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Article Released Sun-10th-August-2008 18:52 GMT
Contact: Ruth Institution: Nature Publishing Group
 Staying lean without a diet

Newsworthy papers include Cleaning up the house, The ocean’s surprisingly hungry algae, Made in yeast, Genetic risk factor for chronic inflammatory disorder, Rats weigh up the evidence, An antibacterial catapult, Adopting an orphan receptor and Better action anticipation in elite basketball players


For papers that will be published online on 10 August 2008

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

This press release contains:

· Summaries of newsworthy papers:

Neuroscience: Staying lean without a diet

Medicine: Cleaning up the house

Nature: The ocean’s surprisingly hungry algae

Chemical Biology: Made in yeast

Genetics: Genetic risk factor for chronic inflammatory disorder

Nature: Rats weigh up the evidence

Medicine: An antibacterial catapult

Chemical Biology: Adopting an orphan receptor

Neuroscience: Better action anticipation in elite basketball players

· 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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[1] Neuroscience: Staying lean without a diet
DOI: 10.1038/nn.2167

A study published online in Nature Neuroscience reports a strain of mice that are lean and resistant to obesity. By doing so, the study also offers valuable clues to the neuronal circuit critical to control food intake and body weight, and suggests a possible target for the development of drugs to combat obesity.

Bradford Lowell and colleagues at Harvard Medical School created transgenic mice that specifically lacked the ability to release the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA in a subset of neurons in the hypothalamus — the area of the brain important for controlling processes such as hunger, thirst and body temperature. These animals did not become obese despite being put on a high-fat diet, and were also resistant to the effects of an appetite stimulating hormone.

As well as showing that normal energy balance requires inhibitory neurotransmission in the hypothalamus, this study also suggests a possible target for developing drugs for obesity.

Author contact:
Bradford B. Lowell (Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA)
Tel: +1 617 667 4951; E-mail:

[2] Medicine: Cleaning up the house
DOI: 10.1038/nm.1851

Boosting the activity of a cellular quality-control mechanism may prevent the functional decay associated with ageing, according to a study published online this week in Nature Medicine.

Chaperone-mediated autophagy (CMA) is a mechanism for protein degradation in lysosomes – units within the cell that contain digestive enzymes. CMA contributes to the removal of damaged proteins as part of a cell’s quality-control system and declines as an organism ages. This failure in cellular clearance has been proposed to contribute to the ageing process.

Cong Zhang and Ana Maria Cuervo corrected the CMA defect in the liver of old mice, improving its function. They genetically modified mice in order to regulate the amount of a lysosomal molecule crucial for CMA. By maintaining CMA activity until advanced ages, they observed reduced intracellular accumulation of damaged proteins and improved liver function.

The relevance of this mechanism to ageing in other organs remains to be tested, but these results indicate that modulation of CMA might be effective in countering aspects of the functional decline observed in old age.

Author contact:
Ana Maria Cuervo (Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY, USA)
Tel: +1 718 430 2689; E-mail:

[3] Nature: The ocean’s surprisingly hungry algae
DOI: 10.1038/nature07236

Picophytoplankton in the ocean have a hitherto unsuspected appetite for marine bacteria, report marine ecologists in this week’s Nature. These tiny algae may therefore have a key role in controlling bacteria levels in the ocean.

The smallest species of algae are responsible for more than half of the bacteria-grazing observed in temperate waters, report Mikhail Zubkov and Glen Tarran, who studied ecosystems in the North Atlantic Ocean aboard the UK research vessel Discovery. They had previously been thought to gain nutrients purely through photosynthesis — converting dissolved carbon dioxide into living material with the help of sunlight.

The fact that these tiny phytoplankton have two different feeding modes is a surprise. In the laboratory, many small algal species grow purely by photosynthesis; perhaps the nutrient-scarce waters of the Atlantic force them into eating bacteria as well, the researchers suggest. If the effect is global, it will have to be factored into ecologists’ considerations of how the very bottom rungs of the marine food chain are controlled. What’s more, it could also have implications for our understanding of how the carbon cycle is regulated.

Author contact:
Mikhail Zubkov (National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, UK)
Tel: +44 23 8059 6335; E-mail:

Glen Tarran (Plymouth Marine Laboratory, UK)
Tel: +44 1752 633100; E-mail:

[4] Chemical Biology: Made in yeast
DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.105

Scientists have developed a new way to produce a group of plant compounds, that include nicotine and codeine, in yeast according to a study published online this week in Nature Chemical Biology.

