Science current issue 
  • This is real 
  • Emerging from AI utopia 
  • News at a glance 
  • Vaccine designers take first shots at COVID-19 
  • Infect volunteers to speed a coronavirus vaccine? 
  • United States strains to act as cases set record 
  • As normalcy returns, can China keep COVID-19 at bay? 
  • Lead pollution tracks the rise and fall of medieval kings 
  • Where are the women? 
  • How women at NIH's Clinical Center lost childbearing chances 
  • Seeking career clarity 
  • Toward a universal glacier slip law 
  • Tuning drug binding 
  • Straining quantum materials even further 
  • Revealing animal emotions 
  • All who wander are not lost 
  • Granular technologies to accelerate decarbonization 
  • Colonizing the final frontier 
  • The things we make that make us who we are 
  • How to read the face of a mouse 
  • Seeing subtle nanoparticle differences 
  • New ideas about neoantigens 
  • Slipping on till 
  • Airway-hugging macrophages 
  • Blowing a crater in asteroid Ryugu 
  • Designer gates 
  • Organelle cross-talk 
  • Root growth regulation by requirement 
  • DNA death grip 
  • Dating the Drimolen hominins 
  • Sustaining stem cell identity 
  • Ferroptotic cell death and cancer 
  • Reduce efficacy, reduce side effects 
  • Straining an oxide membrane 
  • Perils of nighttime dining 
  • Maternal obesity affects offspring 
  • Microbes against microbial toxins 
  • Fetal stress affects adult immune function 
  • Human movements in the United States 
  • Details of cobalt's ups and downs 
  • Merging dwarfs distribute globular clusters 
  • Maintenance of neural stem cell positional identity by mixed-lineage leukemia 1 

    Neural stem cells (NSCs) in the developing and postnatal brain have distinct positional identities that dictate the types of neurons they generate. Although morphogens initially establish NSC positional identity in the neural tube, it is unclear how such regional differences are maintained as the forebrain grows much larger and more anatomically complex. We found that the maintenance of NSC positional identity in the murine brain requires a mixed-lineage leukemia 1 (Mll1)–dependent epigenetic memory system. After establishment by sonic hedgehog, ventral NSC identity became independent of this morphogen. Even transient MLL1 inhibition caused a durable loss of ventral identity, resulting in the generation of neurons with the characteristics of dorsal NSCs in vivo. Thus, spatial information provided by morphogens can be transitioned to epigenetic mechanisms that maintain regionally distinct developmental programs in the forebrain.

  • Endoplasmic reticulum-associated degradation regulates mitochondrial dynamics in brown adipocytes 

    The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) engages mitochondria at specialized ER domains known as mitochondria-associated membranes (MAMs). Here, we used three-dimensional high-resolution imaging to investigate the formation of pleomorphic "megamitochondria" with altered MAMs in brown adipocytes lacking the Sel1L-Hrd1 protein complex of ER-associated protein degradation (ERAD). Mice with ERAD deficiency in brown adipocytes were cold sensitive and exhibited mitochondrial dysfunction. ERAD deficiency affected ER-mitochondria contacts and mitochondrial dynamics, at least in part, by regulating the turnover of the MAM protein, sigma receptor 1 (SigmaR1). Thus, our study provides molecular insights into ER-mitochondrial cross-talk and expands our understanding of the physiological importance of Sel1L-Hrd1 ERAD.

  • Critical differences in 3D atomic structure of individual ligand-protected nanocrystals in solution 

    Precise three-dimensional (3D) atomic structure determination of individual nanocrystals is a prerequisite for understanding and predicting their physical properties. Nanocrystals from the same synthesis batch display what are often presumed to be small but possibly important differences in size, lattice distortions, and defects, which can only be understood by structural characterization with high spatial 3D resolution. We solved the structures of individual colloidal platinum nanocrystals by developing atomic-resolution 3D liquid-cell electron microscopy to reveal critical intrinsic heterogeneity of ligand-protected platinum nanocrystals in solution, including structural degeneracies, lattice parameter deviations, internal defects, and strain. These differences in structure lead to substantial contributions to free energies, consequential enough that they must be considered in any discussion of fundamental nanocrystal properties or applications.

  • An artificial impact on the asteroid (162173) Ryugu formed a crater in the gravity-dominated regime 

    The Hayabusa2 spacecraft investigated the small asteroid Ryugu, which has a rubble-pile structure. We describe an impact experiment on Ryugu using Hayabusa2’s Small Carry-on Impactor. The impact produced an artificial crater with a diameter >10 meters, which has a semicircular shape, an elevated rim, and a central pit. Images of the impact and resulting ejecta were recorded by the Deployable CAMera 3 for >8 minutes, showing the growth of an ejecta curtain (the outer edge of the ejecta) and deposition of ejecta onto the surface. The ejecta curtain was asymmetric and heterogeneous and it never fully detached from the surface. The crater formed in the gravity-dominated regime; in other words, crater growth was limited by gravity not surface strength. We discuss implications for Ryugu’s surface age.

  • Extreme tensile strain states in La0.7Ca0.3MnO3 membranes 

    A defining feature of emergent phenomena in complex oxides is the competition and cooperation between ground states. In manganites, the balance between metallic and insulating phases can be tuned by the lattice; extending the range of lattice control would enhance the ability to access other phases. We stabilized uniform extreme tensile strain in nanoscale La0.7Ca0.3MnO3 membranes, exceeding 8% uniaxially and 5% biaxially. Uniaxial and biaxial strain suppresses the ferromagnetic metal at distinctly different strain values, inducing an insulator that can be extinguished by a magnetic field. Electronic structure calculations indicate that the insulator consists of charge-ordered Mn4+ and Mn3+ with staggered strain-enhanced Jahn-Teller distortions within the plane. This highly tunable strained membrane approach provides a broad opportunity to design and manipulate correlated electron states.

