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Article Released Sun-6th-July-2008 21:48 GMT
Contact: Ruth Institution: Nature Publishing Group
 Forecasting China’s aftershocks

Summaries of newsworthy papers including Nanotechnology: Look to the stars, Mutation associated with increased rice yield, How EGFR promotes skin cancer, A natural ligand for PPAR-gamma, Ingesting and digesting intracellular bacteria, Sensing light without eyes, Muscling in on disease imaging and Enzyme implicated in risk of common obesity.


For papers that will be published online on 06 July 2008
This press release is copyrighted to the Nature journals mentioned below.

This press release contains:

· Summaries of newsworthy papers:

Nature: Forecasting China’s aftershocks
Nanotechnology: Look to the stars
Genetics: Mutation associated with increased rice yield
Cell Biology: How EGFR promotes skin cancer
Structural and Molecular Biology: A natural ligand for PPAR-gamma
Immunology: Ingesting and digesting intracellular bacteria
Neuroscience: Sensing light without eyes
Nature: Muscling in on disease imaging
And finally... Genetics: Enzyme implicated in risk of common obesity

· 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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NOTE: Once a paper is published, the digital object identifier (DOI) number can be used to retrieve the abstract and full text from the journal web site (abstracts are available to everyone, full text is available only to subscribers). To do this, add the DOI to the following URL: (For example, For more information about DOIs and Advance Online Publication, see


[1] Nature: Forecasting China’s aftershocks
DOI: 10.1038/nature07177

The recent devastating earthquake in Sichuan, China, could have further consequences, caused by increased stress on nearby faults. The research, published online in Nature this week, uses stress-transfer analysis, a technique that has successfully forecast where large aftershocks are most likely to occur after past earthquakes.

Tom Parsons and colleagues look at stress rearrangement in the Earth’s crust after the 12 May 2008 magnitude 7.9 Wenchuan earthquake, on the edge of the Tibetan plateau. The earthquake appears to have ruptured the Beichuan fault along the edge of the Longmen Shan in southwestern China. The team estimate that stress increased significantly on a number of faults in and around the basin and this was dependent on both the type of fault and its orientation.

Large earthquakes are known to cause aftershocks over large distances. Although it is impossible to forecast when such an event may happen, identifying potential future rupture zones will help preparedness and emergency management.

Author contact:
Tom Parsons (US Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA, USA)
Tel: +1 650 329 5074; E-mail:

[2] Nanotechnology: Look to the stars
DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2008.173

The science of the very small could lead to a better understanding of something much larger - the universe itself - suggests a paper online this week in Nature Nanotechnology.

Of all the photons of light emitted since the Big Bang, 98% have wavelengths in the terahertz region of the electromagnetic spectrum - a region between far infrared and microwaves. These photons are strongly absorbed by the Earth's atmosphere, which is why terahertz telescopes based in space are crucial for astrophysics research. However, the photon detectors on future advanced telescopes need to be at least 100 times more sensitive than the current state of the art.

Michael Gershenson, Boris Karasik and co-workers have now built such a detector with a nanosized island of titanium connected to niobium nanowires. The titanium nano-island becomes superconducting (which means it loses its resistance to electrical current) when cooled to within 0.2 degrees of absolute zero. The highly sensitive nature of the device - which is known as a hot-electron superconducting nanobolometer - is due to its exceptional thermal isolation from its surroundings and its extremely small heat capacity.

Author contacts:

Michael Gershenson (Department of Physics, Rutgers University, USA)
Tel: +1 732 445 3180; E-mail:

Boris Karasik (Jet Propulsion Laboratory, USA) Co-author
Tel: +1 818 393 4438; E-mail:

Andrei Sergeev (State University of New York at Buffalo, USA) Co-author
Tel: +1 716 645 3115 ext 1224; E-mail:

[3] Genetics: Mutation associated with increased rice yield
DOI: 10.1038/ng.169

A deletion in a single gene promotes increased grain size and yield in rice, according to a study published online this week in Nature Genetics. The identification of this deletion may enable a breeding program for higher-yield cultivated rice crops.

Takeshi Izawa and colleagues carried out a cross between the Nipponbare (japonica) and Kasalath (indica) cultivated crops, which have different grain widths. They mapped several regions of the rice genome that were associated with this difference, and focused on one, qSW5. They went on to identify a deletion in a single gene in the Nipponbare cultivation, which is responsible for approximately 38% of the difference in grain width between Nipponbare and Kasalath.

