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Article Released Wed-25th-November-2009 20:35 GMT
Contact: Ruth Institution: Nature Publishing Group
 Mirror-image snails made by embryonic manipulation

Summaries of newsworthy papers: Listen with your skin; A saltier south Atlantic; The future looks bright; ‘Bone’ protein linked to fever; Dynamic upwelling beneath the Gulf of California and Globular clusters shed light on Galaxy formation


This press release is copyright Nature.

VOL.462 NO.7272 DATED 26 NOVEMBER 2009

This press release contains:

· Summaries of newsworthy papers:

Speech: Listen with your skin

Oceanography: A saltier south Atlantic

Spintronics: The future looks bright

Biology: ‘Bone’ protein linked to fever

Geology: Dynamic upwelling beneath the Gulf of California

Astronomy: Globular clusters shed light on Galaxy formation

And finally… Mirror-image snails made by embryonic manipulation

· Mention of papers to be published at the same time with the same embargo

· Geographical listing of authors

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[1] Speech: Listen with your skin (pp 502-504)

People “hear” inaudible airflow through their skin suggests a study in this week’s Nature. The finding suggests that when we listen to speech we use we use not only the audio and visual information we receive but also but also tactile clues, such as airflow, in order to build a full picture of the sounds we are hearing.

Some sounds that we make produce small inaudible bursts of air – aspirated sounds - and some don’t – unaspirated sounds. Bryan Gick and colleagues found that when short bursts of air were presented to skin on the hand and neck, syllables heard at the same time were perceived as being aspirated even when they were not. For example, unaspirated syllables such as ‘ba’ and da’ were perceived as being their aspirated equivalents ‘pa’ and ‘ta’ when presented along with a burst of air. This implies that the tactile sensory information we are receiving works alongside our hearing to decipher what we are listening to.

This advance in the understanding of how we perceive speech could prove useful in the future development of audio and telecommunication aids for the hearing impaired.

Bryan Gick (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)
Tel: +1 604 822 4256; E-mail:

[2] Oceanography: A saltier south Atlantic (pp 495-498)

Southern Hemisphere westerly winds have gradually progressed southwards over the past few decades. These changing wind patterns have contributed to warmer, salty water entering the southern Atlantic from the Indian Ocean, a trend that could affect the circulation of water further north.

A reduction in the Atlantic Ocean’s deep water (which requires cold, dense, salty water to form) circulation has concerned climate change scientists. High-latitude precipitation and melting ice has increased the amount of fresh water entering the North Atlantic, which could disrupt the flow of the North Atlantic deep water.

A study in Nature this week shifts attention southward, by showing that the North Atlantic is already experiencing anthropogenic changes from the Southern Hemisphere. Arne Biastoch and colleagues use a high-resolution ocean model to study the Agulhas current — the main input of warm, salty water around the southern tip of Africa into the Atlantic. They find that in response to the shift in the westerly winds, the Agulhas leakage has increased, a trend that is expected to accelerate this century. This increased warm, salty water may provide an offset to possible reductions in the Atlantic deep water circulation from freshwater inputs in the North Atlantic.

Arne Biastoch (Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences, Kiel, Germany)
Tel: +49 431 600 4013; E-mail:

[3] Spintronics: The future looks bright (pp 491-494; N&V)

The generation and control of spin polarization in a silicon-based device that works at room temperature is reported in this week’s Nature. The findings make the use of spintronics — where digital information is carried using the spin orientation of an electron rather than its charge — in electronic devices a more practical possibility.

‘Spintronics’ has the potential to revolutionize electronics and computing technologies, by enabling greater storage of data in smaller devices. The popularity of silicon in current technologies makes it the obvious choice of platform, but until now researchers have only been able to demonstrate control of electron spin in silicon at low temperatures that are not practical for everyday use.

Ron Jansen and colleagues describe a three-terminal device in which they demonstrate the successful room-temperature electrical injection, manipulation and detection of spin polarization of both electrons and their positively charged counterparts, holes. The findings could help the realization of silicon spintronic devices and their integration with currently available technologies.

