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Article Released Sun-13th-September-2009 18:15 GMT
Contact: Ruth Institution: Nature Publishing Group
 Geoscience: Older origin of oxygen?

Summaries of newsworthy papers in Nature and Nature Research Journals including: Genetics: Hepatitis C treatment response, Climate: Understanding the Antarctic transition, Geoscience: Well-behaved geomagnetic field and Neuroscience: Itching to quit


For papers that will be published online on 13 September 2009. This press release is copyrighted to the Nature journals mentioned below.

This press release contains:

· Summaries of newsworthy papers:

Geoscience: Older origin of oxygen?
Genetics: Hepatitis C treatment response
Nature: Climate: Understanding the Antarctic transition
Geoscience: Well-behaved geomagnetic field
And finally... Neuroscience: Itching to quit

· 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: Older origin of oxygen?

DOI: 10.1038/ngeo633

The presence of free oxygen in the oceans occurred at least 200 million years before oxygen began to build up in the Earth’s atmosphere, reports a paper online in Nature Geoscience. This finding supports previous controversial studies that have suggested that organisms capable of producing oxygen through photosynthesis appeared hundreds of millions of years before the accumulation of free oxygen in the atmosphere 2.3 billion years ago.

Linda Godfrey and Paul Falkowski reconstructed the ancient nitrogen cycle using nitrogen isotopes from the organic matter preserved in two- to three-billion-year-old rocks from South Africa. They found evidence of nitrogen cycles that could have taken place only in the presence of free oxygen, beginning about 2.7 billion years ago, with definitive evidence appearing 2.5 billion years ago.

They conclude that oxygen-producing organisms had evolved by at least 2.5 billion years ago, and that there was a few-hundred-million-year delay between the time oxygen was available in the oceans and its build-up in the early Earth’s atmosphere.

Author contact:

Linda Godfrey (Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA)
Tel: +1 732 932 6555 ext 243; E-mail:

Paul Falkowski (Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA)
Tel: +1 732 932 6555 ext 370; E-mail:

[2] & [3] Genetics: Hepatitis C treatment response

DOI: 10.1038/ng.447
DOI: 10.1038/ng.449

Genetic variation in an interferon gene is associated with treatment response in individuals with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV), according to two papers published online in this week’s Nature Genetics. The studies may help to inform clinical decisions for treatment.

Hepatitis C, an infectious disease affecting the liver and a leading cause of liver disease, has a worldwide prevalence of nearly 300 million. The current standard treatment procedure for chronic HCV is combined therapy with pegylated interferon-alpha and ribavirin for a period of 48 weeks. This treatment can have serious adverse side effects and only about 40-50% of individuals infected with HCV show a positive response to it.

Jacob George, Masashi Mizokami and their respective colleagues examined the genomes of hundreds of individuals receiving treatment for chronic HCV. They report genetic variants in the region of the IL28B gene are associated with treatment response. IL28B encodes an interferon-lambda that is involved with suppression of viruses including HCV. There has already been an early clinical trial for another interferon-lambda, IL29, for chronic HCV.

The current studies renew interest in therapies which involve this type of interferon, and suggest that combined treatment with interferon-alpha and interferon- lambda may prove a more effective treatment. They also highlight the potential benefits of individualized treatment, including the prediction of which patients are more likely to benefit, sparing others the cost and side effects associated with treatment.

Author contacts:

Jacob George (Westmead Millennium Institute, Westmead, Australia) Author paper [2]
Tel: +61 2 9845 6791; E-mail:

Masashi Mizokami (International Medical Center of Japan, Tokyo, Japan) Author paper [3]
Tel: +81 4 7372 3501; Email:

Thomas O’Brien (National Cancer Institute, USA) News & Views author
This author can be contacted through the NCI Office of Media Relations:
Tel: +1 301 496 6641; E-mail:

[4] Nature: Climate: Understanding the Antarctic transition

DOI: 10.1038/nature08447

The link between ice sheet development and carbon dioxide levels at the largest climatic transition of the past 65 million years is reaffirmed in this week's Nature. The study confirms a substantial decline in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels as the Antarctic ice sheet began to grow.

Around 34 million years ago, during the Eocene-Oligocene Transition (EOT), a global cooling phase began, which ended with the rapid development of ice over Antarctica and a drop in sea levels. One of climate science's most important challenges is to establish the timing and magnitude of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere relative to the evolution of the ice sheet, but this has proved difficult owing to poor sampling resolution and high uncertainties.

Paul Pearson and colleagues use boron isotopes from exceptionally well-preserved microfossils to estimate atmospheric carbon dioxide levels before, during and after the EOT. They find that carbon dioxide dipped below levels thought to generate ice sheet development but then rebounded significantly before declining again. During maximum ice sheet growth, levels were between 450 and 1,500 parts per million by volume (p.p.m.v.) with a central estimate of 760 p.p.m.v.

