Editors' Choice

Science  27 Mar 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6485, pp. 1439
  1. Cell Biology

    A mitotic error code

    1. Stella M. Hurtley

    Immunofluorescence microscopy image of a human cell in anaphase of mitosis with missegregated chromosomes (kinetochore in magenta), highlighting tyrosinated (green) and detyrosinated microtubules (cyan)


    Mitotic errors leading to chromosome missegregation are a hallmark of human cancers. These errors result from incorrect microtubule attachments to specialized regions on chromosomes called kinetochores. Such errors are normally prevented by the action of a dedicated molecular error correction machinery that promotes microtubule depolymerization and consequent detachment. How does this error correction machinery discriminate correct from incorrect microtubule-kinetochore attachments? Ferreira et al. genetically manipulated enzymes that regulate a-tubulin detyrosination, a specific posttranslational modification associated with long-lived microtubules. They found that mitotic error correction in human cells was exquisitely sensitive to the detyrosinated state of kinetochore-attached microtubules. Thus, microtubules encode important signaling cues that allow the discrimination of mitotic errors to promote faithful chromosome segregation.

    J. Cell Biol. 219, e201910064 (2020).

  2. Reproductive Biology

    In search of a male contraceptive

    1. Beverly A. Purnell

    Although “the pill” has been widely used by women since the 1960s, contraceptive options for men are limited. Gruber et al. used an automated robotic screening method that tests candidate molecules for effects on sperm motility and changes in the cap or acrosome of the sperm's head. They identified several compounds from a collection of 12,000 molecules from the ReFRAME (Repurposing, Focused Rescue, and Accelerated Medchem) library, which contains small molecules that have regulatory approval or are in clinical development. Drugs such as KF-4939 (a platelet aggregation factor inhibitor) and Resquimod (a Toll-like receptor 7/8 ligand) were identified. The use of drugs that can be repurposed should assist in speeding translation into the clinic.

    eLife 9, e51739 (2020).

  3. Coastal Ecology

    A silver lining for hurricanes

    1. Andrew M. Sugden

    In southern Florida, hurricanes bring pulses of nutrients to mangrove forests.


    Hurricanes are notorious for the havoc that they wreak on coastlines. However, destruction can also be accompanied by an injection of nutrients into ecosystems. Castañeda-Moya et al. report a hitherto underappreciated beneficial effect of high-energy disturbances. In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, which hit the Florida Everglades in 2017, there was a notable fertilization pulse in mangrove forests as far as 10 kilometers inland. Phosphorus-rich sediments deposited by the hurricane boosted the soil nutrient pool and resulted in increased phosphorus uptake by mangrove species. The potential hurricane-enhanced plant productivity may promote soil stabilization and resilience to future disturbances and sea level rise

    Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 117, 4831 (2020).

  4. Dog Domestication

    Feed the dog

    1. Sacha Vignieri

    Dogs are one of humanity's most frequent companions, but when and how this relationship first began are still open questions. There is considerable evidence for fully domesticated and cohabiting dogs by around 15,000 years ago, but genetic studies and some fossils suggest that the relationship began much earlier, perhaps as long as 40,000 years ago or more. Identifying the first evidence of wolves becoming dogs is challenging, because early domesticating individuals are likely to have looked like wild wolves. Prassack et al. studied fossil canid teeth from a Paleolithic site in the Czech Republic from 28,500 years before the present. Using microwear analysis, they found distinct differences between individuals previously classified as “protodogs” or “wolves” based on their jaw structure. They argue that these differences reflect true differences in diet, specifically an increase in bone consumption in the protodogs that could have been due to a shift by early domesticated animals to a diet of human scraps.

    J. Archaeol. Sci. 115, 105092 (2020).

  5. Quantum Information

    Determining odd from even

    1. Ian S. Osborne

    The parity of a quantum mechanical wave function simply tells you if there is an odd or even number of excitations in the system it describes. Without the need to know the exact number of excitations within a system, being able to measure changes in parity is important and can be exploited in operations such as quantum error correction and stabilizing quantum communication protocols. Besse et al. demonstrate a detector that can determine the parity of a propagating microwave field. Using a superconducting phase qubit embedded in a cavity, they show that they can engineer the system such that transmission of the microwaves is conditional on there being an odd or even number of microwave photons in the radiation field. The simplicity of the detector design should have applications across a broad range of setups for quantum information processing.

    Phys. Rev. X 10, 011046 (2020).

  6. Atmospheric Chemistry

    It's in the air

    1. H. Jesse Smith

    Dimethyl sulfide, produced by many marine organisms, is the major natural source of natural marine sulfate aerosols, which have an enormous influence on cloud formation and climate. Veres et al. report that >30% of oceanic dimethyl sulfide emitted to the atmosphere is oxidized to HPMTF (hydroperoxymethyl thioformate, HOOCH2SCHO), a previously unquantified species. By linking HPMTF concentration to new particle formation and growth, they establish its importance in marine atmospheric chemistry and demonstrate the need to include it in models that describe the links among ocean biogeochemistry, marine aerosol formation, and climate.

    Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 117, 4505 (2020).

  7. Physics

    A strange strange metal

    1. Jelena Stajic

    The so-called strange metal phase appears in the phase diagrams of many quantum materials, including cuprate high-temperature superconductors and heavy fermion compounds. Strange metals frequently occur in the vicinity of antiferromagnetism, suggesting a connection between the two. Now, Shen et al. reveal an unusual strange metal phase near a ferromagnetic quantum critical point in the quasi–one-dimensional material CeRh6Ge4. The researchers observed anomalous transport and thermodynamics properties typical of strange metals near the critical pressure at which the material becomes ferromagnetic.

    Nature 579, 51 (2020).

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