Editors' Choice

Science  17 Jan 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6475, pp. 261
  1. Education

    Sex, physics, and anxiety

    1. Melissa McCartney

    Sex-related differences in neural mechanisms (within the colored brain regions) drive how anxiety is related to STEM learning.

    PHOTO: A. A. GONZALEZ ET AL., NPJ SCI. LEARN. 4, 18 (2019)

    Anxiety negatively affects academic performance, but little is known about the neural mechanisms underlying anxiety and STEM learning. To develop a more complete model of anxiety-related mechanisms and learning strategies, Gonzalez et al. evaluated anxiety and large-scale brain connectivity in 101 undergraduate physics students, collecting both self-reporting questionnaire and neuroimaging data. Results identified sex-specific relationships between STEM anxiety and brain connectivity, with male students exhibiting distinct internetwork connectivity for STEM and clinical anxiety and female students demonstrating no significant within-sex correlations. Using these data together with additional study results, the authors show that sex differences in brain networks are not fixed and that STEM anxiety is related to changes in both female and male students' brains during the physics-learning process.

    NPJ Sci. Learn. 4, 18 (2019)

  2. Forest Ecology

    The legacy of logging

    1. Andrew M. Sugden

    Logging in tropical forests affects the future ecosystem functioning of the affected areas. Swinfield et al. investigated how logging affects the distribution of phosphorus, a key plant nutrient, over a wide area in Borneo. Spectroscopic imaging of forest canopies showed that the foliar concentrations of phosphorus were lower in logged than unlogged areas, indicating that soil phosphorus availability is decreased by logging. Because soil phosphorus is a key determinant of the tree species composition of tropical forests, the authors suggest that repeated logging of tropical forest on relatively infertile soils will lead to permanent, long-term changes in nutrient cycling and forest tree communities.

    Glob. Chang. Biol. 10.1111/gcb.14903 (2019).

  3. Immunology

    Death suppression resolves inflammation

    1. Priscilla N. Kelly

    Impaired signaling of tyrosine-protein phosphatase non-receptor type 6 (PTPN6) has been linked to skin disorders. In neutrophilic dermatoses, inflammatory immune cells called neutrophils accumulate in the skin. PTPN6 normally plays a role in limiting inflammatory responses that are mediated through the interleukin-1 (IL-1α/β) cytokine receptor. Using mice with mutations in the Ptpn6 gene, Speir et al. examined IL-1α/β release from neutrophils and asked how PTPN6 prevents inflammatory skin lesions. The researchers found that PTPN6 suppresses both apoptotic and necroptotic cell death in neutrophils, which in turn dampens IL-1–dependent inflammation. Controlling the nature and timing of neutrophil cell death in these diseases may therefore promote resolution of skin inflammation.

    Nat. Immunol. 21, 54 (2020).

  4. Speciation

    Picky mates drive speciation

    1. Sacha Vignieri

    Individuals in a mixed species shoal of African cichlid f shes show distinct mate preferences that drive speciation.


    Understanding how speciation occurs over small distances in the face of gene flow is a challenge. In these cases, local ecological adaptation can drive differentiation, but if gene flow across these regions is initially high, differentiation may not occur. Sibly et al. used a theoretical approach to explore the impact of a nonadaptive bias in mate choice on the potential for speciation in a system with local ecological differences, gene flow, and dispersal in both sexes. They suggest that mate preferences develop that can facilitate speciation. These can be in the form of imprinting, whereby an offspring develops a preference for mates that contain a trait like their parent, or matchmaking, whereby an individual prefers a trait that it itself has in its potential mate. These nonadaptive mating preferences, even in the face of dispersal, limit gene exchange among individuals adapted to local ecological conditions. Hence, selection for those conditions drives diversification. Such processes may be operating in habitats with concentrations of related species, such as cichlid fishes found in the lakes of the African Rift Valley.

    Ecol. Evol. 9, 13506 (2019).

  5. Gene Therapy

    Correcting airways in cystic fibrosis

    1. Gemma Alderton

    Cystic fibrosis is caused by inactivating mutations in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene. Deletion of phenylalanine-508 is the most common mutation. Vaidyanathan et al. used CRISPR-associated protein 9 (Cas9)–mediated CFTR editing and adeno-associated virus delivery to correct the phenylalanine-508 deletion in upper-airway basal stem cells from 10 patients with cystic fibrosis. They achieved 30 to 50% gene correction and improved CFTR protein function. The corrected cells successfully engrafted within a clinically approved scaffold. This finding offers possibilities for clinical development of upper airway implants to treat respiratory failure, which is the biggest cause of mortality in cystic fibrosis patients.

    Cell Stem Cell 10.1016/j.stem.2019.11.002 (2019).

  6. Organometallics

    Subtleties of cobalt oxidative addition

    1. Jake Yeston

    Chemical catalysis relies to a great extent on heavy precious transition metals that hop between oxidation states two electrons at a time. Recent efforts have focused on making greater use of the lighter, more abundant metals like iron, cobalt, and nickel. However, their tendency toward one-electron chemistry complicates the conventional mechanistic paradigms. Sandford et al. used a systematic combination of cyclic voltammetry and Hammett correlations of substituent effects to analyze the oxidative addition of a cobalt(I) complex to benzyl bromides. The results pointed to a two-step process involving a cobalt(II)-bromine intermediate and showcased the promising utility of the approach.

    J. Am. Chem. Soc. 141, 18877 (2019).

  7. Materials Synthesis

    Tracking replicate syntheses

    1. Phil Szuromi

    Many synthetic routes are published each year for materials, but for how many of these materials is replicate synthesis reported? Agrawal et al. studied this question for metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), as these materials are often resynthesized to take advantage of the sorption properties or to make direct comparisons with new materials. They randomly selected 130 MOFs from a database of more than 4700 such materials and found that reported replicate syntheses were few and that the number diminished as a power law. Separately, they identified six MOFs that were resynthesized at rates far in excess of the power law prediction (some several hundred times). They also tracked the variation in their reported adsorption capacity as a function of years since the original publication.

    Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 10.1073/pnas.1918484117 (2019).

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