Ron Jansen (University of Twente, Enschede, Netherlands)
Tel: +31 53 489 3355; E-mail:

Michael Flatté (University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, USA) N&V author
Tel: +1 319 335 0201; E-mail:

[4] Biology: ‘Bone’ protein linked to fever (pp 505-509)

A protein pair best known for their role in bone remodelling may have an unexpected role in the brain, helping to control fever and female body temperature, a Nature paper suggests.

The proteins, RANKL and RANK, are expressed in a particular type of brain cell called an astrocyte, Josef Penninger and colleagues show. Mice and rats injected with RANKL develop severe fever, whereas genetically engineered mice with astrocytes lacking RANK appear fever-resistant. The finding tallies with clinical data from two children carrying RANK mutations who failed to develop fever during pneumonia. Female mice lacking RANK also have an increased body temperature, the team show, suggesting that RANKL/RANK help control temperature in a gender-specific manner.

Antibodies against RANKL are in development at present for the treatment of various metabolic bone diseases such as osteoporosis. The authors speculate that the hot flushes that often accompany osteoporosis and hormonal changes in older women could be explained by the actions of RANKL/RANK.

Josef Penninger (Institute for Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna, Austria)
Tel: +43 1 79044 ext 4700; E-mail:

[5] Geology: Dynamic upwelling beneath the Gulf of California (pp 499-501)

A high-resolution seismic study in the Gulf of California has provided evidence for localized centres of buoyancy-driven upwelling in the underlying mantle. The findings, reported in this week’s Nature, bear on a longstanding debate regarding the relative importance of passive and dynamic upwelling in the shallow mantle beneath seafloor-spreading centres.

Mantle upwelling and melting beneath spreading centres is thought to be mostly a passive response to the separating oceanic plates above. But there may also be a dynamic component of upwelling, driven by the buoyancy of melt retained in the rock, or by the lighter chemical composition of rock from which melt has been removed.

Yun Wang and colleagues present a detailed seismic image of the uppermost 200 kilometres of mantle underneath the Gulf of California, where there are several seafloor-spreading segments and lots of seismometers in place. They find three concentrated regions of anomalously low seismic velocity, spaced about 250 km apart, at a depth of 40–90 km below the surface. The authors attribute the low seismic velocities to a higher melt fraction than in the surrounding areas, and suggest that melting initially caused by passive upwelling created buoyant instabilities, which led to a regularly spaced pattern of dynamic, buoyancy-driven upwelling and melting.

Yun Wang (Brown University, Providence, RI, USA)
Tel: +1 401 523 9556; E-mail:

[6] & [7] Astronomy: Globular clusters shed light on Galaxy formation (pp 480-482; 483-486; N&V)

Globular star clusters in our Galaxy have a complex story to tell about the processes that formed the Galaxy, according to two papers published in this week’s Nature.

Our Galaxy plays host to about 150 globular clusters — compact collections of stars, tightly bound by gravity, which orbit the Galactic Centre. The traditional view of these clusters is that they are uniformly old, having formed at the same time from a single dense cloud of gas and dust. A prominent exception to this rule has been the most massive globular cluster, omega Centauri. This system, which has several distinct stellar populations differing in composition and age, has been interpreted as the remnant of a disrupted dwarf galaxy that merged with our own Galaxy.

Now it seems that other globular clusters are also remnants of pre-existing galaxies. Jae-Woo Lee and colleagues have measured calcium abundances in 37 globular clusters, and find that about half of them seem to have more than one stellar population. Measurements of other heavy-element abundances in seven of these clusters support this conclusion. Significantly, calcium and the other heavy elements must have been supplied by supernova explosions, and the ejecta from these explosions can only be retained in systems much more massive than the globular clusters are today — hence the conclusion that the clusters are the relics of more massive dwarf galaxies.

In independent work, Francesco Ferraro and colleagues reach the same conclusion for the globular cluster Terzan 5, located in the central bulge of our Galaxy — a region that has been hard to study because of its high concentration of interstellar dust. The two stellar populations identified by the team in Terzan 5 have different ages, as well as different compositions, implying a complex star-formation history characteristic of a pre-existing galaxy.

