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Natural hazards: Risk assessments face legal scrutiny
Scientific risk assessments of natural hazards are increasingly subjected to legal scrutiny, given the costly damage of such events (see, for example, Nature548, 508?509; 2017). The reputations of the scientists, civil-protection managers and politicians tasked with reducing societal risk

Brain modelling: Does the brain control foraging?
The quest of the International Brain Lab (IBL) to determine the role of the brain in foraging behaviour (Nature549, 319?320; 2017) follows centuries of testing the outcome of different brain manipulations. Those experiments failed to link correlations with

Obesity: Receptors identified for a weight regulator
The discovery of the receptors for the protein GDF15 suggests that it regulates food uptake through the emergency pathway ? a neuronal circuit that causes weight loss in response to cancer, tissue damage and stress. See Letter p.255

The impact of rare variation on gene expression across tissues
Rare genetic variants are abundant in humans and are expected to contribute to individual disease risk. While genetic association studies have successfully identified common genetic variants associated with susceptibility, these studies are not practical for identifying rare variants. Efforts to distinguish pathogenic variants from benign rare variants have leveraged the genetic code to identify deleterious protein-coding alleles, but no analogous code exists for non-coding variants. Therefore, ascertaining which rare variants have phenotypic effects remains a major challenge. Rare non-coding variants have been associated with extreme gene expression in studies using single tissues, but their effects across tissues are unknown. Here we identify gene expression outliers, or individuals showing extreme expression levels for a particular gene, across 44 human tissues by using combined analyses of whole genomes and multi-tissue RNA-sequencing data from the Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) project v6p release. We find that 58% of underexpression and 28% of overexpression outliers have nearby conserved rare variants compared to 8% of non-outliers. Additionally, we developed RIVER (RNA-informed variant effect on regulation), a Bayesian statistical model that incorporates expression data to predict a regulatory effect for rare variants with higher accuracy than models using genomic annotations alone. Overall, we demonstrate that rare variants contribute to large gene expression changes across tissues and provide an integrative method for interpretation of rare variants in individual genomes.

Non-homeostatic body weight regulation through a brainstem-restricted recepto...
Under homeostatic conditions, animals use well-defined hypothalamic neural circuits to help maintain stable body weight, by integrating metabolic and hormonal signals from the periphery to balance food consumption and energy expenditure. In stressed or disease conditions, however, animals use alternative neuronal pathways to adapt to the metabolic challenges of altered energy demand. Recent studies have identified brain areas outside the hypothalamus that are activated under these ?non-homeostatic? conditions, but the molecular nature of the peripheral signals and brain-localized receptors that activate these circuits remains elusive. Here we identify glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) receptor alpha-like (GFRAL) as a brainstem-restricted receptor for growth and differentiation factor 15 (GDF15). GDF15 regulates food intake, energy expenditure and body weight in response to metabolic and toxin-induced stresses; we show that Gfral knockout mice are hyperphagic under stressed conditions and are resistant to chemotherapy-induced anorexia and body weight loss. GDF15 activates GFRAL-expressing neurons localized exclusively in the area postrema and nucleus tractus solitarius of the mouse brainstem. It then triggers the activation of neurons localized within the parabrachial nucleus and central amygdala, which constitute part of the ?emergency circuit? that shapes feeding responses to stressful conditions. GDF15 levels increase in response to tissue stress and injury, and elevated levels are associated with body weight loss in numerous chronic human diseases. By isolating GFRAL as the receptor for GDF15-induced anorexia and weight loss, we identify a mechanistic basis for the non-homeostatic regulation of neural circuitry by a peripheral signal associated with tissue damage and stress. These findings provide opportunities to develop therapeutic agents for the treatment of disorders with altered energy demand.

