Beyond plastic waste ()

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News at a glance ()

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'Biased opioids could yield safer pain relief ()

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'David and Goliath weather eyes set for launch ()

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Livestock drove ancient Old World inequality ()

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After failed rescue effort, rare porpoise in extreme peril ()

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Autoimmune diseases surface after cancer treatment ()

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Ancient Australian goes home ()

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Oldest images of dogs show hunting, leashes ()

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A change of mind ()

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Curtailing cascading failures ()

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Feeding frenzy for cancer cells ()

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Evolution of neurovirulent Zika virus ()

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Advancing dengue vaccine development ()

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Skin color variation in Africa ()

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The promise of plastics from plants ()

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The future of plastics recycling ()

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Designed to degrade ()

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Racing for academic glory and patents: Lessons from CRISPR ()

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Exploring exoplanets ()

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The scapegoat ()

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Greenland: Build an economy on sand ()

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Bluefin tuna science remains vague ()

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Romanian ecosystems need EU protection ()

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Response to Comment on "The extent of forest in dryland biomes" ()
Griffith et al. do not question the quality of our analysis, but they question our results with respect to the definition of forest we employed. In our response, we explain why the differences we report result from a difference of technique and not of definition, and how anyone can adapt—as we did—our data set to any forest definition and tree cover threshold of interest.
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How the snapdragon chooses its color ()

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How to hide a dimension from view ()

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Exotic origin for cosmic positrons ()

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Genetics of the passenger pigeon ()

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Structural basis for transcription activation ()

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Hydrogen from methane in molten metal ()

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Lighting up antitumor responses ()

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Predicting local sea level rise ()

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How protons power rotation ()

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Peptide-based semiconductors ()

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The domino effect in power failure ()

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From spins to spirals ()

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African genomics and skin color ()

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Delving deep into electronic properties ()

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Another spin at the wheel ()

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Tracking a trio of rubidium atoms ()

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Resetting the clock on photoemission ()

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Pairing up electrons and holes in bilayer graphene ()

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Too much or too little--better than some ()

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Cancer cells put ammonia back to work ()

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Mutation for microcephaly ()

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New target, better leukemia mouse model ()

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Routes to greener plastics ()

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MSC sacrifice for immunosuppression ()

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Etching silicon nanotubes ()

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What brings PRC2 to chromatin? ()

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Be honest ()

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Unusual macrophages contribute to obesity ()

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Mitochondria help in dead cell clearance ()

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Brush with care ()

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Bombardment-driven early tectonics ()