Jae-Woo Lee (Sejong University, Seoul, Korea) Author paper [6]
Tel: +82 2 3408 3966; E-mail:

Francesco Ferraro (University of Bologna, Italy) Author paper [7]
Tel: +39 051 209 5774; E-mail:

Judith Cohen (California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA) N&V author
Tel: +1 626 395 4005; E-mail:

[8] And finally… Mirror-image snails made by embryonic manipulation (AOP)
DOI: 10.1038/nature08597

***This paper will be published electronically on Nature's website on 25 November at 1800 London time / 1300 US Eastern time (which is also when the embargo lifts) as part of our AOP (ahead of print) programme. Although we have included it on this release to avoid multiple mailings it will not appear in print on 26 November, but at a later date. ***

Gently manipulating early snail embryos can reverse the otherwise genetically dictated coiling direction of their shell, a Nature paper reveals. The study sheds light on how 'handedness' develops in invertebrates.

Snail shells coil either to the right or the left, and this 'handedness' is inherited from the mother. Here, Reiko Kuroda and colleagues show that they can reverse this chirality by manipulating eight-cell snail embryos with a pair of tiny glass rods. So genetically 'right-handed' snails develop 'left-handed' shells, and vice versa.

Remarkably, the expression of nodal, a gene that imparts left–right asymmetry in many species, becomes reversed in subsequent development, suggesting that these events operate upstream of the Nodal signalling pathway.

Reiko Kuroda (The University of Tokyo, Japan)
Tel: +81 3 5454 6600; E-mail:


[9] Structure of the formate transporter FocA reveals a pentameric aquaporin-like channel (pp 467-472)

[10] Structure and hydration of membranes embedded with voltage-sensing domains (pp 473-479; N&V)

[11] Two-dimensional normal state quantum oscillations in a superconducting heterostructure (pp 487-490)

[12] Host plant genome overcomes the lack of a bacterial gene for symbiotic nitrogen fixation (pp 514-517)

[13] An ancient light-harvesting protein is critical for the regulation of algal photosynthesis (pp 518-521)

[14] Innate Immune and Chemically Triggered Oxidative Stress Modifies Translational Fidelity (pp 522-526)


***This paper will be published electronically on Nature's website on 25 November at 1800 London time / 1300 US Eastern time (which is also when the embargo lifts) as part of our AOP (ahead of print) programme. Although we have included it on this release to avoid multiple mailings it will not appear in print on 26 November, but at a later date. ***

[15] Rational Design of a Structural and Functional Nitric Oxide Reductase
DOI: 10.1038/nature08620


The following list of places refers to the whereabouts of authors on the papers numbered in this release. For example, London: 4 - this means that on paper number four, there will be at least one author affiliated to an institute or company in London. 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.

Vienna: 4

Vancouver: 1

Beijing: 9

Santiago: 7

Berlin: 4
Kiel: 2
Munster: 13

Bologna: 7

Kariya: 12
Kawaguchi: 11
Kitakyushu: 4
Kisarazu: 12
Kyoto: 4
Nagoya: 4, 12
Oita: 4
Okazaki: 12
Tokyo: 8, 11
Tsukuba: 12

Enschede: 3
Noordwijk: 7

Rondebosch: 2

Pusan: 11
Seoul: 6

Bursa: 4


Berkeley: 13
Irvine: 10
Los Angeles: 7
Stanford: 13

New Haven: 1

Chicago: 14
Urbana: 15

Bethesda: 10, 14
Gaithersburg: 10

Columbia: 10

New York
Upton: 15

Rhode Island
Kingston: 5
Providence: 5

Charlottesville: 7


From North America and Canada
Neda Afsarmanesh, Nature New York
Tel: +1 212 726 9231; E-mail:

Katie McGoldrick, Nature Washington
Tel: +1 202 737 2355; E-mail:

From Japan, Korea, China, Singapore and Taiwan
Mika Nakano, Nature Tokyo
Tel: +81 3 3267 8751; E-mail:

From the UK/Europe/other countries not listed above
Jen Middleton, Nature London
Tel: +44 20 7843 4502; E-mail

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