These molecules, known as alkaloids, are often too complex to produce chemically and are difficult to extract from natural sources. This research therefore provides access to many previously unattainable molecules that could have therapeutic potential.

Kristy Hawkins and Christina Smolke inserted a series of plant enzymes into yeast, enabling them to make reticuline, a major precursor for alkaloid molecules. By mixing and matching additional plant and human enzymes, the authors generated yeast that produced precursors of sanguinarine – a toothpaste additive with antiplaque properties – berberine – an antibiotic – and morphine – a pain reliever. They also used an enzyme ‘tuning’ strategy to maximize alkaloid formation and minimize resource costs to the yeast.

This engineered yeast will facilitate the creation of new alkaloids that do not exist in nature and may also provide the foundation for an alternative approach to commercial production of alkaloid therapeutics.

Author contact:
Christina D. Smolke (California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA)
Tel: +1 626 395 2680; E-mail:

[5] Genetics: Genetic risk factor for chronic inflammatory disorder
DOI: 10.1038/ng.198

A genetic variant that increases risk of the chronic inflammatory disorder sarcoidosis has been identified, according to a study published online this week in Nature Genetics.

Sarcoidosis can affect almost any organ, although the small inflammatory nodules that accompany the disease are most often found in the lungs or lymph nodes, leading to shortness of breath, fatigue, and weight loss, among other symptoms. Stefan Schreiber and colleagues carried out the first genome-wide scan for variants that predispose to sarcoidosis.

They report that a variant adjacent to the gene ANXA11 is overrepresented in individuals with the disease. ANXA11 encodes the protein annexin 11, which is a member of a gene family that has been implicated in other inflammatory disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. The authors speculate that depletion of annexin 11, a protein that ordinarily promotes cell death, might allow for the unwanted persistence of activated inflammatory cells in the body.

Author contact:
Stefan Schreiber (Christian Albrechts University, Kiel, Germany)
Tel: +49 431 597 2350; E-mail:

[6] Nature: Rats weigh up the evidence
DOI: 10.1038/nature07200

The humble lab rat may be savvier than previously thought, a Nature paper suggests. The animals seem to weigh up how confident they feel about making particular decisions, a skill some believe to require awareness of their own thought processes and which was thought to be specific to primates.

Adam Kepecs and colleagues combined neural recordings and behavioural studies in rats with computer models of decision making. They trained the animals to recognize certain odour mixtures but altered the complexity of the task by varying the concentration of different smells in each mix. The activity of single nerve cells in one particular brain region, the orbitofrontal cortex, closely matched task difficulty and predictions from theoretical models, suggesting that rats may compute and use estimates of their own confidence when making complicated perceptual decisions.

Author contact:
Adam Kepecs (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, NY, USA)
Tel: +1 516 367 6878; E-mail:

[7] Medicine: An antibacterial catapult
DOI: 10.1038/nm.1855

Scientists have discovered an immune cell that fights bacteria by throwing mitochondrial DNA in a catapult-like manner, shows a study published this week in Nature Medicine.

Eosinophils are white blood cells that help fight infections, but their exact function in immunity remains unclear. Hans-Uwe Simon and colleagues now show that bacteria can activate eosinophils to release mitochondrial DNA, independently of eosinophil death. Notably, the process of DNA release occurs rapidly in a catapult-like manner—in less than one second. In the extracellular space, the mitochondrial DNA binds proteins to form extracellular structures that trap and kill bacteria both in vitro and, under inflammatory conditions, in vivo.

These results reveal a previously undescribed mechanism of eosinophil-mediated immune responses that might be crucial for preventing the host from uncontrolled invasion of bacteria.

Author contact:
Hans-Uwe Simon (University of Bern, Switzerland)
Tel: +41 31 632 3281; E-mail:

[8] Chemical Biology: Adopting an orphan receptor
DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.106

An ‘orphan’ receptor with implications in blood glucose regulation and cell death is shown to be responsive to a small molecule in a study online this week in Nature Chemical Biology. The discovery reveals a compound that can be used to investigate receptor function and may also serve as inspiration for drug development efforts.

Nur77 is a receptor which has a site to bind a small molecule but no such molecules have been identified, making the protein an ‘orphan’. However, the protein is active despite this, leading to the conclusion that the protein would not be affected by a small molecule partner at all. Thus, it came as a surprise when Qiao Wu and colleagues identified a compound, cytosporone B, that binds to Nur77 and promotes its normal activity in isolated cells and in mice.

