Science current issue 
  • Drop the chalk 
  • News at a glance 
  • United Kingdom breaks from EU farm subsidies 
  • Campus attack and police violence alarm Indian academics 
  • Planetary turmoil unleashed during Solar System infancy 
  • Florida center details fired scientists' links to China 
  • NSF rolls out huge makeover of science statistics 
  • Cheap shots 
  • Overhaul environmental risk assessment for pesticides 
  • Can phase separation buffer cellular noise? 
  • Support cells in the brain promote longevity 
  • The stillness of sleep 
  • Coherent scanning tunneling microscopy 
  • Rethinking chemistry for a circular economy 
  • A notorious Nazi, revealed 
  • Confronting campus sexual assault 
  • Time to update China's panda loan terms 
  • China's dams isolate Asian elephants 
  • Conservationists must address meat and dairy 
  • A cleaner, greener future for chemicals 
  • Can do 
  • Learning from the past and considering the future of chemicals in the environment 

    Knowledge of the hazards and associated risks from chemicals discharged to the environment has grown considerably over the past 40 years. This improving awareness stems from advances in our ability to measure chemicals at low environmental concentrations, recognition of a range of effects on organisms, and a worldwide growth in expertise. Environmental scientists and companies have learned from the experiences of the past; in theory, the next generation of chemicals will cause less acute toxicity and be less environmentally persistent and bioaccumulative. However, researchers still struggle to establish whether the nonlethal effects associated with some modern chemicals and substances will have serious consequences for wildlife. Obtaining the resources to address issues associated with chemicals in the environment remains a challenge.

  • Tracking complex mixtures of chemicals in our changing environment 

    Chemicals have improved our quality of life, but the resulting environmental pollution has the potential to cause detrimental effects on humans and the environment. People and biota are chronically exposed to thousands of chemicals from various environmental sources through multiple pathways. Environmental chemists and toxicologists have moved beyond detecting and quantifying single chemicals to characterizing complex mixtures of chemicals in indoor and outdoor environments and biological matrices. We highlight analytical and bioanalytical approaches to isolating, characterizing, and tracking groups of chemicals of concern in complex matrices. Techniques that combine chemical analysis and bioassays have the potential to facilitate the identification of mixtures of chemicals that pose a combined risk.

  • The exposome and health: Where chemistry meets biology 

    Despite extensive evidence showing that exposure to specific chemicals can lead to disease, current research approaches and regulatory policies fail to address the chemical complexity of our world. To safeguard current and future generations from the increasing number of chemicals polluting our environment, a systematic and agnostic approach is needed. The "exposome" concept strives to capture the diversity and range of exposures to synthetic chemicals, dietary constituents, psychosocial stressors, and physical factors, as well as their corresponding biological responses. Technological advances such as high-resolution mass spectrometry and network science have allowed us to take the first steps toward a comprehensive assessment of the exposome. Given the increased recognition of the dominant role that nongenetic factors play in disease, an effort to characterize the exposome at a scale comparable to that of the human genome is warranted.

  • Designing for a green chemistry future 

    The material basis of a sustainable society will depend on chemical products and processes that are designed following principles that make them conducive to life. Important inherent properties of molecules need to be considered from the earliest stage—the design stage—to address whether compounds and processes are depleting versus renewable, toxic versus benign, and persistent versus readily degradable. Products, feedstocks, and manufacturing processes will need to integrate the principles of green chemistry and green engineering under an expanded definition of performance that includes sustainability considerations. This transformation will require the best of the traditions of science and innovation coupled with new emerging systems thinking and systems design that begins at the molecular level and results in a positive impact on the global scale.

