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Article Released Wed-28th-January-2009 18:17 GMT
Contact: Ruth Institution: Nature Publishing Group
 Climate change: Iron fertilization, naturally

Summaries of newsworthy papers include Grass genome offers clues to drought tolerance, Recipe for seafood toxin, Solving the world’s imaging problem, Superconductor shows unusual behaviour, Mouse model of hepatitis C infection one step closer, Boron beauty and Things get heated


This press release is copyright Nature.

VOL.457 NO.7229 DATED 29 JANUARY 2009

This press release contains:

· Summaries of newsworthy papers:

Climate change: Iron fertilization, naturally

Genetics: Grass genome offers clues to drought tolerance

Chemistry: Recipe for seafood toxin

Essay: Solving the world’s imaging problem

Materials: Superconductor shows unusual behaviour

Immunology: Mouse model of hepatitis C infection one step closer

Chemistry: Boron beauty

Extrasolar planets: Things get heated

· Mention of papers to be published at the same time with the same embargo

· Geographical listing of authors

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[1] Climate change: Iron fertilization, naturally (pp 577-580)

Addition of iron to high-nutrient low-chlorophyll regions of the ocean can encourage uptake of carbon from the atmosphere, but clearly demonstrating and quantifying the increase in deep ocean carbon storage in response to the lifting of iron limitation has proved difficult. New research in the Southern Ocean finds that natural iron fertilization increases the amount of organic carbon taken down into the deep ocean.

The ocean’s importance in storing carbon is widely recognized, as is the importance of iron in regulating plankton growth in much of the global ocean. Adding iron to some high-nutrient regions of the ocean can stimulate the growth of algae, which may then take up additional carbon from the atmosphere and transport it to the deep ocean. In this week’s Nature, Raymond Pollard and colleagues present data that back up these hypotheses: carbon export fluxes to the deep from the iron-fertilized waters were two to three times greater than those fluxes from an adjacent high-nutrient low-chlorophyll area not fertilized by iron. The efficiency of carbon export was somewhat greater than that reported in experiments in which iron was added artificially, a possible consequence of large losses of the artificially added iron, but smaller compared to that reported from another naturally induced bloom, possibly related to the importance of horizontal iron supply.

Raymond Pollard (National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, UK)
Tel: +44 23 8059 6433; E-mail:

[2] Genetics: Grass genome offers clues to drought tolerance (pp 551-556; N&V)

A drought-tolerant African grass has its genome described in Nature this week. The findings could one day help researchers to produce better food crops for arid regions with rapidly expanding human populations, such as West Africa.

Sorghum is an African grass related to sugar cane and maize that is grown for food, animal feed and fuel. It uses a special type of photosynthesis, C4, which is particularly adept at harvesting energy from light at high temperatures. Andrew Paterson and colleagues report the first genome analysis of this important crop and explore how the plant has adapted compared with other cereals, such as maize and rice. Notably they identify gene duplications not present in the other cereals that may contribute to sorghum’s ability to withstand drought.

Andrew Paterson (University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA)
Tel: +1 706 583 0162; E-mail:

Takuji Sasaki (National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences, Tsukuba, Japan) N&V author
Tel: +81 29 838 7097; E-mail:

[3] Chemistry: Recipe for seafood toxin (pp 573-576; N&V)

One of the toxins responsible for seafood poisoning has been made from scratch for the first time, a Nature paper reveals. The findings will allow scientists to generate large amounts of the toxin in order to investigate its biological activity and evaluate the risk to human health.

Chlorosulpholipids are a family of polychlorinated marine toxins that have a complex chemical structure, but their limited supply in nature has stalled research into their biological mechanism of action. Erick Carreira and colleagues report a short synthesis of one of these molecules, which revealed some unexpected chemistry involving chlorine atoms.

The synthetic route described in the paper should enable chemists to make enough of the molecule to thoroughly investigate its biological activity and potentially evaluate the risk these toxins pose to humans.

