times faster and even cheaper. In addition, it may be applicable not only to the flu virus, but could be adapted to other infectious agents, and to other bodily fluids like blood, urine or saliva.

Author contact:

Juergen Pipper (Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, Singapore)
Tel: +65 6824 7157; E-mail:

Other papers from Nature Medicine to be published online at the same time and with the same embargo:

[5] Adaptive immune cells temper initial innate responses

DOI: 10.1038/nm1633

[6] In vivo magnetic resonance imaging of acute brain inflammation using microparticles of iron oxide

DOI: 10.1038/nm1631

*******************************************NATURE IMMUNOLOGY ************************************


[7] Fountain of youth

DOI: 10.1038/ni1513

Researchers have identified the cells that provide an essential survival factor to newly created immune cells according a report published online in Nature Immunology this week.

White blood cells known as T lymphocytes are born in the thymus and these cells are required to fight off viral and other infections. Upon leaving the thymus these cells prowl throughout the body seeking out potential foreign agents; however, the survival of these cells depends on periodic visits to lymph nodes, where they can ‘recharge’ by receiving a chemical signal called interleukin 7 (IL-7).

It was known for many years that IL-7 provides ‘survival’ signals to these naive T cells, but what actually produced IL-7 proved elusive. Sanjiv Luther and colleagues identify specialized ‘fibroblastic reticular cells’ found in lymph nodes and spleen as the source of IL-7. These cells make chemical signals that direct T cells to them and supply the essential IL-7 that prevents T cells from dying, thereby allowing them to continue to recirculate throughout the body searching for enemies.

Author contact:

Sanjiv Luther (University of Lausanne, Epalinges, Switzerland)

Tel: +41 21 692 5678; E-mail:

********************************************NATURE METHODS******************************************


[8] Finding co-dependent genes in fission yeast

DOI: 10.1038/nmeth1098

A method for the rapid and large-scale generation of double mutants in a popular yeast strain to determine which genes are functionally dependent on each other is published online this week in Nature Methods.

Yeast is a simple unicellular organism but it comes in many different species that are only very distantly related on an evolutionary scale. The two main species used for research are budding and fission yeast – the former being very popular with geneticists for ease of handling, the latter being of interest because it is more closely related to higher eukaryotes.

Yeast, being a single cell organism, is ideal for the screening of genes that together are essential for survival of the cell. These interaction screens are done in yeast cells with a haploid genome - consisting of only one set of chromosomes – where each cell has mutations in two genes. If the combination of the two genes is required the yeast will die. By generating all possible combinations of gene pairs, a map of genetic interaction can be drawn.

These screens are already widely used in budding yeast, but the difficulty in generating haploid double mutants in fission yeast have prevented their application in this species. Nevan Krogan and colleagues now present a strategy to target genes of interest in fission yeast and select for haploid double-mutant cells. By investigating the pairs of all genes linked to a certain biological process they can draw a comprehensive map of the genes involved in this process.

Comparing the genetic maps in both of these yeast species will shed light on biological pathways that were conserved or diverged during evolution.

Author contact:

Nevan Krogan (University of California, San Francisco)

Tel: +1 415 476 3068; E-mail:

Other papers from Nature Methods to be published online at the same time and with the same embargo:

[9] Low- to high-throughput analysis of telomerase modulators with Telospot

DOI: 10.1038/nmeth1099


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

Nature (

[10] Functional architecture of the retromer cargo-recognition complex

DOI: 10.1038/nature06216

[11] Protein-based peptide-bond formation by aminoacyl-tRNA protein transferase

DOI: 10.1038/nature06167


[12] Slow guided surface plasmons at telecom frequencies

DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2007.174


[13] Chemical genetic interrogation of natural variation uncovers a molecule that is glycoactivated

DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.2007.32

[14] Sortagging: a versatile method for protein labeling

DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.2007.31

Nature PHYSICS (

[15] Impurity-stabilized solid 4He below the solidification pressure of pure helium

DOI: 10.1038/nphys727

[16] Single-photon bus connecting spin-wave quantum memories

DOI: 10.1038/nphys726

[17] Is the outer Solar System chaotic?