Transgenic lines of Kasalath rice engineered to have reduced levels of qSW5 produced seeds with increased grain weight in a field test. The authors suggest that the qSW5 deletion may have been selected for during the process of rice domestication by ancient humans. They also report that two other genes, Waxy and qSH1, were likely also involved in the domestication of japonica rice as the range of rice cultivation changed during human history.

Author contact:
Takeshi Izawa (National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, Tsukuba, Japan)
Tel: +81 29 838 7446; E-mail:

[4] Cell Biology: How EGFR promotes skin cancer
DOI: 10.1038/ncb1750

Scientists have pinpointed the molecular mechanisms underlying tumour response to EGFR - a protein that boosts the development of skin cancer, and an important target for cancer therapy.

Epidermal growth factor receptors (EGFR) stimulate skin cells called keratinocytes to multiply while simultaneously stopping them from becoming more specialized. The overall effect encourages tumours in skin cancer to develop. A paper published online this week in Nature Cell Biology reveals that EGFR wields these functions in skin cancer by preventing expression of Notch1, a gene essential for tumour development.

Notch1 gene expression and activity are significantly lower in keratinocyte cancer cell lines and tumours. When looking for small molecules that may activate Notch protein signalling, G. Paolo Dotto and co-authors found that EGFR is a major negative regulator of Notch1 gene expression in human keratinocytes and skin cancers. By analysing this mechanism in a mouse model of EGFR-dependent skin cancer, they also showed that EGFR stops expression of Notch1 by blocking the tumour suppressor gene p53.

EGFR is an important target of cancer therapy and several selective EGFR inhibitors have now been approved for clinical use. These findings provide further understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying the tumour response to EGFR inhibition.

Author contact:
G. Paolo Dotto (Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown, MA, USA)
Tel: +1 617 724 9538; E-mail:

[5] Structural and Molecular Biology: A natural ligand for PPAR-gamma
DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.1447

How PPAR-gamma - a fatty acid receptor that plays a central role in energy metabolism - is activated by a natural ligand is revealed in a study online this week in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology. The findings could be useful in the design of better drugs to treat type 2 diabetes.

Dysfunctions in PPAR-gamma are linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity, so the receptor is an important target for type 2 diabetes drugs. Previous work had shown that synthetic binding molecules, or ligands, activate PPAR-gamma by making contacts with one specific part of the protein.

Yong Li, Eric Xu and colleagues now show that nitrated linoleic acid, a potent natural ligand, makes contacts with this same region but also with a second one, explaining how it is recognized by PPAR-gamma and why it has such high activity.

Author contacts:

H. Eric Xu (Van Andel Research Institute, Grand Rapids, MI, USA)
Tel: +1 616-234-5772; E-mail:

Yong Li (University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA)
Tel: +1 412 648 1982; E-mail:

[6] Immunology: Ingesting and digesting intracellular bacteria
DOI: 10.1038/ni.1634

Scientists have revealed the importance of autophagy - a process in which cells ‘eat’ and degrade their own internal contents - in defence against harmful intracellular bacteria.

Previous work linking autophagy with resistance to dangerous bacteria was performed in cells in culture dishes, but experiments failed to identify germ sensors capable of triggering the process.

Online this week in Nature Immunology, Shoichiro Kurata and colleagues show that in fruit flies, PGRP-LE - a protein capable of recognizing specific bacterial components - is required for the induction of autophagy after infection with an intracellular bacterium. This induction of autophagy is also necessary for survival of infected flies.

Whether similar sensors exist and link bacterial infection with autophagy in mammalian cells remains to be determined.

Author contact:
Shoichiro Kurata (Tohoko University, Sendai, Japan)
Tel: +81 22 795 5916; E-mail:

[7] Neuroscience: Sensing light without eyes
DOI: 10.1038/nn.2155

Despite not having eyes and living underground, the roundworm C. elegans can actually ‘see’, suggests a paper online in Nature Neuroscience this week.

Shawn Xu and colleagues discovered that when they focussed light on either the head or tail of worms, the worms moved to avoid light - for instance, if a flash of light was focused on the head of a worm moving forward, it would stop its forward movement and reverse direction. The authors also identify a group of sensory neurons that were critical for this response.

The authors reveal that light excites these cells by acting on cyclic nucleotide gated ion channels. Vertebrate photoreceptor cells also depend on similar channels, suggesting that light-sensing processes may be conserved in both nematodes and vertebrates.

