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Article Released Sun-25th-October-2009 19:29 GMT
Contact: Ruth Institution: Nature Publishing Group
 Photonics: Mantis shrimp surprise

Summaries of newsworthy papers: Inhaled carbon nanotubes reach the lung lining, Age-related sperm mutations associated with testicular tumors, Magma below the Cascades, A Notch in lung arteries, A genetic region implicated in schizophrenia, Layered immunologic memory, Ribosome reactions, Modifying mountain river systems and Ancient Arctic palms


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

This press release contains:

· Summaries of newsworthy papers:

Photonics: Mantis shrimp surprise
Nanotechnology: Inhaled carbon nanotubes reach the lung lining
Genetics: Age-related sperm mutations associated with testicular tumors
Geoscience: Magma below the Cascades
Medicine: A Notch in lung arteries
Genetics: A genetic region implicated in schizophrenia
Immunology: Layered immunologic memory
Chemical Biology: Ribosome reactions
Geoscience: Modifying mountain river systems
And finally...Geoscience: Ancient Arctic palms

· 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] Photonics: Mantis shrimp surprise

DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2009.189

By emulating the eyes of mantis shrimp - which are naturally tuned to see different polarizations of light - scientists may be able to improve the performance of man-made polarization optics. A study into the eyes of mantis shrimp, published online this week in Nature Photonics, provides a starting ground for such designs and in principle could benefit future data storage systems, such as CDs and DVDs, and data projectors.

Wave plates are important optical components that are used to change the polarization of light and exploited in many forms of optical equipment. The problem is that designing wave plates to work for many different colours of light - which correlate to different wavelengths - rather than for a single colour is exceptionally difficult.

Nicholas Roberts and colleagues discovered that the wave plate in the mantis shrimp’s eye has an elegant design which includes an incredible level of achromaticity, meaning that it performs well at all visible wavelengths, ranging from blue to red - a task that has eluded man-made designs. The wave plate is formed in the photoreceptors in the mantis shrimp’s eye, which contain a densely packed bundle of specially designed tubes. The study reveals that it is this specific geometry and material of the tubes that lead to the incredible performance of the wave plate.

The researchers hope that optical designers will now be able to copy the design to create man-made wave plates with much better performance than currently available.

Author contact:
Nicholas Roberts (University of Bristol, UK)
Tel: +44 117 954 5908; E-mail:

[2] Nanotechnology: Inhaled carbon nanotubes reach the lung lining

DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2009.305

Multiwalled carbon nanotubes - multiple layers of long concentric tubes of graphite - inhaled by mice reach the outer lining of the lungs and cause unique pathological changes, reports a study published online this week in Nature Nanotechnology. This work suggests that minimizing the inhalation of nanotubes during handling of the material is necessary until further long-term assessments of the lungs’ response have been conducted.

Previously, multiwalled carbon nanotubes introduced into the abdominal cavity of mice were shown to have asbestos-like pathogenic behavior. Building on this work, James Bonner and colleagues allowed mice to inhale a single dose of either a high or low concentration of multiwalled carbon nanotubes and examined their lung tissues after one day, two weeks, six weeks and fourteen weeks. The inhaled nanotubes were swallowed up by specialized white blood cells that travelled to the outer lining of the lung wall, causing scarring of the lung tissue. None of these effects were seen in mice that inhaled the lower dose of nanotubes or carbon black nanoparticles - graphite in the form of compact particles rather than long tubes.

Although the present inhalation study is a relevant method for determining nanotube toxicity, the pathological changes seen could be unique to this specific type of nanotube and may or may not persist under repeated exposures. Nevertheless, the ability of nanotubes to reach the outer lining of the lungs calls for a better understanding of how to handle these materials.

