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Article Released Sun-25th-January-2009 18:50 GMT
Contact: Ruth Institution: Nature Publishing Group
 The Solar System’s oldest zircon

Summaries of newsworthy papers appearing in Nature and Nature Research Journals including: Gene variants associated with risk of psoriasis, Hedgehog blocker thwarts cancer stem cells, Future oceans low in oxygen? and Nanotechnology: Read the small print.


For papers that will be published online on 25 January 2009
This press release is copyrighted to the Nature journals mentioned below.

This press release contains:

· Summaries of newsworthy papers:

Geoscience: The Solar System’s oldest zircon
Genetics: Gene variants associated with risk of psoriasis
Nature: Hedgehog blocker thwarts cancer stem cells
Geoscience: Future oceans low in oxygen?
And finally ... Nanotechnology: Read the small print

· 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] Geoscience: The Solar System’s oldest zircon
DOI: 10.1038/ngeo417

The oldest known zircon mineral from any major planetary body, including Earth, has been found on the surface of the Moon. At 4,417 million years old, the microscopic zircon crystal provides an important landmark in the history of the Moon’s surface, according to a paper online this week in Nature Geoscience.

Alexander Nemchin and colleagues measured the lead and uranium isotopes contained in the tiny grain to determine the age of crystal formation. Zircons are minerals composed of zirconium and silica, and are formed through the cooling of molten and heated rocks. The Moon is generally believed to have formed through a collision between Earth and a Mars-sized asteroid, which formed a Moon covered by a pool of magma. As zircons should have formed when about 90 per cent of this lunar magma ocean solidified, the age shows that this degree of solidification was reached about 100 million years after the Moon’s formation.

Author contact:
Alexander Nemchin (Curtin University, Perth, Australia)
Tel: +61 8 9266 2445; E-mail:

[2], [3] & [4] Genetics: Gene variants associated with risk of psoriasis
DOI: 10.1038/ng.310
DOI: 10.1038/ng.311
DOI: 10.1038/ng.313

Scientists have identified several new genetic variants that affect risk of psoriasis, a common inflammatory disease of the skin and joints, according to three studies published online this week in Nature Genetics.

Psoriasis affects approximately 1% of individuals, and is usually characterized by red scaly patches on the skin. Gonçalo Abecasis and colleagues carried out a genome-wide association study of affected individuals of European ancestry, and report association with seven genes, five of which cluster in two pathways. These pathways involve signaling by the IL-23 and NF-kappaB proteins, and antibodies targeting them have proven to be effective treatments for many individuals with the disease.

Xue-Jun Zhang and colleagues carried out a genome-wide association study of Chinese individuals with psoriasis, and report variants within the LCE cluster as protecting against the disease.

A third study by Xavier Estivill and colleagues shows that individuals in whom two of the LCE genes are deleted are at higher risk of psoriasis. They show that LCE proteins are induced in normal skin by disruption of the skin barrier, suggesting that compromised skin barrier function after injury may predispose to psoriasis.

Author contacts:

Gonçalo Abecasis (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA) Author paper [2]
Tel: +1 734 763 4901; E-mail:

Xue-Jun Zhang (Anhui Medical University, Hefei, Anhui, China) Author paper [3]
Tel: +86 551 5161002; E-mail:

Xavier Estivill (Centre for Genomic Regulation, Barcelona, Spain) Author paper [4]
Tel: +34 933160159; E-mail:

[5] Nature: Hedgehog blocker thwarts cancer stem cells
DOI: 10.1038/nature07737

Drugs that block the hedgehog signalling pathway may prove useful in treating chronic myelogenous leukaemia (CML), a study in Nature suggests.

The hedgehog signalling pathway helps to maintain leukaemia stem cells, which are the very cells that spread the disease, Tannishtha Reya and colleagues report. When a small inhibitory molecule is used to disrupt the pathway in a mouse model, the cancer stem cells become depleted.

Hedgehog, more commonly known for its role in embryonic patterning, has been implicated in several cancers, including CML. The blood cancer is commonly treated with a drug called imatinib, but CML stem cells seem to be resistant to the therapy and CML cells can acquire drug resistance due to additional mutations. Therefore imatinib often stalls but does not cure the disease. The small molecule used in this study, cyclopamine, targets normal and drug-resistant CML cells and stem cells, raising hopes that molecules like this will be useful in CML treatment.