  • A slip law for glaciers on deformable beds 

    Slip of marine-terminating ice streams over beds of deformable till is responsible for most of the contribution of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet to sea level rise. Flow models of the ice sheet and till-bedded glaciers elsewhere require a law that relates slip resistance, slip velocity, and water pressure at the bed. We present results of experiments in which pressurized ice at its melting temperature is slid over a water-saturated till bed. Steady-state slip resistance increases with slip velocity owing to sliding of ice across the bed, but above a threshold velocity, till shears at its rate-independent Coulomb strength. These results motivate a generalized slip law for glacier-flow models that combines processes of hard-bedded sliding and bed deformation.

  • De novo design of protein logic gates 

    The design of modular protein logic for regulating protein function at the posttranscriptional level is a challenge for synthetic biology. Here, we describe the design of two-input AND, OR, NAND, NOR, XNOR, and NOT gates built from de novo–designed proteins. These gates regulate the association of arbitrary protein units ranging from split enzymes to transcriptional machinery in vitro, in yeast and in primary human T cells, where they control the expression of the TIM3 gene related to T cell exhaustion. Designed binding interaction cooperativity, confirmed by native mass spectrometry, makes the gates largely insensitive to stoichiometric imbalances in the inputs, and the modularity of the approach enables ready extension to three-input OR, AND, and disjunctive normal form gates. The modularity and cooperativity of the control elements, coupled with the ability to de novo design an essentially unlimited number of protein components, should enable the design of sophisticated posttranslational control logic over a wide range of biological functions.

  • Cysteine depletion induces pancreatic tumor ferroptosis in mice 

    Ferroptosis is a form of cell death that results from the catastrophic accumulation of lipid reactive oxygen species (ROS). Oncogenic signaling elevates lipid ROS production in many tumor types and is counteracted by metabolites that are derived from the amino acid cysteine. In this work, we show that the import of oxidized cysteine (cystine) via system xC is a critical dependency of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), which is a leading cause of cancer mortality. PDAC cells used cysteine to synthesize glutathione and coenzyme A, which, together, down-regulated ferroptosis. Studying genetically engineered mice, we found that the deletion of a system xC subunit, Slc7a11, induced tumor-selective ferroptosis and inhibited PDAC growth. This was replicated through the administration of cyst(e)inase, a drug that depletes cysteine and cystine, demonstrating a translatable means to induce ferroptosis in PDAC.

  • Facial expressions of emotion states and their neuronal correlates in mice 

    Understanding the neurobiological underpinnings of emotion relies on objective readouts of the emotional state of an individual, which remains a major challenge especially in animal models. We found that mice exhibit stereotyped facial expressions in response to emotionally salient events, as well as upon targeted manipulations in emotion-relevant neuronal circuits. Facial expressions were classified into distinct categories using machine learning and reflected the changing intrinsic value of the same sensory stimulus encountered under different homeostatic or affective conditions. Facial expressions revealed emotion features such as intensity, valence, and persistence. Two-photon imaging uncovered insular cortical neuron activity that correlated with specific facial expressions and may encode distinct emotions. Facial expressions thus provide a means to infer emotion states and their neuronal correlates in mice.

  • Making allowances for COVID-19 
  • A plants diet, surviving in a variable nutrient environment 

    As primary producers, plants rely on a large aboveground surface area to collect carbon dioxide and sunlight and a large underground surface area to collect the water and mineral nutrients needed to support their growth and development. Accessibility of the essential nutrients nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) in the soil is affected by many factors that create a variable spatiotemporal landscape of their availability both at the local and global scale. Plants optimize uptake of the N and P available through modifications to their growth and development and engagement with microorganisms that facilitate their capture. The sensing of these nutrients, as well as the perception of overall nutrient status, shapes the plant’s response to its nutrient environment, coordinating its development with microbial engagement to optimize N and P capture and regulate overall plant growth.

  • Structural basis for allosteric PARP-1 retention on DNA breaks 

    The success of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase–1 (PARP-1) inhibitors (PARPi) to treat cancer relates to their ability to trap PARP-1 at the site of a DNA break. Although different forms of PARPi all target the catalytic center of the enzyme, they have variable abilities to trap PARP-1. We found that several structurally distinct PARPi drive PARP-1 allostery to promote release from a DNA break. Other inhibitors drive allostery to retain PARP-1 on a DNA break. Further, we generated a new PARPi compound, converting an allosteric pro-release compound to a pro-retention compound and increasing its ability to kill cancer cells. These developments are pertinent to clinical applications where PARP-1 trapping is either desirable or undesirable.

  • Contemporaneity of Australopithecus, Paranthropus, and early Homo erectus in South Africa 

    Understanding the extinction of Australopithecus and origins of Paranthropus and Homo in South Africa has been hampered by the perceived complex geological context of hominin fossils, poor chronological resolution, and a lack of well-preserved early Homo specimens. We describe, date, and contextualize the discovery of two hominin crania from Drimolen Main Quarry in South Africa. At ~2.04 million to 1.95 million years old, DNH 152 represents the earliest definitive occurrence of Paranthropus robustus, and DNH 134 represents the earliest occurrence of a cranium with clear affinities to Homo erectus. These crania also show that Homo, Paranthropus, and Australopithecus were contemporaneous at ~2 million years ago. This high taxonomic diversity is also reflected in non-hominin species and provides evidence of endemic evolution and dispersal during a period of climatic variability.