Author contact:

James Bonner (North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, USA)
Tel: +1 919 515 8615; E-mail :

Ken Donaldson (MRC/University of Edinburgh, UK) News & Views author
Tel: +44 131 242 6580; E-mail:

[3] Genetics: Age-related sperm mutations associated with testicular tumors

DOI: 10.1038/ng.470

A rare type of benign testicular tumor is associated with genetic mutations arising from paternal age-effect mutations, which are inherited from fathers that are older than the population mean. As discussed in the study published online this week in Nature Genetics, this type of cancer is caused by the same paternal age-effect mutation that leads to the lethal neonatal disorder Thanatophoric dysplasia (TD).

Since paternal age-effect mutations are thought to confer a growth advantage to mutant sperm, Andrew Wilkie and colleagues hypothesized that these mutant sperm might also progress to testicular tumors. The authors analyzed 30 samples of spermatocytic seminomas, a rare type of benign testicular tumor with a mean age of onset of about 54 years. The same mutation in the gene FGFR3 that leads to TD was found in two cases of spermatocytic seminoma.

Sequencing of sperm DNA from healthy men of different ages shows that this mutation increases with paternal age. The scientists found that the same cellular event - a mutation in FGFR3 in sperm - can lead to genetic disorders in an individual’s offspring, as well as increase risk of testicular tumors in that individual.

Author contact:
Andrew O.M. Wilkie (University of Oxford, UK)
Tel: +44 1865 222619; E-mail:

[4] Geoscience: Magma below the Cascades

DOI: 10.1038/ngeo661

A zone of partially molten rock extends beneath several volcanoes in Washington state, USA, according to a study published online this week in Nature Geoscience. If confirmed by additional methods, this could be one of most widespread magma-bearing areas of continental crust discovered thus far.

Graham Hill and colleagues measured the electrical conductivity in the rocks under the northern Cascade Mountain range. Their data confirmed that there was a widespread layer of material with low conductivity below the range. They also found that narrow fingers of this material rise towards the surface, below the Mount St. Helens and Adams volcanoes.

As molten rock has a lower electrical conductivity than solid rock, the researchers suggest that there is a zone of partially molten rock that has pooled in the continental crust. According to Hill and colleagues, the small fingers probably indicate areas where the molten rock is moving up towards the magma chambers of the volcanoes, feeding future volcanic activity.

Author contact:
Graham Hill (GNS Science, Wellington, New Zealand)
Tel: +64 4570 4562; E-mail:

[5] Medicine: A Notch in lung arteries

DOI: 10.1038/nm.2021

The common signaling molecule Notch has a role in pulmonary arterial hypertension, often caused by insufficient oxygen reaching the lungs, as reported in a study published in this week in Nature Medicine. This study highlights the importance of Notch in the development of pulmonary arterial hypertension, providing a novel target pathway for therapeutic intervention.

Notch signaling controls the proliferation of smooth muscle cells - which line the lung arteries - as well as the maintenance of smooth muscle cells in an undifferentiated state. Pulmonary arterial hypertension is characterized by excessive smooth muscle cell proliferation in small lung arteries, leading to elevation of blood pressure in the lung and consequently resulting in heart failure and death.

Patricia Thistlethwaite and her colleagues show that pulmonary hypertension in people is characterized by over-expression of the NOTCH3 gene in the smooth muscle cells of small lung arteries. The researchers also found that the severity of disease, both in humans and mice, correlates with the amount of NOTCH3 protein in the lung.

Mice lacking the Notch3 gene do not develop pulmonary hypertension in response to lack of oxygen. Moreover, pulmonary hypertension can be treated in normal mice by administering an inhibitor that blocks Notch3 activation in smooth muscle cells. Lastly, the scientists found that NOTCH3-mediated signaling drives smooth muscle cells towards a more undifferentiated, proliferative state.

Author Contact:

Patricia Thistlethwaite (University of California, San Diego, CA, USA)
Tel: +1 619 543 7777; E-mail:

[6] Genetics: A genetic region implicated in schizophrenia

DOI: 10.1038/ng.474

Duplications of a given DNA sequence on chromosome 16 are associated with schizophrenia, according to a study published online in this week’s Nature Genetics. Deletions and duplications of this same DNA sequence on the chromosome have previously been associated with autism spectrum disorders.

Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder that affects approximately 24 million people worldwide and is characterized by an altered sense of reality. Common symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized speech and cognitive processing.

Jonathan Sebat and colleagues analyzed a distinct region on chromosome 16 in nearly 2000 individuals with schizophrenia and found that small duplications in this region were found in 0.63% of cases, compared to in only 0.03% of nearly 4000 individuals without schizophrenia. The duplication at this region includes 28 genes, many of which have potential roles in neurodevelopment, and is associated with a 14.5-fold increase in risk of schizophrenia.

An integrated analysis of the scientists’ data with four publicly available datasets found that this duplication is associated with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, while the reciprocal deletions are more specifically associated with autism spectrum disorders.

Author contact:
Jonathan Sebat (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, NY, USA)
Tel: +1 631 423 2448; E-mail:

[7] Immunology: Layered immunologic memory

DOI: 10.1038/ni.1814

Distinct populations of antibody-producing memory immune cells arise due to vaccination according to study published online this week in Nature Immunology.

Memory B cells - the immune system’s surveillance team with a ‘memory’ for specific microbes - can rapidly respond to subsequent infections by secreting pathogen-specific antibodies. Jean-Claude Weill and his colleagues devised a method in mice to ‘visualize’ these memory B cells by permanently marking the cells during immunization to express a fluorescent protein. The authors followed the immunized mice for over a year and identified several subsets of memory B cells existing in the spleen and bone marrow. These B cells had the ability make both IgM or IgG type antibodies - which can recognize microbes in the same way but dictate differing immune responses that contribute to pathogen clearance.

Weill and colleagues found IgM memory cells can undergo further ‘education,’ which fine-tunes their antibody responses, in the body’s germinal centers - specialized areas necessary for generating immune responses. The scientists found that in the germinal centers, IgM can in fact switch to IgG-type memory cells. IgG memory cells, in contrast, do not re-enter germinal cells, and instead immediately commence secreting antibodies upon subsequent infection. Weill and colleagues found that IgM memory cells persist for a longer period, over the entire 12-month observation period, whereas IgG memory cells wane after 6 months.

These findings challenge the previous notions that IgM B cells were the early responders and that the IgG B cells represent long-term memory cells necessary for antibody production.

Author contact:
Jean-Claude Weill (Hopital Necker, Paris, France)
Tel: +33 1 40 61 53 80; E-mail

[8] & [9] Chemical Biology: Ribosome reactions

DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.255
DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.259

Two studies discuss new fundamental properties of the ribosome as well as new ways to manipulate the ribosomal machinery. The studies published online this week in Nature Chemical Biology will have implications in basic cell biology and in biotechnology.

As highlighted by the recent Nobel Prize in chemistry, the ribosome is a complex assembled from a large number of proteins and RNA, and is essential in creating new proteins. One of the first steps in producing new proteins is binding of a substrate - an amino acid linked to a specific RNA molecule - to the ribosome. Later steps include biochemical reactions that are not performed by the ribosome itself, but are necessary to create the final form of each protein sequence.

Thomas Leyh, Ruben Gonzalez, Virginia Cornish and colleagues investigate the early steps of this process. Though current thinking indicates that amino acids have to be linked to a specific RNA to be used successfully, these authors show that this is not necessarily true: indeed, amino acids linked to the wrong RNA are still utilized in almost the same way to produce a new protein.

Hiroaki Suga and colleagues, in contrast, design a new way of using the processing reactions at the end of ribosomal function. By selecting a specific short protein sequence that is modified by two processing proteins, the researchers demonstrate a robust method to make cyclic peptides, of importance in drug discovery. These combined studies highlight both the increasing understanding of the ribosome and the many unanswered questions that remain.