Author contacts:
Tannishtha Reya (Duke University, Durham, NC, USA)
Tel: +1 919 613 8756; E-mail:

[6] Geoscience: Future oceans low in oxygen?
DOI: 10.1038/ngeo420

Continuously high greenhouse gas emissions could lead to long-term oxygen depletion in the global ocean, potentially with significant negative effects on fish and other marine animals for thousands of years.

Online in Nature Geoscience this week, Gary Shaffer and colleagues simulate the effects of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions with a low-complexity Earth system model for 100,000 years into the future. They evaluate two emissions scenarios - moderate and high emissions - used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In their simulations the surface ocean loses oxygen mainly in response to warming, through a decrease in the solubility of the gas in seawater. However, the deep ocean is also affected - a result of a slower overturning circulation, compared with today’s climate, which brings oxygenated surface waters to depth.

The researchers conclude that substantial reductions in fossil-fuel use over the next few generations are needed to avoid extensive ocean oxygen depletion.

Author contact:
Gary Shaffer (University of Copenhagen, Denmark)
Tel: +45 3532 0612; E-mail:

[7] And finally - Nanotechnology: Read the small print
DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2008.415

Scientists have devised a method for ‘writing’ on a surface using molecular holograms and electron waves. The method is demonstrated online in Nature Nanotechnology this week.

Many experiments in nanotechnology involve placing individual atoms or molecules on a surface with a device called a scanning tunnelling microscope (STM). Indeed the power of the STM was famously demonstrated in 1990 when two researchers spelt out IBM with 35 xenon atoms on a nickel surface. It was thought that the need to have enough distance between the atoms or molecules to stop them reacting with each other would limit the amount of information that could be written on a surface.

Hari Manoharan and co-workers show that it is possible to exceed this limit by using the STM to position single molecules on a surface so they form a hologram, rather than using it to write directly on the surface. A conventional hologram uses light waves to store and project three-dimensional images that can be seen by the eye. The molecular hologram, on the other hand, relies on electronic wave functions to create images in two spatial dimensions and one energy dimension that can be 'read' with the STM. Using this hologram, the researchers were able to create and detect objects with features as small as ~0.3 nanometres, allowing them to write letters that occupy only half the area taken up by the smallest letters written directly onto the surface with metal atoms.

Author contact:
Hari Manoharan (Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA)
Tel: +1 650 723 7263; E-mail:


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

Nature (

[8] Widespread bidirectional promoters are the major source of cryptic transcripts in yeast
DOI: 10.1038/nature07747

[9] Bidirectional promoters generate pervasive transcription in yeast
DOI: 10.1038/nature07728

[10] Post-transcriptional processing generates a diversity of 59-modified long and short RNAs
DOI: 10.1038/nature07759


[11] Prediction of high-responding peptides for targeted protein assays by mass spectrometry
DOI: 10.1038/nbt.1524

[12] System-wide molecular evidence for phenotypic buffering in Arabidopsis
DOI: 10.1038/ng.308


[13] Generation of intermediate-depth earthquakes by self-localizing thermal runaway
DOI: 10.1038/ngeo419

[14] The influence of climate on the tectonic evolution of mountain belts
DOI: 10.1038/ngeo413


[15] Regulation of lymphoid versus myeloid fate ‘choice’ by the transcription factor Mef2c
DOI: 10.1038/ni.1694

[16] The gene encoding early growth response 2, a target of the transcription factor NFAT, is required for the development and maturation of natural killer T cells
DOI: 10.1038/ni.1696


[17] Ternary Pt/Rh/SnO2 electrocatalysts for oxidizing ethanol to CO2
DOI: 10 1038/nmat2359

[18] Conduction at domain walls in oxide multiferroics
DOI: 10 1038/nmat2373

[19] Shear-induced anisotropic plastic flow from body-centred-cubic tantalum before melting
DOI: 10 1038/nmat2375


[20] Regulatory T cells are key cerebroprotective immunomodulators in acute experimental stroke
DOI: 10.1038/nm.1927

[21] De novo expression of Trpm4 initiates secondary hemorrhage in spinal cord injury
DOI: 10.1038/nm.1899


[22] A bright and photostable photoconvertible fluorescent protein
DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.1296

[23] Photoactivatable mCherry for high-resolution two-color fluorescence microscopy
DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.1298


[24] Real-time magnetic resonance imaging and quantification of lipoprotein metabolism in vivo using nanocrystals
DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2008.405

[25] Observation of the smallest metal nanotube with a square cross-section
DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2008.414

