Editors' Choice

Science  19 Feb 2021:
Vol. 371, Issue 6531, pp. 794
  1. Behavior

    Free trade between species

    1. Sacha Vignieri

    Macaques have learned to barter for food with humans to return stolen possessions according to how highly an object is valued.


    The use of tokens as a bartering tool in nonhuman primate studies has taught us much about the willingness of nonhuman primates to engage in economic transactions. The question of whether it reflects a phenomenon that might emerge in natural conditions has received less attention. Long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) living in a Balinese temple regularly steal visitors' possessions and then barter for food with humans anxious to regain their belongings. Leca et al. discovered that they preferentially steal items of high value (for example, digital devices and wallets) over those with low value (for example, empty bags or hairpins) because higher-value food rewards tend to be offered for items that humans value more. The ability to identify high-value objects increases with age and experience, as does the macaques' skill as thieves. The animals in this group have been stealing and trading for more than 30 years, suggesting that the practice is culturally transmitted.

    Philos. Trans. R. Soc. London Ser. B 376, 20190677 (2021).

  2. Catalysis

    Cagey hydrosilylation

    1. Jake Yeston

    Platinum-catalyzed hydrosilylation is applied at a vast scale to produce carbon-silicon bonds underlying certain stretchy polymers, lubricants, adhesives, and coatings. Pan et al. report that surrounding the platinum with a molecular cage can boost its activity and enhance its selectivity. Specifically, they used copper ions to template assembly of hexaphenylbenzene-based panels into a porous shell and then swapped out the copper for platinum. The caged catalyst was highly selective toward unencumbered carbon sites and also proved compatible with carbonyl and epoxide functionality.

    Nat. Commun. 10.1038/s41467-020-20233-w (2021).

  3. Regeneration

    Stem cells relieve pressure

    1. Beverly A. Purnell

    In glaucoma, intraocular pressure damages innervation from the eye, resulting in irreversible blindness. The most common form of glaucoma is primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG), characterized by deterioration of the trabecular meshwork (TM) cells that encircles the base of the cornea. When Xiong et al. transplanted exogenous human trabecular meshwork stem cells (TMSCs) into a POAG mouse model, aqueous humor drained normally, intraocular pressed was reduced and the function of the retinal ganglion cells was preserved. TMSC transplantation also increased TM cellularity and promoted myocilin secretion, which reduced endoplasmic reticulum stress in the cells. These signs of TM tissue repair show promise for use of stem cells in the development of clinical treatments for glaucoma.

    eLife 10, e63677 (2021).

  4. Microbiology

    Wash in, wash out, repeat

    1. Michael A. Funk

    Just as floods can temporarily displace human communities, intense rain periodically brings disturbances to aquatic habitats. To study these cycles of disturbance and recovery, Shabarova et al. compared physical and chemical features with microbial community dynamics in Jiřická Pond in the Czech Republic. Water inflow from extreme rain events caused a rapid disturbance, including washout of larger microorganisms, influx of nutrients, and introduction of virus-like particles. However, four well-defined phases of succession returned the pond to its original state by about 2 weeks after the disturbance.

    Nat. Microbiol. 10.1038/s41564-020-00852-1 (2021).

  5. Exoplanets

    A six-planet system with resonant orbits

    1. Keith T. Smith

    Orbital migration during planet formation can produce resonant chains of orbits that are simple multiples of each other. Studying such multiplanet systems provides information on the formation process. Leleu et al. used transit and radial velocity data to investigate a candidate multiple-planet system, TOI-178. They found six planets there, which had looked like three in the initial observations because some of the orbits were simple multiples of each other. Analysis of the extended dataset showed that five of the six planets are in a resonant chain. The planets are all between Earth and Neptune size and are on short orbits with high surface temperatures.

    Astron. Astrophys. 10.1051/0004-6361/202039767 (2021).

  6. Structural Virology

    A role for cholesterol in Ebola virus

    1. Valda Vinson

    The 2013–2016 Ebola epidemic in West Africa caused terrible disease and more than 10,000 deaths. The only protein on the surface of this virus is the glycoprotein (GP), which comprises the GP1 and GP2 domains. After binding to a host protein, GP1 is unclamped from GP2, and GP2 initiates membrane fusion that implicates cholesterol. Lee et al. show that cholesterol interacts with glycine residues in the transmembrane domain of GP2. Mutation of a key glycine reduced membrane fusion using GP2 embedded in viral membrane surrogates and reduced cell entry of virus-like particles. Such particles produced from cells treated with cholesterol-lowering statins also showed impaired cell entry. Biophysical studies suggest that cholesterol affects the structure of GP2 and that this in turn may affect the efficiency of membrane fusion.

    Nat. Struct. Mol. Biol. 10.1038/s41594-020-00548-4 (2021).

  7. Parasite Genomes

    Moving genes through parasitism

    1. Laura M. Zahn

    Flowering Sapria himalayana, which, despite being an endoparasite and completely dependent on its vine host, has a surprisingly large genome.


    Plants that parasitize other plants include species such as mistletoe and members of the endophytic family Rafflesiaceae, which have the largest flowers of any plant but no other recognizable external structures. The impact of extreme host dependency usually results in genome streamlining. Cai et al. assembled the genome of the parasitic Rafflesia Sapria himalayana, hosts of which include members of the grape family. This parasite shows rapid genome evolution that has resulted in extensive gene loss in the chloroplast and photosynthetic machinery but retention of key genes for other organs. Unexpectedly, it has gained extensive repeat regions, resulting in a substantially larger genome than its closest free-living relatives, which may reflect horizontal gene transfer occurring during ancestral host associations.

    Curr. Biol. 10.1016/j.cub.2020.12.045 (2021).

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