Editors' Choice

Science  12 Feb 2021:
Vol. 371, Issue 6530, pp. 688
  1. Cell Morphology

    Size, shape, and diversity in phytoplankton

    1. Andrew M. Sugden

    Phytoplankton show a huge diversity of morphology, though more species have conservative shapes and fewer species have high surface area geometries.

    CREDIT: RYABOV ET AL., ECOL. LETT. 10.1111/ELE.13680 (2021)

    Phytoplankton, the unicellular photosynthetic organisms of the world's surface waters, display a bewildering variety of cell shapes and sizes. Ryabov et al. analyzed how shape relates to taxonomic diversity across a large sample of phytoplanktonic data from a range of oceanic regions. Classifying the sample into 38 geometric shapes, they found that the taxa with the greatest diversity of species tended to be those of compact shape and intermediate volume, whereas diversity decreased exponentially with increased cell elongation and cell surface area. These patterns will contribute to our understanding of the evolutionary and ecological forces shaping planktonic diversity and how accelerating changes in the marine environment might affect future patterns of planktonic community composition.

    Ecol. Lett. 10.1111/ele.13680 (2021).

  2. Cancer

    Painting portraits of tumors

    1. Yevgeniya Nusinovich

    Detailed assessment of tumor genomics, epigenomics, and transcriptomics is becoming increasingly common. As these methods generate ever-increasing collections of data, it can be difficult to analyze all of this information and determine how it applies to individual patients or rare cancer subtypes. To help interpret the accumulating data, Zhou et al. designed a web-based tool called GenomePaint, which can visualize a variety of omics data in cohorts of patients and in individual samples. The authors also used GenomePaint to identify previously unreported and likely pathogenic alterations in several tumor types, demonstrating the potential power of this method.

    Cancer Cell 39, 83 (2021).

  3. Neuroscience

    Brain disease and network reorganization

    1. Peter Stern

    Parkinson's disease (PD) offers an opportunity to study the interplay between compensatory functional and molecular mechanisms. Although postsynaptic dopamine D2 receptors are up-regulated in PD, their importance in neural activity has never been identified. To investigate the relationship between reorganization of dopaminergic networks and functional reorganization of brain activity patterns, Rebelo et al. combined PET and fMRI scans of the brain areas involved in the execution of saccades. They found a tight link between functional activation and synaptic changes at the molecular level, reflecting network reorganization in PD. The association between D2 receptor binding and reorganization of the saccadic cortical network reflects parietostriatal rerouting in response to a progressive frontostriatal dopamine deficit as the disease develops.

    Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 118, e2013962118 (2020).

  4. Neuroinflammation

    Elucidating synapse loss in MS

    1. Stella M. Hurtley

    Synapses appear to provide the initiation sites of neuronal damage in human multiple sclerosis (MS), but how this synapse loss occurs, how it affects circuit activity, and how it could be prevented are all unknown. Jafari et al. describe a mouse model of cortical MS pathology designed to address these questions. They used structural and functional in vivo imaging to reveal the pathogenesis, functional consequences, and therapeutic targeting of immune-mediated synapse loss in inflamed cortical gray matter. Low-dose myelin protein immunization and stereotactic injection of cytokines implicated in MS were used to target MS-like neuroinflammatory lesions to mouse cortex. Single-cell and ultrastructural analysis revealed the loss of one-third of all synapses across both cortical hemispheres. Synapse pathology was completely reversible within a few weeks, after cortical inflammation had subsided. Localized calcium accumulations primed individual synapses for pruning by invading macrophages and activated microglia. Furthermore, an anti–colony-stimulating factor 1 receptor antagonist inhibited synapse pruning and cortical synapse loss. Thus, synaptoprotective therapeutic approaches may be feasible in MS-like neuroinflammatory disease.

    Nat. Neurosci. 10.1038/s41593-020-00780-7 (2021).

  5. Quantum Networks

    A dynamic quantum memory

    1. Ian S. Osborne

    Photons, being robust and fast, are ideal carriers of quantum information in long-distance quantum networks. For a practical communication platform, the photons also need to be manipulated at the local level at nodes or exchange points across the network, and this requires information to be reliably encoded, stored, and retrieved from the photonic qubits. Craiciu et al. demonstrate such functionality using an ensemble of erbium ions embedded within a solid-state matrix of yttrium orthosilicate. With the ions operating as a dynamic quantum memory for photons at communication wavelengths and the approach being compatible with integrated photonics, the results offer promise for possible integration into large-scale optical fiber networks.

    Optica 8, 114 (2021).

  6. Ozone Loss

    The role of prevention

    1. H. Jesse Smith

    The Montreal Protocol, which restricts the manufacturing and use of a host of atmospheric ozone-depleting chemicals, is arguably the most successful environmental agreement ever implemented. Its work is not complete, however, because new dangerous compounds continue to be made and used. Vollmer et al. report the detection of three previously unrecognized species of ozone-destroying hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). The compounds, with no known end uses, are probably intermediates formed in the production of other HCFCs. Identifying these types of sources before they become a more costly and less manageable problem will help make the Montreal Protocol more effective.

    Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 118, e2010914118 (2021).

  7. Magnetism

    A close look into a very thin magnet

    1. Jelena Stajic

    Single layers of several van der Waals materials have recently been shown to be magnetic. To use these extremely thin magnets for practical purposes, researchers must first learn about the nature of the magnetism that they possess. Abdul Wahab et al. studied one such material, CrI3, simulating its properties in both bulk and monolayer form and comparing these computational results with experimental data. The study showed that the magnetic interactions in CrI3 cannot be described by either Ising or Heisenberg models and instead require accounting for higher-order terms. The monolayer form of CrI3 was revealed to have metastable magnetic domains with very narrow domain walls, which could be exploited for future applications.

    Adv. Mater. 33, 2004138 (2020).

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