The results confirm the central role of carbon dioxide in the growth of the Antarctic ice sheet and provide new insights into the varying influence of different levels of carbon dioxide.

Author contact:
Paul Pearson (Cardiff University, UK)
Tel: +44 29 2087 4579; E-mail:

[5] Geoscience: Well-behaved geomagnetic field

DOI: 10.1038/ngeo622

Reversals in the Earth’s geomagnetic field 1.1 billion years ago can be explained by the same two-pole model that explains the more recent behaviour of the Earth’s magnetic field, according to a study published online in Nature Geoscience. This is in contrast to previous studies which suggest the influence of four or even eight poles during that time.

Nicholas Swanson-Hysell and colleagues revisited the volcanic rocks from the Canadian shield used in the previous studies. Tiny magnetic grains within the volcanic rocks record the orientation of the geomagnetic field at the time the rocks were erupted onto the Earth’s surface. When they looked at these records in detail, they found that the reversals were actually symmetric meaning that the geomagnetic field simply shifted from normal - like today’s field - to reverse polarity.

They conclude that previous efforts to reconstruct the geomagnetic field from North America were confused by the rapid migration of the continent towards the Equator at rates of approximately 21 to 39 cm per year. The migration of the continent also affected the orientation of the magnetic grains, masking the record of magnetic field variations.

Author contact:
Nicholas Swanson-Hysell (Princeton University, NJ, USA)
Tel: +1 609 258 0836; E-mail:

[6] And finally... Neuroscience: Itching to quit

DOI: 10.1038/nn.2379

Nicotine activates a channel known to be involved in inflammatory responses reports a study published online this week in Nature Neuroscience. This ion channel is found in the skin and the lining of the nose and mouth, and it may be the source of the irritating side effects of nicotine replacement therapies.

It had been thought that the irritation from nicotine patches and other replacement treatments resulted from the stimulation of nicotinic receptors on the nerves that convey painful stimuli from the skin and the linings of the nose and mouth. However, Talavera and colleagues report that, in mice, nicotine also directly activates TRPA1, a channel known to convey information about irritating substances and inflammatory pain. The authors also report that mice lacking TRPA1 show no irritation in response to the intra-nasal administration of nicotine.

This finding may help in the development of therapies which help stop people smoking with fewer adverse effects.

Author contact:
Karel Talavera (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium)
Tel: +32 16 330217; E-mail:


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

Nature (

[7] Spatiotemporal control of cell signalling using a light-switchable protein interaction
DOI: 10.1038/nature08446


[8] In vivo delivery of siRNA to immune cells by conjugation to a TLR9 agonist enhances antitumor immune responses
DOI: 10.1038/nbt.1564


[9] C/EBPalpha and beta couple interfollicular keratinocyte proliferation arrest to commitment and terminal differentiation
DOI: 10.1038/ncb1960

[10] Listeria monocytogenes ActA-mediated escape from autophagic recognition
DOI: 10.1038/ncb1967

[11] The non-coding RNA of the multidrug resistance-linked vault particle encodes multiple regulatory small RNAs
DOI: 10.1038/ncb1972


[12] How curved membranes recruit amphipathic helices and protein anchoring motifs
DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.213


[13] An optoelectronic nose for the detection of toxic gases
DOI: 10.1038/nchem.360

[14] An efficient approach to chiral fullerene derivatives by catalytic enantioselective 1,3-dipolar cycloadditions
DOI: 10.1038/nchem.361


[15] A tumor suppressive activity of Drosophila Polycomb genes mediated by JAK/STAT signaling
DOI: 10.1038/ng.445

[16] Polyhomeotic has a tumor suppressor activity mediated by repression of Notch signaling
DOI: 10.1038/ng.414


[17] Transcription elongation factor ELL2 directs immunoglobulin secretion in plasma cells by stimulating altered RNA processing
DOI: 10.1038/ni.1786

[18] The basic leucine zipper transcription factor E4BP4 is essential for natural killer cell development
DOI: 10.1038/ni.1787


[19] Giant magnetic-field-induced strains in polycrystalline Ni-Mn-Ga foams
DOI: 10.1038/nmat2527

[20] Hindered rolling and friction anisotropy in supported carbon nanotubes
DOI: 10.1038/nmat2529

[21] The effect of three-dimensional morphology on the efficiency of hybrid polymer solar cells
DOI: 10.1038/nmat2533

[22] The effect of nanometre-scale structure on interfacial energy
DOI: 10.1038/nmat2534


[23] Three-dimensional microscopy of the tumor microenvironment in vivo using optical frequency domain imaging
DOI: 10.1038/nm.1971

[24] Molecular signatures of disease brain endothelia provide new sites for CNS-directed enzyme therapy
DOI: 10.1038/nm.2025


[25] A Flp-nick system to study repair of a single protein-bound nick in vivo
DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.1372

[26] General proteomics strategy for quantitative protein interaction profiling in cell extracts
DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.1373


[27] Ultrahigh-density phase-change data storage without the use of heating
DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2009.260