Nur77 affects the expression of many genes, including some that affect blood glucose levels and others that cause cell death. The binding of cytosporone B to Nur77 increased blood glucose levels and, after longer periods, caused apoptosis, a form of cell death. This new compound will therefore be helpful in understanding these complicated cellular processes and may serve as inspiration for drug development efforts.

Author contact:
Qiao Wu (Xiamen University, Xiamen, China)
Tel: +86 592 218 7959; E-mail:

[9] Neuroscience: Better action anticipation in elite basketball players
DOI: 10.1038/nn.2182

Elite basketball players are better than other basketball related professionals and novices at predicting whether a shot will land in or out of the basket, and this difference is reflected in their action preparedness, finds a study published online this week in Nature Neuroscience.

Salvatore Aglioti and his colleagues used a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to compare professional basketball players to basketball coaches and sports journalists, who had comparable experience watching games but were not as experienced in playing the game, as well as novices.

All of the subjects watched a video clip of a player throwing a ball at the basket, and this clip was interrupted before the ball reached the basket. The basketball players were better at predicting whether the ball would land in and out of the basket, and crucially, this difference emerged around the time the ball was seen to leave the player's hand, suggesting that it is based on reading the player's body posture, rather than following the trajectory of the ball.

Recording muscle twitches evoked by TMS over the primary motor cortex is a method of measuring neuronal excitability and motor preparedness for an action. Using this measure, the authors also found that the players had greater hand and forearm TMS-evoked muscle activity when viewing photos of throws which eventually landed outside the basket.

These results suggest that sporting excellence may be related to the fine-tuning of specific anticipatory brain mechanisms that could help predict the outcome of others' actions.

Author contact:
Salvatore Aglioti (Universite de Roma, Rome, Italy)
Tel: +39 06 4991 7601; E-mail:

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

Nature (

[10] Strigolactone inhibition of shoot branching
DOI: 10.1038/nature07271

[11] Inhibition of shoot branching by new terpenoid plant hormones
DOI: 10.1038/nature07272


[12] Identification of genes that regulate epithelial cell migration using an siRNA screening approach
DOI: 10.1038/ncb1762

[13] Plk1-dependent phosphorylation of FoxM1 regulates a transcriptional programme required for mitotic progression
DOI: 10.1038/ncb1767

[14] The adaptor protein of the anaphase promoting complex Cdh1 is essential in maintaining replicative lifespan and in learning and memory
DOI: 10.1038/ncb1768

[15] Reduced cytosolic protein synthesis suppresses mitochondrial degeneration
DOI: 10.1038/ncb1769

[16] p53 mRNA controls p53 activity by managing Mdm2 functions
DOI: 10.1038/ncb1770

[17] Ripples from neighbouring transcription
DOI: 10.1038/ncb1771


[18] Evolutionary toggling of the MAPT 17q21.31 inversion region
DOI: 10.1038/ng.193

[19] Mutations of CASK cause an X-linked brain malformation phenotype with microcephaly and hypoplasia of the brainstem and cerebellum
DOI: 10.1038/ng.194

[20] A developmental framework for dissected leaf formation in the Arabidopsis relative Cardamine hirsuta
DOI: 10.1038/ng.189


[21] Community dynamics of anaerobic bacteria in deep petroleum reservoirs
DOI: 10.1038/ngeo260

[22] Persistent summer expansion of the Atlantic Warm Pool during glacial abrupt cold events
DOI: 10.1038/ngeo277


[23] The kinases MSK1 and MSK2 act as negative regulators of Toll-like receptor signaling
DOI 10.1038/ni.1644


[24] Experimental visualization of lithium diffusion in LixFePO4
DOI: 10.1038/nmat2251

[25] Drug-sensing hydrogels for the inducible release of biopharmaceuticals
DOI: 10.1038/nmat2250


[26] A genetically encoded calcium indicator for chronic in vivo two-photon imaging

[27] Single-spike detection in vitro and in vivo with a genetic Ca2+ sensor

[28] Holographic photolysis of caged neurotransmitters


[29] Measurements of near-ultimate strength for multiwalled carbon nanotubes and irradiation-induced crosslinking improvements
DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2008.211

[30] High-yield production of graphene by liquid-phase exfoliation of graphite
DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2008.215

[31] Quantum-dot-assisted characterization of microtubule rotations during cargo transport
DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2008.216


[32] Emergence of binocular functional properties in a monocular neural circuit
DOI: 10.1038/nn.2166

