Editors' Choice

Science  24 Jul 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6246, pp. 393
  1. Cell Biology

    Making a StART on sterol transport

    1. Stella M. Hurtley

    Proteins containing StART-like domains (gray) transfer sterols (gold) between the ER and the plasma membrane


    Different organelles and membranes within cells contain different sets of lipids. Sterols are key components of cellular membranes, and their trafficking within cells is poorly understood. Sterols must traffic between the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and the cell surface, but do so via a nonvesicular route. Gatta et al. examined this fundamental process in yeast. They found a class of proteins involved in the transfer of sterols between the ER and the plasma membrane (PM) that contained so-called StART-like (for steroidogenic acute regulatory transfer) domains. These ER membrane proteins localized at specific ER-PM contact sites and bound sterols. Efficient PM-to-ER sterol transport required not only StART-like domain–containing proteins themselves, but also their proper localization at the contact sites.

    eLife 4 e07253 (2015).

  2. Psychology

    Learning while listening to a foreign language

    1. Gilbert Chin

    Speech not only conveys information in the form of the words uttered, but it also provides auditory cues that identify the speaker. Orena et al. now show that knowledge of the language spoken helped listeners to identify a speaker. The authors compared English-monolingual Montréal residents who could not understand spoken French or speak French themselves, to a similar set of residents of Connecticut, who were not regularly exposed to French. Montréal residents were better than the Connecticut residents at identifying the French-speaker voices, demonstrating that mere exposure improves language skills.

    Cognition 143, 36 (2015).

  3. Genetic Engineering

    SLIDE-ing to promote biosecurity

    1. Barbara R. Jasny

    One hurdle facing the widespread use of genetically engineered organisms, such as probiotics or anticancer agents, is controlling their ability to reproduce. Lopez and Anderson developed one technique to do this, called “SLIDE” (synthetic auxotroph based on a ligand-dependent essential gene). Organisms that express SLIDE can only grow when supplied with a particular compound. Working with the bacterium Escherichia coli, the authors mutated genes essential for E. coli's viability, so that the hydrophobic cores of the encoded proteins could be filled by a nontoxic, bioavailable complementing compound. The technology was easy and cheap, and bacteria engineered to express multiple SLIDE alleles showed limited escape.

    ACS Synth. Biol. 10.1021/acssynbio.5b00085 (2015).

  4. Evolution

    Lefties find marsupial friends

    1. Pamela J. Hines

    Kangaroos and other marsupials favor using their left forelimbs over their right


    As most lefties know, we live in a right-handed world. Scientists have long thought that such handedness is largely unique to humans; however, Giljov et al. now report that marsupials show handedness, too. Surprisingly, these wallabies and kangaroos preferred to predominantly use their left forelimbs, rather than their right. Unlike in humans, handedness in marsupials did not correlate with gender, and more bipedal than quadrupedal marsupial species exhibited handedness. Handedness did not associate with phylogenetic relationships between marsupial species, suggesting that ecological adaptations may have driven such preferences. Thus, yet another characteristic thought to be unique to humans falls by the wayside, or rather, to the wallabies.

    Curr. Biol. 10.1016/j.cub.2015.05.043 (2015).

  5. Education

    Academic effort hindered by peer pressure

    1. Brad Wible

    Allowing promising adolescents to keep their academic efforts private could prevent them from reducing their efforts in order to fit in with lower-performing classmates. Bursztyn and Jensen describe a natural experiment showing that effort among the highest performers on a computerized remedial tutoring system diminished after the system began to identify top performers for all users to see. Their field experiment offered free training for a college admissions test to students who took both honors and non-honors classes. If the offer was made during a non-honors class, enrollment was lower if students were told that their decision would be shared with the class, rather than kept private. There was no difference between public and private when offers were made during an honors class.

    Quart. J. Econ. 10.1093/qje/qjv021 (2015).

  6. Organic Chemistry

    Boron juggling makes two bonds in a row

    1. Jake Yeston

    Suzuki coupling is a widely used chemical reaction to make carbon-carbon bonds. Essentially, the technique relies on a boron substituent to activate one of the carbon centers. If two different compounds in the mix had C-B bonds, you might expect little control over which one reacted when. Seath et al. now show that by juggling the other groups bound to the boron, they can selectively activate two different C-B linkages sequentially. A timely swapping of methylaminodiacetic acid with pinacol enables selective and efficient coupling of three components in a single reaction mixture.

    Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 10.1002/anie.201504297 (2015).

  7. Chemistry

    Printing potent patchy particles

    1. Marc S. Lavine

    Functionalized colloidal particles offer a versatile platform for building catalysts and sensors or for use as atomic analogs for studying packing and crystallization. However, selective asymmetric functionalization is still a challenge. Tigges et al. formed a monolayer of polystyrene particles with a surface layer of aldehyde groups. Then, using microcontact printing, they selectively modified the top of the particles by applying polymer inks containing poly(aminoethyl(meth)acrylate) homopolymers or copolymers that covalently link to the surface on amination. The polymer patches served as platforms for further functionalizing, using click-type reactions or copper-catalyzed cycloadditions, or through the inclusion of biotin in the inks for biorecognition reactions.

    Small 10.1002/smll.201501071 (2015).