Editors' Choice

Science  11 Jul 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6193, pp. 176
  1. Marine Microbiology

    A virus that enslaves ocean algae

    1. Pamela J. Hines

    Satellite image of Emiliania huxleyi blooms in the Barents Sea


    The algal blooms that flourish near the ocean surface feed ecosystems and remove carbon from the atmosphere. But algal blooms can get sick. Rosenwasser et al. studied metabolism and gene transcription in the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi and a virus that attacks it. They found that the virus hijacked the algae's metabolic pathway and used it to build more virus particles. The virus carries information for its own lipid biosynthetic pathway. No shrinking violet, this physically large virus shut down and supplanted the parallel metabolic pathway in its algal host, forcing the algae to synthesize lipids that the virus needed. The host, deprived of its own lipids, faded into oblivion, sinking into the ocean and taking its resident carbon with it.

    Plant Cell 10.1105/tpc.114.125641 (2014).

  2. Neuroscience

    Hearing and imagination shape what we see

    1. Peter Stern

    Hearing sounds helps our visual system to predict incoming information and may give us a survival advantage. Vetter et al. blindfolded people and scanned their brains while they listened to birds singing, traffic noise, or people talking. Using sophisticated algorithms, the researchers were able to identify the category of sounds just by examining the pattern of activity in the primary visual cortex, a brain area previously believed to process nothing but input from the eyes. And when the people imagined the specific sound categories in the complete absence of sight and sound, their primary visual cortices also showed activity. These results highlight the interconnectedness of the brain's sensory systems.

    Curr. Biol. 10.1016/j.cub.2014.04.020 (2014).

  3. Cell Adhesion

    Forces inside the cell control adhesion

    1. Valda Vinson

    When tissues undergo change—when they're growing or healing, for example—the contact between cells changes too. Mechanical forces play an important role in remodeling these connections. The protein cadherin sticks cells together by spanning the cell membrane, making contacts with the network of actin filaments inside one cell and cadherins on another cell. Engl et al. watched junctions grow between pairs of cells. The dynamics of the actin cytoskeleton affected how cadherin moved to the junctions. During actin turnover, when opposite ends of the filament add and lose actin monomers simultaneously, contacts between cells shrank, whereas stable actin filaments stabilized the contacts between cells. Forces inside the cell stabilize the actin filaments and thus influence cell adhesion.

    Nat. Cell Biol. 16, 584 (2014).

  4. Viral Cell Biology

    NEC helps herpesvirus escape from nucleus

    1. Stella M. Hurtley

    Viruses must move out of their host cells before they can infect new ones. To make the break, newly created viruses form infectious virus particles by enshrouding themselves in the host cell's membrane, which eventually pinches off in a process called scission. For herpesviruses, this “budding” occurs in the inner nuclear membrane and requires a special protein tool, called a nuclear egress protein complex (NEC). Bigalke et al. asked whether the NEC itself tells the membrane to bud and pinch off, or whether it needs to recruit host-cell proteins to get the message across. Using only purified NEC and lipids, the authors found that NEC works alone, by forming a coat-like hexagonal array inside the budding membrane. This array forms a scaffold for the bud and helps the neck of the budding point narrow so scission occurs.

    Herpesvirus virion


    Nat. Commun. 10.1038/ncomms5131 (2014).

  5. Diffraction Methods

    Locking into surface structure

    1. Phil Szuromi

    Knowing the surface structure of functional materials such as catalysts is an essential part of understanding how they work. Lock-in amplifiers are instruments that extract weak signals from noisy data, which can help investigators who employ high-energy x-ray diffraction techniques to probe surfaces. Ferri et al. studied palladium nanoparticles on cerium-zirconium oxides, which are similar to catalysts used to control automotive exhaust emissions. They detected reduced Pd nanocrystals, as well as changes in oxygen coordination around the cerium cations, using phase-sensitive detection of diffraction peaks. Exposing the sample to alternating pulses of reducing CO and oxidizing O2 led to those phase shifts.

    Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 10.1002/ange.201403094 (2014).

  6. Physics

    Making larger numbers count more

    1. Jelena Stajic

    Some measurements make better use of a larger number of particles than others. To make very precise measurements, physicists often increase the number of particles they use as probes—the more particles, the more precise the measurement. Sewell et al. sent light pulses through a cloud of 87Rb atoms to measure the spin alignment of the atomic cloud. They found that the precision of the measurement grew more quickly as the number of photons was increased than it does when more conventional methods are employed. The key to this improvement was making an indirect measurement in which the output was a nonlinear function of the number of photons used.

    Phys. Rev. X 4, 021045 (2014).

  7. Geophysics

    Different faults with the same risks

    1. Brent Grocholski

    Everyone knows that buildings near traditional earthquake faults need careful engineering, but what about ones near faults that deform slowly over time? Most earthquakes occur on faults that are locked in place and resist motion; faults that deform slowly and continuously are traditionally considered less seismically hazardous. Harris and Abrahamson analyzed the San Andreas fault system in detail and report that ground shaking from earthquakes on slowly deforming faults looks the same as that from traditional earthquakes. The authors conclude that seismic hazard maps should not discount the potential for ground shaking from slowly deforming faults.

    The hazards from slowly deforming faults are similar to those of rapidly deforming ones


    Geophys. Res. Lett. 10.1002/2014GL060228 (2014).

  8. Paleontology

    In the footsteps of duckbilled dinos

    1. Sid Perkins

    Thousands of fossilized footprints left on a 180-m-long stretch of flood plain in Alaska's Denali National Park and Preserve offer news clues to the lives of hadrosaurs, commonly called duck-billed dinosaurs. The impressions, made between 69 million and 72 million years ago, cluster within four size ranges that represent specific age groups in a multigenerational herd, report Fiorillo et al. About 84% of the tracks were made by adult and near-adult hadrosaurs, 13% by young probably less than 1 year old, and only 3% by juveniles—a rarity that suggests the species experienced a rapid growth spurt. The presence of juveniles also hints that the creatures spent their lives in the Arctic; the young would not have been able to migrate to and from warmer climates during wintertime.

    Geology 10.1130/G35740.1 (2014).

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