Author contact:
Shawn Xu (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA)
Tel: +1 734 615 9311; E-mail:

[8] Nature: Muscling in on disease imaging
DOI: 10.1038/nature07104

A new technique to image muscle fibres in living patients is described this week in Nature. The technology will greatly increase our understanding of how healthy muscles work and how they go wrong in diseases of motor control, such as Parkinson’s disease and muscular dystrophy.

Muscle fibres are made up of repeated units, or ‘sarcomeres’, that act as the powerhouse behind contraction. Mark Schnitzer and colleagues have developed a laser-scanning imaging system to observe sarcomeres in living tissue directly by using a needle less than half a millimetre in diameter. The team have used the new system to make the first ever measurements of how individual sarcomeres respond to changes in body posture, in living subjects and in real time.

The uses of such technology are widespread, and potentially include guiding diagnoses of muscle diseases, improving rehabilitation strategies and even monitoring athletic performance in sport stars.

Author contact:
Mark Schnitzer (Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA)
Tel: +1 650 725 7438; E-mail:

[9] And finally... Genetics: Enzyme implicated in risk of common obesity
DOI: 10.1038/ng.177

Scientists have discovered gene variants associated with increased risk of common obesity in people with European ancestry, reports a study online this week in Nature Genetics. Common forms of obesity are influenced by variants in many genes, each contributing a small amount to an individual’s susceptibility.

Mutations in PCSK1 were previously shown to cause one of the rare forms of obesity that are associated with mutations in a single gene.

Philippe Froguel and colleagues asked whether common variants in PCSK1 predispose to more common, complex forms of obesity, in which multiple genes likely have a role. Three variants that change the sequence of the PCSK1 protein were found more frequently in the genomes of more than 13,000 obese individuals of European ancestry than in the genomes of non-obese controls. These variants were also associated increased risk of childhood obesity. PCSK1 is an enzyme that converts inactive forms of hormones that regulate energy metabolism into active forms. The authors emphasize the need to identify the specific substrates of PCSK1 that are most relevant to the control of body weight.

Author contact:

Philippe Froguel (Imperial College London, UK)
Tel: +44 208 383 3989; E-mail:


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

Nature (

[10] Genome-scale DNA methylation maps of pluripotent and differentiated cells
DOI: 10.1038/nature07107


[11] The regulated assembly of a PKCe complex controls the completion of cytokinesis
DOI: 10.1038/ncb1749

[12] Endothelial adherens junctions control tight junctions by VE-cadherin-mediated upregulation of claudin-5
DOI: 10.1038/ncb1752

[13] Regulation of TORC1 by Rag GTPases in nutrient response
DOI: 10.1038/ncb1753

[14] IQGAP3 regulates cell proliferation through the Ras/ERK signalling cascade
DOI: 10.1038/ncb1757

[15] EphrinB1 controls cell-cell junctions through the Par polarity complex
DOI: 10.1038/ncb1758

[16] A feedback loop comprising lin-28 and let-7 controls pre-let-7 maturation during neural stem-cell commitment
DOI: 10.1038/ncb1759


[17] Estimation of the available free energy in a LOV2-Ja photoswitch
DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.99


[18] Loss of Fat4 disrupts PCP signaling and oriented cell division and leads to cystic kidney disease
DOI: 10.1038/ng.179


[19] Monsoons as eddy-mediated regime transitions of the tropical overturning circulation
DOI: 10.1038/ngeo248

[20] Self-subduction of the Pangaean global plate
DOI: 10.1038/ ngeo250


[21] Identification of regulatory functions for 4-1BB and 4-1BBL in myelopoiesis and the development of dendritic cells
DOI: 10.1038/ni.1632

[22] Superoxide dismutase 1 regulates caspase-1 and endotoxic shock
DOI: 10.1038/ni.1633


[23] Control of fluidity and miscibility of a binary liquid mixture by the liquid-liquid transition
DOI: 10.1038/nmat2225


[24] Chip-NMR biosensor for detection and molecular analysis of cells
DOI: 10.1038/nm.1711

[25] Mouse embryonic stem cell-based functional assay to evaluate mutations in BRCA2
DOI: 10.1038/nm.1719


[26] Alta-Cyclic: a self-optimizing base caller for next-generation sequencing
DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.1230

[27] Dynamic multiple-target tracing to probe spatiotemporal cartography of cell membranes
DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.1233