Author contacts:

Thomas S. Leyh (Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY, USA) Author paper [8]
Tel: +1 718 430 2857; E-mail:

Ruben L. Gonzalez, Jr. (Columbia University, New York, NY, USA) Author paper [8]
Tel: +1 212 854 1096; E-mail:

Virginia W. Cornish (Columbia University, New York, NY, USA) Author paper [8]
Tel: +1 212 854 5209; E-mail:

Hiroaki Suga (The University of Tokyo, Japan) Author paper [9]
Tel: +81 3 5452 5495; E-mail:

[10] Geoscience: Modifying mountain river systems

DOI: 10.1038/ngeo666

A newly identified mechanism that controls the spacing of river basins in growing mountain systems is reported in a study published online this week in Nature Geoscience. A constant relationship between the position of mountain divides and the number of river-system outlets has been observed in nature, but the processes controlling this connection had been previously unknown.

Stephane Bonnet used laboratory experiments to model the topography of a mountain range while combining the effects of the upward motion of the mountain range and asymmetric precipitation - in which a mountain range blocks the movement of rain-producing clouds, casting a "shadow" of dryness behind the range. He found that the mountain divide responded to these conditions by migrating towards the dry side of the range. And as it did, channels on the dry side of the range began to split, forming more rivers and smaller but more plentiful drainage basins.

Bonnet suggests that evidence of this process can be found in the Aconquija Range of Argentina.

Author contact:
Stephane Bonnet (Université de Rennes, France)
Tel: +33 2 23 23 56 90; E-mail:

[11] And finally...Geoscience: Ancient Arctic palms

DOI: 10.1038/ngeo668

Palm plants thrived in the Arctic 53.5 million years ago, during a transient warm period known as the Eocene Thermal Maximum 2, according to a study published online this week in Nature Geoscience. The presence of these plants indicates that winter temperatures over the continents in the Arctic region were, on average, higher than eight degrees Celsius.

Appy Sluijs and colleagues used marine sediments collected from the Arctic Ocean to assess the environmental changes associated with the rapid warming during the Eocene Thermal Maximum 2. This climate event is generally attributed to a fast rise in atmospheric carbon concentrations. Their reconstructed model of sea surface temperatures peaked at a balmy 27 degrees Celsius, a three to five degrees Celsius rise over background conditions. The presence of palm pollen in the marine sediments revealed that palm plants were prevalent in the high northern latitudes.

Author contact:
Appy Sluijs (Utrecht University, Netherlands)
Mobile: +31 629 088 784; E-mail:
Please note this author is traveling.


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


[12] Comprehensive characterization of cytochrome P450 isozyme selectivity across chemical libraries
DOI: 10.1038/nbt.1581


[13] Slit2-Robo4 signalling promotes vascular stability by blocking Arf6 activity
DOI: 10.1038/ncb1976

[14] Intraflagellar transport is required for polarized recycling of the TCR/CD3 complex to the immune synapse
DOI: 10.1038/ncb1977

[15] Adaptive suppression of the ATF4-CHOP branch of the unfolded protein response by toll-like receptor signalling
DOI: 10.1038/ncb1996


[16] Small-molecule inhibitors target Escherichia coli amyloid biogenesis and biofilm formation
DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.242


[17] Emergence of sprite streamers from screening-ionization waves in the lower ionosphere
DOI: 10.1038/ngeo662

[18] Variability of sea-ice conditions in the Fram Strait over the past 30,000 years
DOI: 10.1038/ngeo665


[19] Experimental demonstration of an acoustic magnifying hyperlens
DOI: 10.1038/nmat2561

[20] Reduction of the bulk modulus at high pressure in CrN
DOI: 10.1038/nmat2549

[21] Nanofibrous biologic laminates replicate the form and function of the annulus fibrosus
DOI: 10.1038/nmat2558

[22] Porous organic cages
DOI: 10.1038/nmat2545


[23] Salmonella disrupts lymph node architecture by TLR4-mediated suppression of homeostatic chemokines
DOI: 10.1038/nm.2036