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The structural basis of flagellin detection by NAIP5: A strategy to limit pathogen immune evasion ()
Robust innate immune detection of rapidly evolving pathogens is critical for host defense. Nucleotide-binding domain leucine-rich repeat (NLR) proteins function as cytosolic innate immune sensors in plants and animals. However, the structural basis for ligand-induced NLR activation has so far remained unknown. NAIP5 (NLR family, apoptosis inhibitory protein 5) binds the bacterial protein flagellin and assembles with NLRC4 to form a multiprotein complex called an inflammasome. Here we report the cryo–electron microscopy structure of the assembled ~1.4-megadalton flagellin-NAIP5-NLRC4 inflammasome, revealing how a ligand activates an NLR. Six distinct NAIP5 domains contact multiple conserved regions of flagellin, prying NAIP5 into an open and active conformation. We show that innate immune recognition of multiple ligand surfaces is a generalizable strategy that limits pathogen evolution and immune escape.
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Photoionization in the time and frequency domain ()
Ultrafast processes in matter, such as the electron emission after light absorption, can now be studied using ultrashort light pulses of attosecond duration (10–18 seconds) in the extreme ultraviolet spectral range. The lack of spectral resolution due to the use of short light pulses has raised issues in the interpretation of the experimental results and the comparison with theoretical calculations. We determine photoionization time delays in neon atoms over a 40–electron volt energy range with an interferometric technique combining high temporal and spectral resolution. We spectrally disentangle direct ionization from ionization with shake-up, in which a second electron is left in an excited state, and obtain excellent agreement with theoretical calculations, thereby solving a puzzle raised by 7-year-old measurements.
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Arbitrary spin-to-orbital angular momentum conversion of light ()
Optical elements that convert the spin angular momentum (SAM) of light into vortex beams have found applications in classical and quantum optics. These elements—SAM-to–orbital angular momentum (OAM) converters—are based on the geometric phase and only permit the conversion of left- and right-circular polarizations (spin states) into states with opposite OAM. We present a method for converting arbitrary SAM states into total angular momentum states characterized by a superposition of independent OAM. We designed a metasurface that converts left- and right-circular polarizations into states with independent values of OAM and designed another device that performs this operation for elliptically polarized states. These results illustrate a general material-mediated connection between SAM and OAM of light and may find applications in producing complex structured light and in optical communication.
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Full momentum- and energy-resolved spectral function of a 2D electronic system ()
The single-particle spectral function measures the density of electronic states in a material as a function of both momentum and energy, providing central insights into strongly correlated electron phenomena. Here we demonstrate a high-resolution method for measuring the full momentum- and energy-resolved electronic spectral function of a two-dimensional (2D) electronic system embedded in a semiconductor. The technique remains operational in the presence of large externally applied magnetic fields and functions even for electronic systems with zero electrical conductivity or with zero electron density. Using the technique on a prototypical 2D system, a GaAs quantum well, we uncover signatures of many-body effects involving electron-phonon interactions, plasmons, polarons, and a phonon analog of the vacuum Rabi splitting in atomic systems.
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Tunable excitons in bilayer graphene ()
Excitons, the bound states of an electron and a hole in a solid material, play a key role in the optical properties of insulators and semiconductors. Here, we report the observation of excitons in bilayer graphene (BLG) using photocurrent spectroscopy of high-quality BLG encapsulated in hexagonal boron nitride. We observed two prominent excitonic resonances with narrow line widths that are tunable from the mid-infrared to the terahertz range. These excitons obey optical selection rules distinct from those in conventional semiconductors and feature an electron pseudospin winding number of 2. An external magnetic field induces a large splitting of the valley excitons, corresponding to a g-factor of about 20. These findings open up opportunities to explore exciton physics with pseudospin texture in electrically tunable graphene systems.
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Extended gamma-ray sources around pulsars constrain the origin of the positron flux at Earth ()
The unexpectedly high flux of cosmic-ray positrons detected at Earth may originate from nearby astrophysical sources, dark matter, or unknown processes of cosmic-ray secondary production. We report the detection, using the High-Altitude Water Cherenkov Observatory (HAWC), of extended tera–electron volt gamma-ray emission coincident with the locations of two nearby middle-aged pulsars (Geminga and PSR B0656+14). The HAWC observations demonstrate that these pulsars are indeed local sources of accelerated leptons, but the measured tera–electron volt emission profile constrains the diffusion of particles away from these sources to be much slower than previously assumed. We demonstrate that the leptons emitted by these objects are therefore unlikely to be the origin of the excess positrons, which may have a more exotic origin.
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Compacted dimensions and singular plasmonic surfaces ()
In advanced field theories, there can be more than four dimensions to space, the excess dimensions described as compacted and unobservable on everyday length scales. We report a simple model, unconnected to field theory, for a compacted dimension realized in a metallic metasurface periodically structured in the form of a grating comprising a series of singularities. An extra dimension of the grating is hidden, and the surface plasmon excitations, though localized at the surface, are characterized by three wave vectors rather than the two of typical two-dimensional metal grating. We propose an experimental realization in a doped graphene layer.
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Catalytic molten metals for the direct conversion of methane to hydrogen and separable carbon ()
Metals that are active catalysts for methane (Ni, Pt, Pd), when dissolved in inactive low–melting temperature metals (In, Ga, Sn, Pb), produce stable molten metal alloy catalysts for pyrolysis of methane into hydrogen and carbon. All solid catalysts previously used for this reaction have been deactivated by carbon deposition. In the molten alloy system, the insoluble carbon floats to the surface where it can be skimmed off. A 27% Ni–73% Bi alloy achieved 95% methane conversion at 1065°C in a 1.1-meter bubble column and produced pure hydrogen without CO2 or other by-products. Calculations show that the active metals in the molten alloys are atomically dispersed and negatively charged. There is a correlation between the amount of charge on the atoms and their catalytic activity.
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State-to-state chemistry for three-body recombination in an ultracold rubidium gas ()