  • Breathing faster in thin air 
  • Modeling a superluminous supernova 
  • Detecting a single magnetic excitation 
  • Heterostructured nanorod libraries 
  • A one-two, CAR-T cell punch 
  • A twisted small-molecule synthesis 
  • Taking the bite out of diseases 
  • Shaping the early amniote embryo 
  • Organoids recapitulate brain development 
  • More diversity at the top 
  • Shining a light on STM 
  • Imaging reactive surface water 
  • Interneurons control brain arousal states 
  • Taking the stress out of life 
  • Keeping the noise down 
  • Understanding the boundaries of life 
  • Filling in the gaps 
  • Good news from the Cayman Islands 
  • Ethnicity reflected in tumor genomes 
  • Synthesizing single-layer diamond 
  • Predicting transmission risk for de novo mutation 
  • Some seeds store better than others 
  • Guiding solvothermal synthesis 
  • Linking microwaves to photons 
  • Single-cell transcriptional diversity is a hallmark of developmental potential 

    Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) is a powerful approach for reconstructing cellular differentiation trajectories. However, inferring both the state and direction of differentiation is challenging. Here, we demonstrate a simple, yet robust, determinant of developmental potential—the number of expressed genes per cell—and leverage this measure of transcriptional diversity to develop a computational framework (CytoTRACE) for predicting differentiation states from scRNA-seq data. When applied to diverse tissue types and organisms, CytoTRACE outperformed previous methods and nearly 19,000 annotated gene sets for resolving 52 experimentally determined developmental trajectories. Additionally, it facilitated the identification of quiescent stem cells and revealed genes that contribute to breast tumorigenesis. This study thus establishes a key RNA-based feature of developmental potential and a platform for delineation of cellular hierarchies.

  • Attosecond coherent manipulation of electrons in tunneling microscopy 

    Nanoelectronic devices operating in the quantum regime require coherent manipulation and control over electrons at atomic length and time scales. We demonstrate coherent control over electrons in a tunnel junction of a scanning tunneling microscope by means of precise tuning of the carrier-envelope phase of two-cycle long (<6-femtosecond) optical pulses. We explore photon and field-driven tunneling, two different regimes of interaction of optical pulses with the tunnel junction, and demonstrate a transition from one regime to the other. Our results show that it is possible to induce, track, and control electronic current at atomic scales with subfemtosecond resolution, providing a route to develop petahertz coherent nanoelectronics and microscopy.

  • A type Ia supernova at the heart of superluminous transient SN 2006gy 

    Superluminous supernovae radiate up to 100 times more energy than normal supernovae. The origin of this energy and the nature of the stellar progenitors of these transients are poorly understood. We identify neutral iron lines in the spectrum of one such supernova, SN 2006gy, and show that they require a large mass of iron (0.3 solar masses) expanding at 1500 kilometers per second. By modeling a standard type Ia supernova hitting a shell of circumstellar material, we produce a light curve and late-time iron-dominated spectrum that match the observations of SN 2006gy. In such a scenario, common envelope evolution of a progenitor binary system can synchronize envelope ejection and supernova explosion and may explain these bright transients.

  • Rational construction of a scalable heterostructured nanorod megalibrary 

    Integrating multiple materials in arbitrary arrangements within nanoparticles is a prerequisite for advancing many applications. Strategies to synthesize heterostructured nanoparticles are emerging, but they are limited in complexity, scope, and scalability. We introduce two design guidelines, based on interfacial reactivity and crystal structure relations, that enable the rational synthesis of a heterostructured nanorod megalibrary. We define synthetically feasible pathways to 65,520 distinct multicomponent metal sulfide nanorods having as many as 6 materials, 8 segments, and 11 internal interfaces by applying up to seven sequential cation-exchange reactions to copper sulfide nanorod precursors. We experimentally observe 113 individual heterostructured nanorods and demonstrate the scalable production of three samples. Previously unimaginable complexity in heterostructured nanorods is now routinely achievable with simple benchtop chemistry and standard laboratory glassware.

