Editors' Choice

Science  03 Feb 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6324, pp. 491
  1. Paleoanthropology

    Interglacial Neanderthal habitats

    1. Andrew M. Sugden

    Neanderthals may have preferred warm Mediterranean climates.


    Despite burgeoning research in Neanderthal archaeology in recent years, much remains to be discovered about their interactions with the paleoenvironment. Using a species distribution modeling approach, Benito et al. studied how climate and topography shaped Neanderthal distribution in Europe during the Last Interglacial optimum around 120 thousand years ago, when the climate was warmer than it is today. Archaeological records and paleoclimatic data indicate that Mediterranean coastal regions with locally varied topography and mild summers were the most favored habitat. Montane regions such as the Alps and Pyrenees, as well as the central European plains, once thought to be the core Neanderthal habitat, were suboptimal because of low winter temperatures.

    J. Biogeogr. 44, 51 (2017).

  2. Cancer

    Regulator loop enabling cancer cell growth

    1. L. Bryan Ray

    It is not easy being a cancer cell, so such cells may need help from factors other than oncogenes that contribute to the cancer cell phenotype. Bublik et al. identify such a factor in protein fibroblast growth factor 13 (FGF13). FGF13 does not function like a regular growth factor. Instead, it acts in the nucleolus to repress transcription of ribosomal RNA and inhibit protein synthesis. Furthermore, it is tightly linked to the action of the tumor suppressor p53. The p53 protein inhibits expression of the FGF13 gene, which also encodes a microRNA that in turn down-regulates p53, forming a negative feedback loop. FGF13 may help cancer cells avoid the toxic effects of excessive protein synthesis and could therefore be targeted for cancer therapy.

    Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 10.1073/pnas.1614876114 (2016).

  3. Blood Vessel Disease

    Targeting nitric oxide to treat aneurysm

    1. Priscilla Kelly

    Could nitric oxide inhibitors help prevent cardiac aneurysm?


    Aneurysms are the abnormal enlargement of arteries and can lead to death if the artery wall bursts. Oller et al. studied patients with Marfan syndrome, an inherited genetic condition in which individuals are prone to cardiac aneurysms. They discovered lower levels of ADAMTS1 in the heart tissue of Marfan syndrome patients compared with that of organ transplant donors. Genetic inactivation of ADAMTS1 in mice resulted in a Marfan syndrome-like disease, which included low blood pressure, aortic dilation, and aneurysm development. These effects were driven by enhanced activity of nitric oxide, and treatment with a nitric oxide inhibitor reduced blood vessel size and reversed the clinical signs of aneurysm formation.

    Nat. Med. 10.1038/nm.4266 (2017).

  4. Neurogenomics

    ERVs affect brain gene expression

    1. Laura M. Zahn

    In mammals, endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) provide genomic sequences that can bind to transcription factors that promote transcription of both the ERVs and nearby host genes. In humans, specific developmental stages exhibit repression of ERV transcription. In contrast, cellular genetic networks regulated by proximal ERVs have been identified, suggesting that their expression can be either useful or harmful for the host. To test this idea, Brattås et al. examined ERV transcriptional regulation across stages of human brain development. They found dynamic ERV expression across developmental stages and identified a protein, TRIM28, that silenced transcription of ERVs in early development. These data indicate that selection may be driving evolution to optimize the effects of parasitic genomic elements such as ERVs.

    Cell Rep. 18, 1 (2017).

  5. Immigration

    Want lower crime? Legalize immigrants

    1. Brad Wible

    Immigrants granted legal status in Italy committed less crime compared with those who were not granted legal status. Applications for legal status are submitted online at particular times each year (“click days”) and processed on a first-come, first-served basis. Pinotti accessed data on the timing of over 110,000 applications on click days in 2007 and compared applicants who submitted before versus after the quota was reached (usually within 30 to 60 min). In the year after the click days, the crime rate declined from 1.1 to 0.8% for immigrants who applied before the cutoff but remained at 1.1% for those who missed the cutoff. The effect is dominated by those having few economic opportunities before legalization.

    Amer. Econ. Rev. 107, 138 (2017).

  6. Asteroseismology

    A Neptunian mirror for solar oscillations

    1. Keith T. Smith

    The Kepler satellite


    The Sun's brightness varies by a tiny amount because of seismic oscillations. The Kepler satellite has detected the same process on other Sun-like stars, which can be used to determine their mass and radius. Gaulme et al. examined Kepler observations of Neptune, which reflects sunlight from its clouds, faintly enough not to saturate Kepler's detectors. They detected the Sun's oscillations, but these implied a mass and radius that were both too high. Observations from other facilities show that this is because the Sun was in an unusually active period. Scaling relations for other stars may have underestimated the systematic uncertainty in determining mass and radius.

    Astrophys. J. 833, L13 (2016).

  7. Physics

    Catching a glimpse of an exotic lattice

    1. Jelena Stajic

    We normally think of a crystal lattice as consisting of atoms. At low temperatures and densities, however, electrons are expected to form a crystal of their own—the so-called Wigner crystal. This phase is very fragile and thus tricky to detect reliably. Jang et al. used pulsed tunneling spectroscopy to detect signatures of this elusive phase in the form of sharp resonances that appeared when the solid, a GaAs/AlGaAs heterostructure, was exposed to high magnetic fields. The resonances appeared as a consequence of vibrations of the Wigner lattice. Their sharpness suggested longrange correlations in the crystal. The technique may be applicable to probing other electronic orders.

    Nat. Phys. 10.1038/nphys3979 (2016).