[28] Ultrasonically driven nanomechanical single-electron shuttle
DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2008.178

[29] Formation and enhanced biocidal activity of water-dispersable organic nanoparticles
DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2008.188


[30] Manipulating critical period closure across different sectors of the primary auditory cortex
DOI: 10.1038/nn.2144

[31] Task difficulty modulates the activity of specific neuronal populations in primary visual cortex
DOI: 10.1038/nn.2147

Nature PHYSICS (

[32] Charge-density-wave origin of cuprate checkerboard visualized by scanning tunnelling microscopy
DOI: 10.1038/nphys1021

[33] Testing quantum correlations versus single-particle properties within Leggett’s model and beyond
DOI: 10.1038/nphys1020

[34] Sisyphus cooling and amplification by a superconducting qubit
DOI: 10.1038/nphys1019


[35] Antisense transcripts are targets for activating small RNAs
DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.1444

[36] Eukaryotic translation initiation machinery can operate in a bacterial-like mode without eIF2
DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.1445


***The following paper will be published online on the Nature Biotechnology website on Tuesday 01 July at 2000 London time (BST) / 1500 US Eastern time, and therefore under embargo until this time. All other material on this press release remains under embargo until Sunday 06 July at 1800 London time (BST) / 1300 US Eastern time.***

[37] A drug-inducible transgenic system for direct reprogramming of multiple somatic cell types
DOI: 10.1038/nbt.1483



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.

Innsbruck: 34
Vienna: 4

Leuven: 9

London: 35
Nova Scotia: 20
Toronto: 18
Victoria: 20

Beijing: 32

Aarhus: 9
Copenhagen: 9

Bobigny: 9
Kremlin Bicetre: 9
Lille: 9
Marseille: 27
Paris: 9, 18
Toulouse: 9
Tours: 9

Berlin: 16, 22
Frankfurt am Main: 12
Jena: 34
Karlsruhe: 34
Leipzig: 9
Munich: 28
Wurzburg: 18

Milan: 12

Ibaraki: 3
Kyoto: 14
Mishima: 6
Nagoya: 32
Osaka: 6, 14
Sendai: 6
Tokyo: 6, 23
Toyama: 3

Delft: 34

Oslo: 20

Moscow: 36

Singapore: 33

Bratislava: 34

Gyeonggi-do: 21
Gyeongsan: 13
Kyonggi-do: 21
Ulsan: 21

Madrid: 20
Salamanca: 20

Gothenburg: 9

Epalinges: 4
Geneva: 33
Winterthur: 9
Zurich: 4

Cambridge: 25
Liverpool: 29
London: 9, 11
Wirral: 29

Phoenix: 31
Carlsbad: 35
La Jolla: 13
Menlo Park: 1
Pasadena: 2, 19
San Diego: 21
San Francisco: 30
Santa Barbara: 1
Stanford: 8
Boulder: 19
Storrs: 31
District of Columbia
Washington: 15
Atlanta: 5, 21
Ames: 32
Frederick: 15, 25
Boston: 4, 10, 24
Cambridge: 10, 24, 32, 37
Charlestown: 4, 10
Worcester: 6
Ann Arbor: 5, 7
Grand Rapids: 5
Minneapolis: 13
Jackson: 30
St Louis: 6
New Jersey
Piscataway: 2
New York
Buffalo: 2
Cold Spring Harbor: 26
New York: 31
Tarrytown: 12
Athens: 20
Cleveland: 7
Bryn Mawr: 20
Pittsburgh: 5
University Park: 1
Dallas: 17, 35


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Nature Chemical Biology (Boston)
Andrea Garvey
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Nature Genetics (New York)
Orli Bahcall
Tel: +1 212 726 9311; E-mail:

Nature Geoscience (London)
Heike Langenberg
Tel: +44 20 7843 4042; E-mail:

Nature Immunology (New York)
Laurie Dempsey
Tel: +1 212 726 9372; E-mail:

Nature Materials (London)
Alison Stoddart
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Nature Medicine (New York)
Juan Carlos Lopez
Tel: +1 212 726 9325; E-mail:

Nature Methods (New York)
Hugh Ash
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Nature Nanotechnology (London)
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Nature Neuroscience (New York)
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Keywords associated to this article: Forecasting earthquakes aftershocks, photons, terrahertz telescopes, increased rice yield, EGFR, skin cancer, PPAR-gamma, autophagy, intracellular bacteria, muscle disease imaging, obesity
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