Hippo pathway deficiency reverses systolic heart failure after infarction
Mammalian organs vary widely in regenerative capacity. Poorly regenerative organs, such as the heart are particularly vulnerable to organ failure. Once established, heart failure commonly results in mortality. The Hippo pathway, a kinase cascade that prevents adult cardiomyocyte proliferation and regeneration, is upregulated in human heart failure. Here we show that deletion of the Hippo pathway component Salvador (Salv) in mouse hearts with established ischaemic heart failure after myocardial infarction induces a reparative genetic program with increased scar border vascularity, reduced fibrosis, and recovery of pumping function compared with controls. Using translating ribosomal affinity purification, we isolate cardiomyocyte-specific translating messenger RNA. Hippo-deficient cardiomyocytes have increased expression of proliferative genes and stress response genes, such as the mitochondrial quality control gene, Park2. Genetic studies indicate that Park2 is essential for heart repair, suggesting a requirement for mitochondrial quality control in regenerating myocardium. Gene therapy with a virus encoding Salv short hairpin RNA improves heart function when delivered at the time of infarct or after ischaemic heart failure following myocardial infarction was established. Our findings indicate that the failing heart has a previously unrecognized reparative capacity involving more than cardiomyocyte renewal.

TORC1 organized in inhibited domains (TOROIDs) regulate TORC1 activity
The target of rapamycin (TOR) is a eukaryotic serine/threonine protein kinase that functions in two distinct complexes, TORC1 and TORC2, to regulate growth and metabolism. GTPases, responding to signals generated by abiotic stressors, nutrients, and, in metazoans, growth factors, play an important but poorly understood role in TORC1 regulation. Here we report that, in budding yeast, glucose withdrawal (which leads to an acute loss of TORC1 kinase activity) triggers a similarly rapid Rag GTPase-dependent redistribution of TORC1 from being semi-uniform around the vacuolar membrane to a single, vacuole-associated cylindrical structure visible by super-resolution optical microscopy. Three-dimensional reconstructions of cryo-electron micrograph images of these purified cylinders demonstrate that TORC1 oligomerizes into a higher-level hollow helical assembly, which we name a TOROID (TORC1 organized in inhibited domain). Fitting of the recently described mammalian TORC1 structure into our helical map reveals that oligomerization leads to steric occlusion of the active site. Guided by the implications from our reconstruction, we present a TOR1 allele that prevents both TOROID formation and TORC1 inactivation in response to glucose withdrawal, demonstrating that oligomerization is necessary for TORC1 inactivation. Our results reveal a novel mechanism by which Rag GTPases regulate TORC1 activity and suggest that the reversible assembly and/or disassembly of higher-level structures may be an underappreciated mechanism for the regulation of protein kinases.

Cancer drug addiction is relayed by an ERK2-dependent phenotype switch
Observations from cultured cells, animal models and patients raise the possibility that the dependency of tumours on the therapeutic drugs to which they have acquired resistance represents a vulnerability with potential applications in cancer treatment. However, for this drug addiction trait to become of clinical interest, we must first define the mechanism that underlies it. We performed an unbiased CRISPR?Cas9 knockout screen on melanoma cells that were both resistant and addicted to inhibition of the serine/threonine-protein kinase BRAF, in order to functionally mine their genome for ?addiction genes?. Here we describe a signalling pathway comprising ERK2 kinase and JUNB and FRA1 transcription factors, disruption of which allowed addicted tumour cells to survive on treatment discontinuation. This occurred in both cultured cells and mice and was irrespective of the acquired drug resistance mechanism. In melanoma and lung cancer cells, death induced by drug withdrawal was preceded by a specific ERK2-dependent phenotype switch, alongside transcriptional reprogramming reminiscent of the epithelial?mesenchymal transition. In melanoma cells, this reprogramming caused the shutdown of microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (MITF), a lineage survival oncoprotein; restoring this protein reversed phenotype switching and prevented the lethality associated with drug addiction. In patients with melanoma that had progressed during treatment with a BRAF inhibitor, treatment cessation was followed by increased expression of the receptor tyrosine kinase AXL, which is associated with the phenotype switch. Drug discontinuation synergized with the melanoma chemotherapeutic agent dacarbazine by further suppressing MITF and its prosurvival target, B-cell lymphoma 2 (BCL-2), and by inducing DNA damage in cancer cells. Our results uncover a pathway that underpins drug addiction in cancer cells, which may help to guide the use of alternating therapeutic strategies for enhanced clinical responses in drug-resistant cancers.