  • Entanglement-based single-shot detection of a single magnon with a superconducting qubit 

    The recent development of hybrid systems based on superconducting circuits provides the possibility of engineering quantum sensors that exploit different degrees of freedom. Quantum magnonics, which aims to control and read out quanta of collective spin excitations in magnetically ordered systems, provides opportunities for advances in both the study of magnetism and the development of quantum technologies. Using a superconducting qubit as a quantum sensor, we report the detection of a single magnon in a millimeter-sized ferrimagnetic crystal with a quantum efficiency of up to 0.71. The detection is based on the entanglement between a magnetostatic mode and the qubit, followed by a single-shot measurement of the qubit state. This proof-of-principle experiment establishes the single-photon detector counterpart for magnonics.

  • Visualizing H2O molecules reacting at TiO2 active sites with transmission electron microscopy 

    Imaging a reaction taking place at the molecular level could provide direct information for understanding the catalytic reaction mechanism. We used in situ environmental transmission electron microscopy and a nanocrystalline anatase titanium dioxide (001) surface with (1 x 4) reconstruction as a catalyst, which provided highly ordered four-coordinated titanium "active rows" to realize real-time monitoring of water molecules dissociating and reacting on the catalyst surface. The twin-protrusion configuration of adsorbed water was observed. During the water–gas shift reaction, dynamic changes in these structures were visualized on these active rows at the molecular level.

  • A two-way molecular dialogue between embryo and endosperm is required for seed development 

    The plant embryonic cuticle is a hydrophobic barrier deposited de novo by the embryo during seed development. At germination, it protects the seedling from water loss and is, thus, critical for survival. Embryonic cuticle formation is controlled by a signaling pathway involving the ABNORMAL LEAF SHAPE1 subtilase and the two GASSHO receptor-like kinases. We show that a sulfated peptide, TWISTED SEED1 (TWS1), acts as a GASSHO ligand. Cuticle surveillance depends on the action of the subtilase, which, unlike the TWS1 precursor and the GASSHO receptors, is not produced in the embryo but in the neighboring endosperm. Subtilase-mediated processing of the embryo-derived TWS1 precursor releases the active peptide, triggering GASSHO-dependent cuticle reinforcement in the embryo. Thus, a bidirectional molecular dialogue between embryo and endosperm safeguards cuticle integrity before germination.

  • Four glial cells regulate ER stress resistance and longevity via neuropeptide signaling in C. elegans 

    The ability of the nervous system to sense cellular stress and coordinate protein homeostasis is essential for organismal health. Unfortunately, stress responses that mitigate disturbances in proteostasis, such as the unfolded protein response of the endoplasmic reticulum (UPRER), become defunct with age. In this work, we expressed the constitutively active UPRER transcription factor, XBP-1s, in a subset of astrocyte-like glia, which extended the life span in Caenorhabditis elegans. Glial XBP-1s initiated a robust cell nonautonomous activation of the UPRER in distal cells and rendered animals more resistant to protein aggregation and chronic ER stress. Mutants deficient in neuropeptide processing and secretion suppressed glial cell nonautonomous induction of the UPRER and life-span extension. Thus, astrocyte-like glial cells play a role in regulating organismal ER stress resistance and longevity.

  • A common hub for sleep and motor control in the substantia nigra 

    The arousal state of the brain covaries with the motor state of the animal. How these state changes are coordinated remains unclear. We discovered that sleep–wake brain states and motor behaviors are coregulated by shared neurons in the substantia nigra pars reticulata (SNr). Analysis of mouse home-cage behavior identified four states with different levels of brain arousal and motor activity: locomotion, nonlocomotor movement, quiet wakefulness, and sleep; transitions occurred not randomly but primarily between neighboring states. The glutamic acid decarboxylase 2 but not the parvalbumin subset of SNr -aminobutyric acid (GABA)–releasing (GABAergic) neurons was preferentially active in states of low motor activity and arousal. Their activation or inactivation biased the direction of natural behavioral transitions and promoted or suppressed sleep, respectively. These GABAergic neurons integrate wide-ranging inputs and innervate multiple arousal-promoting and motor-control circuits through extensive collateral projections.