[24] Inhibition of the histone demethylase LSD1 blocks alpha-herpesvirus lytic replication and reactivation from latency
DOI: 10.1038/nm.2051

[25] Extracellular histones are major mediators of death in sepsis
DOI: 10.1038/nm.2053


[26] ‘Edgetic’ perturbation of a C. elegans BCL2 ortholog
DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.1394


[27] Mst3b, an Ste20-like kinase, regulates axon regeneration in mature CNS and PNS pathways
DOI: 10.1038/nn.2414

[28] Frontal eye field neurons signal changes in decision criteria
DOI: 10.1038/nn.2434


[29] Exciton-lattice polaritons in multiple-quantum well-based photonic crystals
DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2009.190

[30] Photon anti-bunching in acoustically pumped quantum dots
DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2009.191

[31] Polymer solar cells with enhanced open-circuit voltage and efficiency
DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2009.192

Nature PHYSICS (

[32] Bias-voltage dependence of perpendicular spin-transfer torque in asymmetric MgO-based magnetic tunnel junctions
DOI: 10.1038/nphys1427

[33] Non-equilibrium edge-channel spectroscopy in the integer quantum Hall regime
DOI: 10.1038/nphys1429

[34] Superconductivity in a single-C60 transistor
DOI: 10.1038/nphys1433

[35] Controlling X-rays with light
DOI: 10.1038/nphys1430


[36] Molecular architecture of the Nup84-Nup154C-Sec13 edge element in the nuclear pore complex lattice
DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.1713

[37] Involvement of a chromatin remodelling complex in damage tolerance during DNA replication
DOI: 10.1038/nsmb.1686



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.

Rio Negro: 20

Melbourne: 4
Queensland: 1

Gembloux: 26
Namur: 26

Unicamp: 30

Kingston: 30
London: 6
Toronto: 6
Vancouver: 4

Copenhagen: 3

Assiut: 13

Tampere: 6

Grenoble: 32, 34
Marcoussis: 33
Montpellier: 37
Paris: 7, 18, 26
Rennes: 10

Berlin: 30
Bonn: 6, 13
Bremen: 11
Bremerhaven: 18
Heidelberg: 6
Mainz: 15

Dublin: 6, 12

Siena: 14
Trieste: 14

Iwate: 13
Osaka: 22
Tokyo: 9
Yokohama: 37

Daejeon: 32
Gyeonggi: 32
Kyungbuk: 32
Seoul: 32

Amsterdam: 17
Eindhoven: 17
Texel: 11
Utrecht: 11, 26

Wellington: 4

Lisbon: 4

Santiago de Compostela: 20

Thuwal: 32

Umea: 16

Bristol: 1
Cardiff: 6
Cambridge: 27
Didcot: 22
Durham: 23
Liverpool: 22
Manchester: 1
Oxford: 3, 6
Plymouth: 18
St Andrews: 22

Berkeley: 19, 35
El Monte: 31
La Jolla: 5, 13
Los Angeles: 6, 31
San Diego: 4
Stanford: 16
New Haven: 14
Argonne: 35
Chicago: 6, 35
Baltimore: 1, 6
Bethesda: 6, 12, 24
Belmont: 6
Boston: 6, 26, 27, 37
Brockton: 6
Cambridge: 26, 36
Waltham: 6
Worcester: 14, 15
Ann Arbor: 16
Rochester: 37
St Louis: 16
New York
New York: 6, 8, 15, 28, 29
North Carolina
Chapel Hill: 6, 13
Durham: 16
Raleigh: 2
Research Triangle Park: 2
Oklahoma City: 25
Philadelphia: 6, 21, 25
Nashville: 6
Austin: 20
Houston: 37
Smithville: 37
Salt Lake City: 13
Manassas: 24
Seattle: 6


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Nature Genetics (New York)
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Nature Geoscience (London)
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Nature Immunology (New York)
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Nature Methods (New York)
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Nature Nanotechnology (London)
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