Nature Journals


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Cancer biology: Genome jail-break triggers lockdown
A pro-inflammatory response, the senescence-associated secretory phenotype, can affect development, ageing and cancer. It emerges that one trigger for this response is the presence of DNA in the cytoplasm.

Cancer drug addiction is relayed by an ERK2-dependent phenotype switch
Observations from cultured cells, animal models and patients raise the possibility that the dependency of tumours on the therapeutic drugs to which they have acquired resistance represents a vulnerability with potential applications in cancer treatment. However, for this drug addiction trait to become of clinical interest, we must first define the mechanism that underlies it. We performed an unbiased CRISPR?Cas9 knockout screen on melanoma cells that were both resistant and addicted to inhibition of the serine/threonine-protein kinase BRAF, in order to functionally mine their genome for ?addiction genes?. Here we describe a signalling pathway comprising ERK2 kinase and JUNB and FRA1 transcription factors, disruption of which allowed addicted tumour cells to survive on treatment discontinuation. This occurred in both cultured cells and mice and was irrespective of the acquired drug resistance mechanism. In melanoma and lung cancer cells, death induced by drug withdrawal was preceded by a specific ERK2-dependent phenotype switch, alongside transcriptional reprogramming reminiscent of the epithelial?mesenchymal transition. In melanoma cells, this reprogramming caused the shutdown of microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (MITF), a lineage survival oncoprotein; restoring this protein reversed phenotype switching and prevented the lethality associated with drug addiction. In patients with melanoma that had progressed during treatment with a BRAF inhibitor, treatment cessation was followed by increased expression of the receptor tyrosine kinase AXL, which is associated with the phenotype switch. Drug discontinuation synergized with the melanoma chemotherapeutic agent dacarbazine by further suppressing MITF and its prosurvival target, B-cell lymphoma 2 (BCL-2), and by inducing DNA damage in cancer cells. Our results uncover a pathway that underpins drug addiction in cancer cells, which may help to guide the use of alternating therapeutic strategies for enhanced clinical responses in drug-resistant cancers.

Hippo pathway deficiency reverses systolic heart failure after infarction
Mammalian organs vary widely in regenerative capacity. Poorly regenerative organs, such as the heart are particularly vulnerable to organ failure. Once established, heart failure commonly results in mortality. The Hippo pathway, a kinase cascade that prevents adult cardiomyocyte proliferation and regeneration, is upregulated in human heart failure. Here we show that deletion of the Hippo pathway component Salvador (Salv) in mouse hearts with established ischaemic heart failure after myocardial infarction induces a reparative genetic program with increased scar border vascularity, reduced fibrosis, and recovery of pumping function compared with controls. Using translating ribosomal affinity purification, we isolate cardiomyocyte-specific translating messenger RNA. Hippo-deficient cardiomyocytes have increased expression of proliferative genes and stress response genes, such as the mitochondrial quality control gene, Park2. Genetic studies indicate that Park2 is essential for heart repair, suggesting a requirement for mitochondrial quality control in regenerating myocardium. Gene therapy with a virus encoding Salv short hairpin RNA improves heart function when delivered at the time of infarct or after ischaemic heart failure following myocardial infarction was established. Our findings indicate that the failing heart has a previously unrecognized reparative capacity involving more than cardiomyocyte renewal.

TORC1 organized in inhibited domains (TOROIDs) regulate TORC1 activity
The target of rapamycin (TOR) is a eukaryotic serine/threonine protein kinase that functions in two distinct complexes, TORC1 and TORC2, to regulate growth and metabolism. GTPases, responding to signals generated by abiotic stressors, nutrients, and, in metazoans, growth factors, play an important but poorly understood role in TORC1 regulation. Here we report that, in budding yeast, glucose withdrawal (which leads to an acute loss of TORC1 kinase activity) triggers a similarly rapid Rag GTPase-dependent redistribution of TORC1 from being semi-uniform around the vacuolar membrane to a single, vacuole-associated cylindrical structure visible by super-resolution optical microscopy. Three-dimensional reconstructions of cryo-electron micrograph images of these purified cylinders demonstrate that TORC1 oligomerizes into a higher-level hollow helical assembly, which we name a TOROID (TORC1 organized in inhibited domain). Fitting of the recently described mammalian TORC1 structure into our helical map reveals that oligomerization leads to steric occlusion of the active site. Guided by the implications from our reconstruction, we present a TOR1 allele that prevents both TOROID formation and TORC1 inactivation in response to glucose withdrawal, demonstrating that oligomerization is necessary for TORC1 inactivation. Our results reveal a novel mechanism by which Rag GTPases regulate TORC1 activity and suggest that the reversible assembly and/or disassembly of higher-level structures may be an underappreciated mechanism for the regulation of protein kinases.