  • An RNA vaccine drives expansion and efficacy of claudin-CAR-T cells against solid tumors 

    Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)–T cells have shown efficacy in patients with B cell malignancies. Yet, their application for solid tumors has challenges that include limited cancer-specific targets and nonpersistence of adoptively transferred CAR-T cells. Here, we introduce the developmentally regulated tight junction protein claudin 6 (CLDN6) as a CAR target in solid tumors and a strategy to overcome inefficient CAR-T cell stimulation in vivo. We demonstrate that a nanoparticulate RNA vaccine, designed for body-wide delivery of the CAR antigen into lymphoid compartments, stimulates adoptively transferred CAR-T cells. Presentation of the natively folded target on resident antigen-presenting cells promotes cognate and selective expansion of CAR-T cells. Improved engraftment of CAR-T cells and regression of large tumors in difficult-to-treat mouse models was achieved at subtherapeutic CAR-T cell doses.

  • A tensile ring drives tissue flows to shape the gastrulating amniote embryo 

    Tissue morphogenesis is driven by local cellular deformations that are powered by contractile actomyosin networks. How localized forces are transmitted across tissues to shape them at a mesoscopic scale is still unclear. Analyzing gastrulation in entire avian embryos, we show that it is driven by the graded contraction of a large-scale supracellular actomyosin ring at the margin between the embryonic and extraembryonic territories. The propagation of these forces is enabled by a fluid-like response of the epithelial embryonic disk, which depends on cell division. A simple model of fluid motion entrained by a tensile ring quantitatively captures the vortex-like "polonaise" movements that accompany the formation of the primitive streak. The geometry of the early embryo thus arises from the transmission of active forces generated along its boundary.

  • Total synthesis reveals atypical atropisomerism in a small-molecule natural product, tryptorubin A 

    Molecular shape defines function in both biological and material settings, and chemists have developed an ever-increasing vernacular to describe these shapes. Noncanonical atropisomers—shape-defined molecules that are formally topologically trivial but are interconvertible only by complex, nonphysical multibond torsions—form a unique subset of atropisomers that differ from both canonical atropisomers (e.g., binaphthyls) and topoisomers (i.e., molecules that have identical connectivity but nonidentical molecular graphs). Small molecules, in contrast to biomacromolecules, are not expected to exhibit such ambiguous shapes. Using total synthesis, we found that the peptidic alkaloid tryptorubin A can be one of two noncanonical atropisomers. We then devised a synthetic strategy that drives the atropospecific synthesis of a noncanonical atrop-defined small molecule.

  • Phase separation provides a mechanism to reduce noise in cells 

    Expression of proteins inside cells is noisy, causing variability in protein concentration among identical cells. A central problem in cellular control is how cells cope with this inherent noise. Compartmentalization of proteins through phase separation has been suggested as a potential mechanism to reduce noise, but systematic studies to support this idea have been missing. In this study, we used a physical model that links noise in protein concentration to theory of phase separation to show that liquid droplets can effectively reduce noise. We provide experimental support for noise reduction by phase separation using engineered proteins that form liquid-like compartments in mammalian cells. Thus, phase separation can play an important role in biological signal processing and control.

  • A lesson from Bollywood 
  • Chromatin accessibility dynamics in a model of human forebrain development 

    Forebrain development is characterized by highly synchronized cellular processes, which, if perturbed, can cause disease. To chart the regulatory activity underlying these events, we generated a map of accessible chromatin in human three-dimensional forebrain organoids. To capture corticogenesis, we sampled glial and neuronal lineages from dorsal or ventral forebrain organoids over 20 months in vitro. Active chromatin regions identified in human primary brain tissue were observed in organoids at different developmental stages. We used this resource to map genetic risk for disease and to explore evolutionary conservation. Moreover, we integrated chromatin accessibility with transcriptomics to identify putative enhancer-gene linkages and transcription factors that regulate human corticogenesis. Overall, this platform brings insights into gene-regulatory dynamics at previously inaccessible stages of human forebrain development, including signatures of neuropsychiatric disorders.