[28] Electrochromatic carbon nanotube/polydiacetylene nanocomposite fibres
DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2009.264

[29] Towards a definition of inorganic nanoparticles from an environmental, health and safety perspective
DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2009.242

[30] Strain engineering and one-dimensional organization of metal-insulator domains in single-crystal vanadium dioxide beams
DOI: 10.1038/nnano.209.266


[31] Selective suppression of hippocampal ripples impairs spatial memory
DOI: 10.1038/nn.2384

[32] Fragmentation of grid cell maps in a multicompartment environment
DOI: 10.1038/nn.2396

[33] Coding of stimulus sequences by population responses in visual cortex
DOI: 10.1038/nn.2398

[34] AP2g regulates basal progenitor fate in a region- and layer-specific manner in the developing cortex
DOI: 10.1038/nn.2399

Nature PHYSICS (

[35] Heavy d-electron quasiparticle interference and real-space electronic structure of Sr3Ru2O7
DOI: 10.1038/nphys1397

[36] Charge-4e superconductivity from pair-density-wave order in certain high-temperature superconductors
DOI: 10.1038/nphys1389


[37] Tertiary structure checkpoint at anticodon loop modification in tRNA functional maturation
DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.1653

[38] Splice site strength-dependent activity and genetic buffering by poly-G runs
DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.1661

[39] Structural basis for autoregulation of the zinc transporter YiiP
DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.1662

[40] Following evolutionary paths to protein-protein interactions with high affinity and selectivity
DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.1670



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.

La Plata : 35

Melbourne: 2, 15
Parkville: 15
Penrith: 2
Sydney: 2
Woolloongabba: 2

Leuven: 6

Harbin: 19
Hefei: 30
Jiangsu: 28
Shanghai: 28
Suzhou: 20

Bucaramanga: 12

La Habana: 14

Aarhus: 25
Copenhagen: 12, 25, 26

Aix-en-Provence : 29
Bron: 34
Lyon: 34
Montpellier: 16
Paris: 29, 31

Aachen: 6
Berlin: 2, 19
Bonn: 2, 34
Giessen: 10
Goettingen: 34
Hamburg: 20
Martinsried: 26
Munich: 34
Neuherberg: 34
Ulm: 21

Budapest: 26

Hyderabad: 26

Jerusalem: 40
Rehovot: 40

Milan: 15
Monterotondo: 9
Pisa : 34
Torino : 2
Trieste: 20

Ehime: 3
Ibaraki: 10
Ichikawa: 3
Kanagawa: 37
Kanazawa: 3
Kawaguchi: 10
Kokubunji: 3
Kurashiki: 3
Kyoto: 3, 10
Matsumoto: 3
Nagoya: 3
Nishinomiya: 3
Osaka: 3
Saitama: 3
Sapporo: 3
Tokyo: 3, 10, 37
Yamaguchi: 3
Yonago: 3

Eindhoven: 21

Trondheim : 32

Braga : 34
Lisbon: 18

Kyungbuk: 27
Seoul: 27

Barcelona: 16
Madrid: 9, 14
San Juan de Alicante: 6

Lund: 11

Zurich: 12

Bristol: 4
Cardiff: 4
Edinburgh: 9
Leicester: 40
London: 18, 22, 33, 34
Newcastle: 2
St Andrews: 35
Swansea: 34
York: 18, 40

Birmingham: 10
Berkeley: 15, 30
Duarte: 8
Los Angeles: 28, 33, 38
Palo Alto: 13
San Francisco: 7, 32, 33
Stanford: 36
Farmington: 34
New Haven: 5
Atlanta: 20
Boise: 19
Evanston: 19
Urbana: 13, 36
Iowa City: 24
Baltimore: 8
Boston: 23
Cambridge: 5, 22, 23, 38
Ann Arbor: 22
New Jersey
Newark: 31
New Brunswick: 1
Princeton: 5
New Mexico
Los Alamos: 28
New York
Ithaca: 35
Upton: 35, 39
North Carolina
Chapel Hill: 38
Durham: 29
Raleigh: 28
Pittsburgh: 17, 29
College Station: 4


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

Rachel Twinn (Nature London)
Tel: +44 20 7843 4658; E-mail:

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

Ruth Francis (Head of Press, Nature, London)
Tel: +44 20 7843 4562; E-mail:

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

Nature Biotechnology (New York)
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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 Chemistry (London)
Stuart Cantrill
Tel: +44 20 7014 4018; E-mail:

Nature Genetics (New York)
Myles Axton
Tel: +1 212 726 9324; 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)
Vincent Dusastre
Tel: +44 20 7843 4531; 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)
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Tel: +44 20 7843 4555; E-mail:

Nature Structural & Molecular Biology (New York)
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Tel: +1 212 726 9326; E-mail:

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Keywords associated to this article: Oxygen, Hepatitis C, Geomagnietic field, Carbon dioxide, Antartic transition, Nictotine replacement therapies
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