Organic long persistent luminescence
Long persistent luminescence (LPL) materials?widely commercialized as ?glow-in-the-dark? paints?store excitation energy in excited states that slowly release this energy as light. At present, most LPL materials are based on an inorganic system of strontium aluminium oxide (SrAl2O4) doped with europium and dysprosium, and exhibit emission for more than ten hours. However, this system requires rare elements and temperatures higher than 1,000 degrees Celsius during fabrication, and light scattering by SrAl2O4 powders limits the transparency of LPL paints. Here we show that an organic LPL (OLPL) system of two simple organic molecules that is free from rare elements and easy to fabricate can generate emission that lasts for more than one hour at room temperature. Previous organic systems, which were based on two-photon ionization, required high excitation intensities and low temperatures. By contrast, our OLPL system?which is based on emission from excited complexes (exciplexes) upon the recombination of long-lived charge-separated states?can be excited by a standard white LED light source and generate long emission even at temperatures above 100 degrees Celsius. This OLPL system is transparent, soluble, and potentially flexible and colour-tunable, opening new applications for LPL in large-area and flexible paints, biomarkers, fabrics, and windows. Moreover, the study of long-lived charge separation in this system should advance understanding of a wide variety of organic semiconductor devices.

Obesity: Receptors identified for a weight regulator
The discovery of the receptors for the protein GDF15 suggests that it regulates food uptake through the emergency pathway ? a neuronal circuit that causes weight loss in response to cancer, tissue damage and stress.

Inflammasome-driven catecholamine catabolism in macrophages blunts lipolysis ...
Catecholamine-induced lipolysis, the first step in the generation of energy substrates by the hydrolysis of triglycerides, declines with age. The defect in the mobilization of free fatty acids in the elderly is accompanied by increased visceral adiposity, lower exercise capacity, failure to maintain core body temperature during cold stress, and reduced ability to survive starvation. Although catecholamine signalling in adipocytes is normal in the elderly, how lipolysis is impaired in ageing remains unknown. Here we show that adipose tissue macrophages regulate the age-related reduction in adipocyte lipolysis in mice by lowering the bioavailability of noradrenaline. Unexpectedly, unbiased whole-transcriptome analyses of adipose macrophages revealed that ageing upregulates genes that control catecholamine degradation in an NLRP3 inflammasome-dependent manner. Deletion of NLRP3 in ageing restored catecholamine-induced lipolysis by downregulating growth differentiation factor-3 (GDF3) and monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) that is known to degrade noradrenaline. Consistent with this, deletion of GDF3 in inflammasome-activated macrophages improved lipolysis by decreasing levels of MAOA and caspase-1. Furthermore, inhibition of MAOA reversed the age-related reduction in noradrenaline concentration in adipose tissue, and restored lipolysis with increased levels of the key lipolytic enzymes adipose triglyceride lipase (ATGL) and hormone sensitive lipase (HSL). Our study reveals that targeting neuro-immunometabolic signalling between the sympathetic nervous system and macrophages may offer new approaches to mitigate chronic inflammation-induced metabolic impairment and functional decline.