Experimental investigation of chemical reactions with full quantum state resolution for all reactants and products has been a long-term challenge. Here we prepare an ultracold few-body quantum state of reactants and demonstrate state-to-state chemistry for the recombination of three spin-polarized ultracold rubidium (Rb) atoms to form a weakly bound Rb2 molecule. The measured product distribution covers about 90% of the final products, and we are able to discriminate between product states with a level splitting as small as 20 megahertz multiplied by Planck’s constant. Furthermore, we formulate propensity rules for the distribution of products, and we develop a theoretical model that predicts many of our experimental observations. The scheme can readily be adapted to other species and opens a door to detailed investigations of inelastic or reactive processes.
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Evolution of flower color pattern through selection on regulatory small RNAs ()
Small RNAs (sRNAs) regulate genes in plants and animals. Here, we show that population-wide differences in color patterns in snapdragon flowers are caused by an inverted duplication that generates sRNAs. The complexity and size of the transcripts indicate that the duplication represents an intermediate on the pathway to microRNA evolution. The sRNAs repress a pigment biosynthesis gene, creating a yellow highlight at the site of pollinator entry. The inverted duplication exhibits steep clines in allele frequency in a natural hybrid zone, showing that the allele is under selection. Thus, regulatory interactions of evolutionarily recent sRNAs can be acted upon by selection and contribute to the evolution of phenotypic diversity.
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Antibody-dependent enhancement of severe dengue disease in humans ()
For dengue viruses 1 to 4 (DENV1-4), a specific range of antibody titer has been shown to enhance viral replication in vitro and severe disease in animal models. Although suspected, such antibody-dependent enhancement of severe disease has not been shown to occur in humans. Using multiple statistical approaches to study a long-term pediatric cohort in Nicaragua, we show that risk of severe dengue disease is highest within a narrow range of preexisting anti-DENV antibody titers. By contrast, we observe protection from all symptomatic dengue disease at high antibody titers. Thus, immune correlates of severe dengue must be evaluated separately from correlates of protection against symptomatic disease. These results have implications for studies of dengue pathogenesis and for vaccine development, because enhancement, not just lack of protection, is of concern.
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A single mutation in the prM protein of Zika virus contributes to fetal microcephaly ()
Zika virus (ZIKV) has evolved into a global health threat because of its unexpected causal link to microcephaly. Phylogenetic analysis reveals that contemporary epidemic strains have accumulated multiple substitutions from their Asian ancestor. Here we show that a single serine-to-asparagine substitution [Ser139->Asn139 (S139N)] in the viral polyprotein substantially increased ZIKV infectivity in both human and mouse neural progenitor cells (NPCs) and led to more severe microcephaly in the mouse fetus, as well as higher mortality rates in neonatal mice. Evolutionary analysis indicates that the S139N substitution arose before the 2013 outbreak in French Polynesia and has been stably maintained during subsequent spread to the Americas. This functional adaption makes ZIKV more virulent to human NPCs, thus contributing to the increased incidence of microcephaly in recent ZIKV epidemics.
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Atomic model for the dimeric FO region of mitochondrial ATP synthase ()
Mitochondrial adenosine triphosphate (ATP) synthase produces the majority of ATP in eukaryotic cells, and its dimerization is necessary to create the inner membrane folds, or cristae, characteristic of mitochondria. Proton translocation through the membrane-embedded FO region turns the rotor that drives ATP synthesis in the soluble F1 region. Although crystal structures of the F1 region have illustrated how this rotation leads to ATP synthesis, understanding how proton translocation produces the rotation has been impeded by the lack of an experimental atomic model for the FO region. Using cryo–electron microscopy, we determined the structure of the dimeric FO complex from Saccharomyces cerevisiae at a resolution of 3.6 angstroms. The structure clarifies how the protons travel through the complex, how the complex dimerizes, and how the dimers bend the membrane to produce cristae.
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Metabolic recycling of ammonia via glutamate dehydrogenase supports breast cancer biomass ()
Ammonia is a ubiquitous by-product of cellular metabolism; however, the biological consequences of ammonia production are not fully understood, especially in cancer. We found that ammonia is not merely a toxic waste product but is recycled into central amino acid metabolism to maximize nitrogen utilization. In our experiments, human breast cancer cells primarily assimilated ammonia through reductive amination catalyzed by glutamate dehydrogenase (GDH); secondary reactions enabled other amino acids, such as proline and aspartate, to directly acquire this nitrogen. Metabolic recycling of ammonia accelerated proliferation of breast cancer. In mice, ammonia accumulated in the tumor microenvironment and was used directly to generate amino acids through GDH activity. These data show that ammonia is not only a secreted waste product but also a fundamental nitrogen source that can support tumor biomass.
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Structural basis of bacterial transcription activation ()
In bacteria, the activation of gene transcription at many promoters is simple and only involves a single activator. The cyclic adenosine 3',5'-monophosphate receptor protein (CAP), a classic activator, is able to activate transcription independently through two different mechanisms. Understanding the class I mechanism requires an intact transcription activation complex (TAC) structure at a high resolution. Here we report a high-resolution cryo–electron microscopy structure of an intact Escherichia coli class I TAC containing a CAP dimer, a 70–RNA polymerase (RNAP) holoenzyme, a complete class I CAP-dependent promoter DNA, and a de novo synthesized RNA oligonucleotide. The structure shows how CAP wraps the upstream DNA and how the interactions recruit RNAP. Our study provides a structural basis for understanding how activators activate transcription through the class I recruitment mechanism.
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Natural selection shaped the rise and fall of passenger pigeon genomic diversity ()
The extinct passenger pigeon was once the most abundant bird in North America, and possibly the world. Although theory predicts that large populations will be more genetically diverse, passenger pigeon genetic diversity was surprisingly low. To investigate this disconnect, we analyzed 41 mitochondrial and 4 nuclear genomes from passenger pigeons and 2 genomes from band-tailed pigeons, which are passenger pigeons’ closest living relatives. Passenger pigeons’ large population size appears to have allowed for faster adaptive evolution and removal of harmful mutations, driving a huge loss in their neutral genetic diversity. These results demonstrate the effect that selection can have on a vertebrate genome and contradict results that suggested that population instability contributed to this species’s surprisingly rapid extinction.
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New Products ()

