Editors' Choice

Science  22 Apr 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6284, pp. 425
  1. Nuclear Monitoring

    Listening in on a nuclear test

    1. Brent Grocholski

    Underground nuclear testing site at Frenchman Flats, Nevada, USA.


    Seismic energy sources generate low-frequency sound waves in the atmosphere called infrasound. Infrasound stations are one type of facility used to detect nuclear weapons tests. Assink et al. found a small infrasound signal from the 2016 nuclear test by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The signal was smaller than the one from their 2013 nuclear test, suggesting that the 2016 test may have occurred at greater depth. Infrasound stations provide monitoring for nuclear tests and can be combined with seismology to constrain source depth.

    Geophys. Res. Lett. 10.1002/2016GL068497 (2016).

  2. Gene Regulation

    An upstream signal for repression

    1. Guy Riddihough

    Most messenger RNAs (mRNAs) contain “untranslated” regions (UTRs) upstream (59) and downstream (39) of the protein-coding open reading frame (ORF). Many 5′ UTRs harbor very short upstream ORFs (uORFs), whose functions are largely unknown. Johnstone et al. show that approximately half of vertebrate mRNAs contain uORFs; however, uORFs generally do not encode peptides, despite being translated. Instead they function to repress mRNA expression and protein translation. Their conservation across evolution points to their importance in gene regulation.

    EMBO J. 10.15252/embj.201592759 (2016).

  3. Metabolic Imprinting

    Inheriting Mom's exercise regime

    1. L. Bryan Ray

    Moms can pass on their propensity to exercise, at least in mice.


    Mounting evidence suggests that parents pass on more than just their DNA to their offspring. In the latest example, Eclarinal et al. examined the effect of exercise during pregnancy on the voluntary physical activity of the offspring in adulthood. The researchers kept pregnant mice in cages with either an unlocked or locked running wheel and monitored their physical activity. Daughters of moms who could exercise showed increased activity and voluntary exercise some 60 to 300 days after they were born. The findings complement others showing that in mice, the maternal environment can influence the metabolic status of progeny, and in humans, maternal exercise benefits offspring.

    FASEB J. 10.1096/fj.201500018R (2016).

  4. Epigenetics

    Getting more than Mom's looks

    1. Laura M. Zahn

    Smoking while pregnant is bad, leading to increased risk of lung disease, cancer, and obesity in offspring. But how does smoking affect the epigenetic landscape? Bauer et al. investigated this, at a base-pair level, in mothers and their children at birth through 4 years old. They find that maternal smoking targets functionally relevant enhancer elements in the genome, leading to impaired lung function in children. These epigenetic marks are similar across cell types, show stability over time, and occur when epigenetic shifts are most pronounced. Thus, by systematically studying the association between genetic variation and DNA methylation, they document a link between epigenetic changes and environmental exposure.

    Mol. Syst. Biol. 12, 861 (2016).

  5. Immunometabolism

    A metabolic checkpoint for ILC2s

    1. Kristen L. Mueller

    Arginine metabolism regulates lung inflammation.


    Infections are demanding, requiring immune cells to rapidly engage programs of gene expression and to alter their metabolism. Monticelli et al. provide insight into how one population of immune cells in the lung, termed type 2 innate lymphoid cells (ILC2s), modulates its metabolism in the face of lung inflammation or infection. They find that ILC2s express the enzyme arginase 1 (Arg1), which metabolizes L-arginine to generate urea and ornithine. Using mice lacking Arg1 specifically in ILC2s, they demonstrate that lung ILC2s require Arg1 for their proliferation and effector function in response to inflammation or infection. Disrupted amino acid metabolism and diminished glycolytic capacity probably account for the poor function of ILC2s in the absence of Arg1.

    Nat. Immunol. 10.1038/ni.3421 (2016).

  6. Optics

    Making photons stick around awhile

    1. Ian S. Osborne

    Photons are ideal carriers of information because they are fast, robust, and capable of long-distance travel, which has made optical networks the backbone of the communications industry. But for optical processing purposes, the photons must be slowed down, stored, and manipulated; processes that are not easily done. Microresonators and extra lengths of fiber can create delay lines for the photons but tend to be limited in the extent of the achievable delay. Huet et al. show that, by using slow light effects in an optical microcavity, the lifetime of a photon can be extended to milliseconds. Photons with such ultralong storage times could be important for applications in integrated nanophotonics and optical memory.

    Phys. Rev. Lett. 116, 133902 (2016).

  7. Polymers

    Refolding protein aggregates

    1. Phil Szuromi

    Although protein chaperones direct the correct folding of nascent proteins, they also can resolubilize protein aggregates that may have formed to enable their refolding. Polymers such as poly(ethylene glycol) can help keep proteins in their native state by preventing thermal denaturation and aggregation. Nakamoto et al. now report that acrylamide polymer nanoparticles (80 to 160 nm in diameter), with anioic and hydrophobic groups that can solubilize aggregates of lysozyme, allow it to refold into its native configuration. Like chaperones, these nanoparticles appear to have a high affinity for the aggregate state but only weak affinity for the native one.

    J. Am. Chem. Soc. 10.1021/jacs.5b12600 (2016).