Non-homeostatic body weight regulation through a brainstem-restricted recepto...
Under homeostatic conditions, animals use well-defined hypothalamic neural circuits to help maintain stable body weight, by integrating metabolic and hormonal signals from the periphery to balance food consumption and energy expenditure. In stressed or disease conditions, however, animals use alternative neuronal pathways to adapt to the metabolic challenges of altered energy demand. Recent studies have identified brain areas outside the hypothalamus that are activated under these ?non-homeostatic? conditions, but the molecular nature of the peripheral signals and brain-localized receptors that activate these circuits remains elusive. Here we identify glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) receptor alpha-like (GFRAL) as a brainstem-restricted receptor for growth and differentiation factor 15 (GDF15). GDF15 regulates food intake, energy expenditure and body weight in response to metabolic and toxin-induced stresses; we show that Gfral knockout mice are hyperphagic under stressed conditions and are resistant to chemotherapy-induced anorexia and body weight loss. GDF15 activates GFRAL-expressing neurons localized exclusively in the area postrema and nucleus tractus solitarius of the mouse brainstem. It then triggers the activation of neurons localized within the parabrachial nucleus and central amygdala, which constitute part of the ?emergency circuit? that shapes feeding responses to stressful conditions. GDF15 levels increase in response to tissue stress and injury, and elevated levels are associated with body weight loss in numerous chronic human diseases. By isolating GFRAL as the receptor for GDF15-induced anorexia and weight loss, we identify a mechanistic basis for the non-homeostatic regulation of neural circuitry by a peripheral signal associated with tissue damage and stress. These findings provide opportunities to develop therapeutic agents for the treatment of disorders with altered energy demand.

Probing the limits of metal plasticity with molecular dynamics simulations
Ordinarily, the strength and plasticity properties of a metal are defined by dislocations?line defects in the crystal lattice whose motion results in material slippage along lattice planes. Dislocation dynamics models are usually used as mesoscale proxies for true atomistic dynamics, which are computationally expensive to perform routinely. However, atomistic simulations accurately capture every possible mechanism of material response, resolving every ?jiggle and wiggle? of atomic motion, whereas dislocation dynamics models do not. Here we present fully dynamic atomistic simulations of bulk single-crystal plasticity in the body-centred-cubic metal tantalum. Our goal is to quantify the conditions under which the limits of dislocation-mediated plasticity are reached and to understand what happens to the metal beyond any such limit. In our simulations, the metal is compressed at ultrahigh strain rates along its [001] crystal axis under conditions of constant pressure, temperature and strain rate. To address the complexity of crystal plasticity processes on the length scales (85?340?nm) and timescales (1 ns?1?s) that we examine, we use recently developed methods of in situ computational microscopy to recast the enormous amount of transient trajectory data generated in our simulations into a form that can be analysed by a human. Our simulations predict that, on reaching certain limiting conditions of strain, dislocations alone can no longer relieve mechanical loads; instead, another mechanism, known as deformation twinning (the sudden re-orientation of the crystal lattice), takes over as the dominant mode of dynamic response. Below this limit, the metal assumes a strain-path-independent steady state of plastic flow in which the flow stress and the dislocation density remain constant as long as the conditions of straining thereafter remain unchanged. In this distinct state, tantalum flows like a viscous fluid while retaining its crystal lattice and remaining a strong and stiff metal.

Proteins evolve on the edge of supramolecular self-assembly
The self-association of proteins into symmetric complexes is ubiquitous in all kingdoms of life. Symmetric complexes possess unique geometric and functional properties, but their internal symmetry can pose a risk. In sickle-cell disease, the symmetry of haemoglobin exacerbates the effect of a mutation, triggering assembly into harmful fibrils. Here we examine the universality of this mechanism and its relation to protein structure geometry. We introduced point mutations solely designed to increase surface hydrophobicity among 12 distinct symmetric complexes from Escherichia coli. Notably, all responded by forming supramolecular assemblies in vitro, as well as in vivo upon heterologous expression in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Remarkably, in four cases, micrometre-long fibrils formed in vivo in response to a single point mutation. Biophysical measurements and electron microscopy revealed that mutants self-assembled in their folded states and so were not amyloid-like. Structural examination of 73 mutants identified supramolecular assembly hot spots predictable by geometry. A subsequent structural analysis of 7,471 symmetric complexes showed that geometric hot spots were buffered chemically by hydrophilic residues, suggesting a mechanism preventing mis-assembly of these regions. Thus, point mutations can frequently trigger folded proteins to self-assemble into higher-order structures. This potential is counterbalanced by negative selection and can be exploited to design nanomaterials in living cells.


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Nature Reviews


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