DOI: 10.1038/nphys728


[18] Intrinsic ripples in graphene

DOI: 10.1038/nmat2011

[19] The control of human mesenchymal cell differentiation using nanoscale symmetry and disorder

DOI: 10.1038/nmat2013


[20] Computational design of antibody-affinity improvement beyond in vivo maturation

DOI: 10.1038/nbt1336

[21] Renal clearance of quantum dots

DOI: 10.1038/nbt1340


[22] The role of site accessibility in microRNA target recognition

DOI: 10.1038/ng2135

[23] The imprinted gene Magel2 regulates normal circadian output

DOI: 10.1038/ng2114


[24] Epidermal growth factor signaling induces behavioral quiescence in C. elegans
DOI: 10.1038/nn1981


[25] Nucleolar release of Hand1 acts as a molecular switch to determine cell fate

DOI: 10.1038/ncb1633

[26] Bif-1 interacts with Beclin 1 through UVRAG and regulates autophagy and tumorigenesis

DOI: 10.1038/ncb1634

[27] Inhibition of Crm1–p53 interaction and nuclear export of p53 by poly(ADP-ribosyl)ation

DOI: 10.1038/ncb1638

[28] Prometaphase APCcdh1 activity prevents non-disjunction in mammalian oocytes

DOI: 10.1038/ncb1640

[29] Akt phosphorylation regulates the tumour-suppressor merlin through ubiquitination and degradation

DOI: 10.1038/ncb1641

[30] Protein arginine-methyltransferase-dependent oncogenesis

DOI: 10.1038/ncb1642


[31] Myosin-V makes two Brownian 90° rotations per 36-nm step

DOI: 10.1038/nsmb1298

[32] A conserved motif in Argonaute-interacting proteins mediates functional interactions through the Argonaute PIWI domain

DOI: 10.1038/nsmb1302

[33] Synaptotagmin activates membrane fusion through a Ca2+-dependent trans interaction with phospholipids

DOI: 10.1038/nsmb1305

[34] Structural features of small RNA precursors determine Argonaute loading in Caenorhabditis elegans

DOI: 10.1038/nsmb1308



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.


Alberta: 23

Toronto: 13, 25

Beijing: 5
Hong Kong: 30


Prague: 4


Lyon: 9

Montepellier: 10

Vandoeuvre-les-Nancy: 3


Goettingen: 33

Heidelberg: 32


Rehovot: 22


Chiba: 11

Ibaraki: 11, 27

Osaka: 31

Shiga: 27

Tokyo: 11, 31


Amsterdam: 12

Eindhoven: 2

Nijmegen: 2, 18

The Hague: 34

Utrecht: 34

Wageningen: 2


Singapore: 4, 23


Huddinge: 8


Basel: 32

Epalinges: 7, 9

Fribourg: 15

Geneva: 9

Lausanne: 9, 15

Zurich: 32


Belfast: 30

Glasgow: 19

London: 30

Newcastle: 28

Oxford: 6

Southampton: 19



Irvine: 17

La Jolla: 23

Pasadena: 24

Riverside: 13

San Francisco: 7, 8

Stanford: 30


Tampa: 26, 27


Atlanta: 29


Chicago: 5


New Orleans: 27


Baltimore: 4

Bethesda: 10

Frederick: 23


Boston: 21

Cambridge: 1, 14, 16, 20, 21


St Louis: 23, 29

New York

New York: 22


For media inquiries relating to embargo policy for all the Nature Research Journals:

Katherine Anderson (Nature London)

Tel: +44 20 7843 4502; E-mail:

Ruth Francis (Senior Press Officer, Nature, London)

Tel: +44 20 7843 4562; E-mail:

For media inquiries relating to editorial content/policy for the Nature Research Journals, please contact the journals individually:

Nature Biotechnology (New York)

Peter Hare

Tel: +1 212 726 9284; E-mail:

Nature Cell Biology (London)

Bernd Pulverer

Tel: +44 20 7843 4892; E-mail:

Nature Chemical Biology (Boston)

Andrea Garvey

Tel: +1 617 475 9241, E-mail:

Nature Genetics (New York)

Orli Bahcall

Tel: +1 212 726 9311; E-mail:

Nature Immunology (New York)

Laurie Dempsey

Tel: +1 212 726 9372; E-mail:

Nature Materials (London)

Fabio Pulizzi

Tel: +44 20 7014 4024; E-mail:

Nature Medicine (New York)

Juan Carlos Lopez

Tel: +1 212 726 9325; E-mail:

Nature Methods (New York)

Allison Doerr

Tel: +1 212 726 9393; E-mail:

Nature Nanotechnology (London)

Peter Rodgers

Tel: +44 20 7014 4019; Email:

Nature Neuroscience (New York)

Sandra Aamodt (based in California)

Tel: +1 530 795 3256; E-mail:

Nature Photonics (Tokyo))

Oliver Graydon

Tel: +81 3 3267 8776; E-mail:

Nature Physics (London)

Alison Wright

Tel: +44 20 7843 4555; E-mail:

Nature Structural & Molecular Biology (New York)

Michelle Montoya

Tel: +1 212 726 9326; E-mail:

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Keywords associated to this article: Nanotechnology, Medicine, Immunology, Methods
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