[26] On-chip cooling by superlattice-based thin-film thermoelectrics
DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2008.417


[27] Dopamine modulates an mGluR5-mediated depolarization underlying prefrontal persistent activity
DOI: 10.1038/nn.2245

[28] A chloride conductance in VGLUT1 underlies maximal glutamate loading into synaptic vesicles
DOI: 10.1038/nn.2248

[29] A critical role for PSD-95/AKAP interactions in endocytosis of synaptic AMPA receptors
DOI: 10.1038/nn.2249

[30] UNC-129 regulates the balance between UNC-40 dependent and independent UNC-5 signaling pathways
DOI: 10.1038/nn.2256


[31] Four-wave-mixing stopped light in hot atomic rubidium vapour
DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2008.290

[32] Determination of supramolecular structure and spatial distribution of protein complexes in living cells
DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2008.291

[33] Observation of optical-fibre Kerr nonlinearity at the single-photon level
DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2008.292

[34] Fourier transform spectroscopy with a laser frequency comb
DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2008.293

Nature PHYSICS (

[35] Spin-resolved quantum-dot resonance fluorescence
DOI: 10 1038/nphys1182

[36] Resonantly driven coherent oscillations in a solid-state quantum emitter
DOI: 10 1038/nphys1184

[37] Noisy Kondo impurities
DOI: 10 1038/nphys1186

[38] Imaging nanoscale Fermi-surface variations in an inhomogeneous superconductor
DOI: 10 1038/nphys1197


[39] Recognition of atypical 5’ splice sites by shifted base-pairing to U1 snRNA
DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.1546

[40] Polyubiquitin substrates allosterically activate their own degradation by the 26S proteasome
DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.1547



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.

Bentley: 1
Parkville: 15

Leuven: 21

Sao Paulo: 25

Quebec: 20
St John: 3
Toronto: 3, 30, 32

Concepcion: 6

Anhui: 2
Beijing: 2, 38
Chongqing: 2
Hefei: 35
Heilongjiang: 2
Liaoning: 2
Shandong: 2
Shanghai: 2
Tianjin: 2
Xinjiang: 2

Copenhagen: 6
Humlebaek: 6

Evry: 3, 4
Gif-sur-Yvette: 8, 37
Orsay: 34
Paris: 8, 37

Berlin: 40
Cologne: 12
Dresden: 18, 24
Goettingen: 28, 29
Hamburg: 24
Heidelberg: 8, 9, 20, 35
Homburg: 21
Kiel: 3, 13
Mainz: 20
Munster: 1, 13

Crete: 27

Rome: 4

Miyagi: 33
Nagoya: 38
Saitama: 33
Tokyo: 28

Groningen: 12
Haren: 12
Nijmegen: 4
Wageningen: 12

Oslo: 13

Poznan: 17

Singapore: 2

Seoul: 37

Barcelona: 4

Geneva: 9

HsinChu: 18

Cambridge: 9, 35
Harpenden: 12
Nottingham: 4
Oxford: 9

Chandler: 26
Tempe: 14, 26
Fayetteville: 36
Alameda: 3
Berkeley: 18
La Jolla: 5
Livermore: 19
Palo Alto: 29
Pasadena: 31
San Francisco: 3, 4
Santa Barbara: 18
Santa Clara: 10
Stanford: 5, 7, 16
Groton: 5
South Windsor: 17
Newark: 17
Orlando: 36
Tallahassee: 22
Atlanta: 3
Chicago: 27
Ames: 38
Baltimore: 21
Bethesda: 3, 23
Gaithersburg: 36
Boston: 11, 16
Cambridge: 11, 15, 38
Ann Arbor: 3, 4, 32
Detroit: 3
St Louis: 3, 4
New York
Bronx: 23
Cold Spring Harbor: 10, 39
Honeoye Falls: 17
New York: 10, 17
Rochester: 31
Upton: 17, 38
North Carolina
Durham: 5, 26
Research Triangle: 26
Cincinnati: 15
Columbus: 27
Oak Ridge: 18
Austin: 36
Dallas: 3, 27
Houston: 1
Salt Lake City: 3
Ashburn: 22
Seattle: 4
Milwaukee: 32


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

Rachel Twinn (Nature London)
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 Biotechnology (New York)
Peter Hare
Tel: +1 212 726 9284; 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: Zircon, psoriasis, hedgehog signalling pathway, ocean oxygen depletion, nanotechnology,writing
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