[33] Serine phosphorylation of ephrinB2 regulates trafficking of synaptic AMPA receptors
DOI: 10.1038/nn.2171

[34] Pore region of TRPV3 ion channel is specifically required for heat-activation
DOI: 10.1038/nn.2169

[35] Circadian oscillation of hippocampal MAPK activity and cAMP: implications for memory persistence
DOI: 10.1038/nn.2174


[36] Stable generation of GeV-class electron beams from self-guided laser–plasma channels
DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2008.155

[37] An on-chip near-field terahertz probe and detector
DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2008.157

Nature PHYSICS (

[38] Bias-driven high-power microwave emission from MgO-based tunnel magnetoresistance devices
DOI: 10.1038/nphys1036

[39] Thermodynamic signature of growing amorphous order in glass-forming liquids
DOI: 10.1038/nphys1050

[40] Quantized vortices in an exciton–polariton condensate
DOI: 10.1038/nphys1051

[41] Ultrafast control of donor-bound electron spins with single detuned optical pulses
DOI: 10.1038/nphys1052


[42] Molecular functions of the histone acetyltransferase chaperone complex Rtt109–Vps75
DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.1459

[43] SRP RNA controls a conformational switch regulating the SRP–SRP receptor interaction
DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.1467

[44] Histone chaperone specificity in Rtt109 activation
DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.1480


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.

La Plata: 39

Brisbane: 10
Melbourne: 12
Perth: 21

Antwerp: 40

Fujian: 8

Aarhus: 23

Castanet-Tolosan: 10
Gif-sur-Yvette: 39
Grenoble: 40
Paris: 16, 28, 39
Toulouse: 10
Versailles: 10

Berlin: 19
Borstel: 5
Braunschweig: 19
Bremerhaven: 22
Cologne: 21
Dresden: 31
Frankfurt am Main: 33
Freiburg: 5, 19
Goettingen: 27
Hamburg: 19
Heidelberg: 27
Kiel: 5, 22
Lubeck: 5
Martinsried: 26, 33
Munchen-Martensried: 27
Regensburg: 19
Tubingen: 27

Dublin: 30

Bari: 18
Pordenone: 9
Rome: 9, 39
Trento: 39, 40
Verona: 9

Kawasaki: 38
Kyoto: 17
Osaka: 11, 38
Saitama: 37
Sendai: 24
Tokyo: 11, 41
Tsukuba: 38
Utsunomiya: 11
Yokohama: 11, 24, 36

Amsterdam: 26
Utrecht: 22
Wageningen: 10

Oeiras: 6

Gwangju: 36

Uppsala: 18

Basel: 25
Bern: 7
Lausanne: 40
Olten: 7
Zurich: 7, 25

Taipei: 18

Cambridge: 30
Dundee: 23
Glasgow: 41
London: 18, 26
Oxford: 20, 30
Plymouth: 3
Southampton: 3


Scottsdale: 7

Berkeley: 42
La Jolla: 27, 34
Los Angeles: 28
Palo Alto: 41
Pasadena: 4
San Diego: 34
San Francisco: 43
Stanford: 41

Boulder: 36
Fort Collins: 44
Lafayette: 12

New Haven: 13

Argonne: 29
Chicago: 19
Evanston: 29

Bethesda: 19

Boston: 1, 12, 32
Cambridge: 6, 18, 32, 36
Charlestown: 23
Worcester: 42

East Lansing: 35

Minneapolis: 19
Rochester: 13

St Louis: 18

New Mexico
Albuquerque: 13

New York
Bronx: 2
Cold Spring Harbor: 6
New York: 14, 33
Syracuse: 15

Portland: 7

Philadelphia: 19

Dallas: 1, 15
Houston: 14

Logan: 8
Salt Lake City: 7

Seattle: 6, 18, 35

Madison: 42


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Tel: +44 20 7843 4658; E-mail:

Katherine Anderson (Nature New York)
Tel: +1 212 726 9231; E-mail:

Ruth Francis (Head of Press, 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 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 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
Tel: +44 20 7843 4593; E-mail:

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

Nature Methods (New York)
Hugh Ash
Tel: +1 212 726 9627; E-mail:

Nature Nanotechnology (London)
Peter Rodgers
Tel: +44 20 7014 4019; Email:

Nature Neuroscience (New York)
Kalyani Narasimhan
Tel: +1 212 726 9319; 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: Neuroscience, Medicine, Nature, Chemical Biology, Genetics, Medicine, Chemical Biology
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