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Science in 17 syllables ()

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Comment on "The extent of forest in dryland biomes" ()
Bastin et al. (Reports, 12 May 2017, p. 635) infer forest as more globally extensive than previously estimated using tree cover data. However, their forest definition does not reflect ecosystem function or biotic composition. These structural and climatic definitions inflate forest estimates across the tropics and undermine conservation goals, leading to inappropriate management policies and practices in tropical grassy ecosystems.
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Small vulnerable sets determine large network cascades in power grids ()
The understanding of cascading failures in complex systems has been hindered by the lack of realistic large-scale modeling and analysis that can account for variable system conditions. Using the North American power grid, we identified, quantified, and analyzed the set of network components that are vulnerable to cascading failures under any out of multiple conditions. We show that the vulnerable set consists of a small but topologically central portion of the network and that large cascades are disproportionately more likely to be triggered by initial failures close to this set. These results elucidate aspects of the origins and causes of cascading failures relevant for grid design and operation and demonstrate vulnerability analysis methods that are applicable to a wider class of cascade-prone networks.
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Erratum for the Report "Experimental measurement of binding energy, selectivity, and allostery using fluctuation theorems" by J. Camunas-Soler, A. Alemany, F. Ritort ()

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Erratum for the Report "Biological fabrication of cellulose fibers with tailored properties" by F. Natalio, R. Fuchs, S. R. Cohen, G. Leitus, G. Fritz-Popovski, O. Paris, M. Kappl, H.-J. Butt ()

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Loci associated with skin pigmentation identified in African populations ()
Despite the wide range of skin pigmentation in humans, little is known about its genetic basis in global populations. Examining ethnically diverse African genomes, we identify variants in or near SLC24A5, MFSD12, DDB1, TMEM138, OCA2, and HERC2 that are significantly associated with skin pigmentation. Genetic evidence indicates that the light pigmentation variant at SLC24A5 was introduced into East Africa by gene flow from non-Africans. At all other loci, variants associated with dark pigmentation in Africans are identical by descent in South Asian and Australo-Melanesian populations. Functional analyses indicate that MFSD12 encodes a lysosomal protein that affects melanogenesis in zebrafish and mice, and that mutations in melanocyte-specific regulatory regions near DDB1/TMEM138 correlate with expression of ultraviolet response genes under selection in Eurasians.
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Self-assembling peptide semiconductors ()
Semiconductors are central to the modern electronics and optics industries. Conventional semiconductive materials bear inherent limitations, especially in emerging fields such as interfacing with biological systems and bottom-up fabrication. A promising candidate for bioinspired and durable nanoscale semiconductors is the family of self-assembled nanostructures comprising short peptides. The highly ordered and directional intermolecular - interactions and hydrogen-bonding network allow the formation of quantum confined structures within the peptide self-assemblies, thus decreasing the band gaps of the superstructures into semiconductor regions. As a result of the diverse architectures and ease of modification of peptide self-assemblies, their semiconductivity can be readily tuned, doped, and functionalized. Therefore, this family of electroactive supramolecular materials may bridge the gap between the inorganic semiconductor world and biological systems.
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