Erick Carreira (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, Zurich, Switzerland)
Tel: +41 44 632 2830;

Christopher Vanderwal (University of California, Irvine, CA, USA) N&V author
Tel: +1 949 824 6702; E-mail:

Essay: Solving the world’s imaging problem (pp 536-537)

Physicians and patients around the world are increasingly anxious about the shortage of nuclear isotopes used for medical imaging in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, brain disease and cardiac problems. The Union of Concerned Scientists issued a call to improve supplies just last week. In the face of no firm plans to solve these problems, Tom Ruth proposes both short- and long-term visions for the future in an Essay in Nature this week.

Four-fifths of the most widely-used radionuclide comes from just two nuclear reactor facilities: one in the Netherlands, and one in Canada. Stockpiling for more than a couple of days is impossible, thanks to the short half-life of the isotope. Unexpected closures of both of these aging facilities over the past year and a half have caused panic and the cancellation of medical procedures. And both facilities make use of highly enriched uranium, which some see as a terrorism risk.

Ruth’s solution is to replace reactor-made isotopes with ones made from an accelerator. This is cheaper and safer, as it does not involve highly enriched uranium, but requires the Canadian government to take steps to retain its role as a world leader in nuclear medicine. His vision for the future involves equipping more hospitals with their own accelerator facilities, so that different isotopes can be used to produce clearer, better medical images.

Tom Ruth (TRIUMF, Vancouver, Canada)
Tel: +1 604 222 7526; Mobile: +1 778 387 9197; E-mail:

[4] & [5] Materials: Superconductor shows unusual behaviour (pp 565-568; 569-572; N&V)

Iron-arsenic-based superconductors have some very unusual and unexpected properties, two Nature papers reveal.

Like copper oxide superconductors, iron arsenide superconductors have layered atomic structures and conduct electricity without resistance at relatively high temperatures. But the superconducting properties of these iron arsenide compounds are three dimensional and so the same in any direction, Huiqiu Yuan and colleagues report. The superconducting properties of copper oxide compounds are two dimensional.

It was also thought that the electronic properties of iron arsenide materials do not include any additional order beyond that imposed by the underlying crystal lattice. But Volodymyr Zabolotnyy and colleagues show this is not the case.

Huiqiu Yuan (Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China) Author paper [4]
Please note this author is currently visiting Los Alamos National Laboratory, NM, USA.
Tel: +1 505 606 0479; E-mail:

Volodymyr Zabolotnyy (Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research, Dresden, Germany) Author paper [5]
Tel: +49 351 46 59 763; E-mail:

Jan Zaanen (Leiden University, The Netherlands) N&V author
Tel: +31 71 527 5506; E-mail:

[6] Immunology: Mouse model of hepatitis C infection one step closer (AOP)
DOI: 10.1038/nature07684

***This paper will be published electronically on Nature's website on 28 January at 1800 London time / 1300 US Eastern time (which is also when the embargo lifts) as part of our AOP (ahead of print) programme. Although we have included it on this release to avoid multiple mailings it will not appear in print on 29 January, but at a later date. ***

A therapeutically useful mouse model of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is one step closer with the discovery of a key protein needed for mouse cell infection.

The human occludin protein needs to be present for HCV to enter mouse cells, Charles Rice and colleagues report in this week’s Nature. This makes it the fourth and final essential component of the HCV cell-entry receptor.

HCV is a leading cause of liver disease worldwide, but therapeutic design and vaccine development have been hampered by the lack of a suitable small animal model — until now, mouse cells could not be infected with HCV.

Charles Rice (The Rockefeller University, New York, NY, USA)
Tel: +1 212 327 7046; E-mail:

[7] Chemistry: Boron beauty (AOP)
DOI: 10.1038/nature07736

***This paper will be published electronically on Nature's website on 28 January at 1800 London time / 1300 US Eastern time (which is also when the embargo lifts) as part of our AOP (ahead of print) programme. Although we have included it on this release to avoid multiple mailings it will not appear in print on 29 January, but at a later date. ***

A new stable form of the element boron is revealed in this week’s Nature.

The striking and beautiful structure consists of negatively charged B12 icosahedrons (20-sided structures with faces made up of equilateral triangles) and positively charged B2 pairs. It forms under high pressures but will retain its structure when moved to ambient conditions, report Artem Oganov and colleagues. The new phase is ionic, a feature that affects many of the element’s properties, such as its electronic bandgap and infrared absorption.

Boron, the fifth element in the periodic table, is the only light element whose stable phase remains to be experimentally established, even under ambient conditions. Difficulties have arisen because the element can adopt a broad range of different structures, and these in turn are extremely sensitive to the presence of even tiny amounts of chemical impurities.

Artem Oganov (Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY, USA)
Tel: +1 631 632 1429; E-mail:

[8] And finally… Things get heated (pp 562-564)

The extrasolar planet HD 80606b experiences extremely rapid heating as it passes close to its parent star, a Nature paper reveals.

The giant planet pursues an eccentric orbit around its parent star, taking around 3 months to complete one lap. Gregory Laughlin and colleagues measured the infrared light emitted from the planet and found that it experiences a sudden, extreme burst of heat as it passes close to the parent star. The planet is tidally locked to the parent star, meaning it always presents the same face to it. So the temperature of this same hemisphere increased from about 800 kelvin to about 1,500 kelvin over a 6 hour period.

Gregory Laughlin (University of California, Santa Cruz, CA, USA)
Tel: +1 831 419 3726; E-mail: E-mail:


***These papers will be published electronically on Nature's website on 28 January at 1800 London time / 1300 US Eastern time (which is also when the embargo lifts) as part of our AOP (ahead of print) programme. Although we have included them on this release to avoid multiple mailings they will not appear in print on 29 January, but at a later date. ***

[9] Complete but curtailed T-cell response to very low-affinity antigen
DOI: 10.1038/nature07657

[10] The haemangioblast generates haematopoietic cells through a haemogenic endothelium stage
DOI: 10.1038/nature07679

[11] Organ regeneration does not require a functional stem cell niche in plants
DOI: 10.1038/nature07597


The following list of places refers to the whereabouts of authors on the papers numbered in this release. For example, London: 4 - this means that on paper number four, there will be at least one author affiliated to an institute or company in London. The listing may be for an author's main affiliation, or for a place where they are working temporarily. Please see the PDF of the paper for full details.

Beijing: 4
Changchun: 7
Hangzhou: 4
Tangshan: 2

Banyuls-sur-Mer: 1
Paris: 7
Port-en-Bassin: 1

Berlin: 5
Dresden: 5
Düsseldorf: 2
Neuherberg: 2
Stuttgart: 5

Patancheru: 2

Milan: 7

Utrecht: 11

Faisalabad: 2

Moscow: 7

Rondebosch: 1

Zurich: 2, 3, 7

Kyiv: 5

Cambridge: 1
Liverpool: 1
Loughborough: 5
Manchester: 10
Norwich: 1
Portsmouth: 1
Southampton: 1


Berkeley: 2
Palo Alto: 2
Santa Cruz: 8
Walnut Creek: 2

District of Columbia
Washington: 7, 8

Miami: 7

Athens: 2

Urbana: 2

West Lafayette: 2

Greenbelt: 8

Woods Hole: 1

Starkville: 2

New Jersey
Brunswick: 1
Piscataway: 2

New Mexico
Los Alamos: 4

New York
Cold Spring Harbor: 2
Ithaca: 2
New York: 6, 11
Stony Brook: 7

South Carolina
Clemson: 2

College Station: 2
Lubbock: 7

Seattle: 9


From North America and Canada
Katherine Anderson, Nature New York
Tel: +1 212 726 9231; E-mail:

Katie McGoldrick, Nature Washington
Tel: +1 202 737 2355; E-mail:

From Japan, Korea, China, Singapore and Taiwan
Mika Nakano, Nature Tokyo
Tel: +81 3 3267 8751; E-mail:

From the UK/Europe/other countries not listed above
Jen Middleton, Nature London
Tel: +44 20 7843 4502; E-mail

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Keywords associated to this article: Climate change, Genetics, Chemistry, Materials, Immunology, Extrasolar planets
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