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- Ion permeation in K⁺ channels occurs by direct Coulomb knock-on. [Journal Article, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't]
- Science 2014 Oct 17; 346(6207):352-5.
Potassium channels selectively conduct K(+) ions across cellular membranes with extraordinary efficiency. Their selectivity filter exhibits four binding sites with approximately equal electron density in crystal structures with high K(+) concentrations, previously thought to reflect a superposition of alternating ion- and water-occupied states. Consequently, cotranslocation of ions with water has become a widely accepted ion conduction mechanism for potassium channels. By analyzing more than 1300 permeation events from molecular dynamics simulations at physiological voltages, we observed instead that permeation occurs via ion-ion contacts between neighboring K(+) ions. Coulomb repulsion between adjacent ions is found to be the key to high-efficiency K(+) conduction. Crystallographic data are consistent with directly neighboring K(+) ions in the selectivity filter, and our model offers an intuitive explanation for the high throughput rates of K(+) channels.
- Increased variability of tornado occurrence in the United States. [Journal Article]
- Science 2014 Oct 17; 346(6207):349-52.
Whether or not climate change has had an impact on the occurrence of tornadoes in the United States has become a question of high public and scientific interest, but changes in how tornadoes are reported have made it difficult to answer it convincingly. We show that, excluding the weakest tornadoes, the mean annual number of tornadoes has remained relatively constant, but their variability of occurrence has increased since the 1970s. This is due to a decrease in the number of days per year with tornadoes combined with an increase in days with many tornadoes, leading to greater variability on annual and monthly time scales and changes in the timing of the start of the tornado season.
- Large carnivores make savanna tree communities less thorny. [Journal Article, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't, Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.]
- Science 2014 Oct 17; 346(6207):346-9.
Understanding how predation risk and plant defenses interactively shape plant distributions is a core challenge in ecology. By combining global positioning system telemetry of an abundant antelope (impala) and its main predators (leopards and wild dogs) with a series of manipulative field experiments, we showed that herbivores' risk-avoidance behavior and plants' antiherbivore defenses interact to determine tree distributions in an African savanna. Well-defended thorny Acacia trees (A. etbaica) were abundant in low-risk areas where impala aggregated but rare in high-risk areas that impala avoided. In contrast, poorly defended trees (A. brevispica) were more abundant in high- than in low-risk areas. Our results suggest that plants can persist in landscapes characterized by intense herbivory, either by defending themselves or by thriving in risky areas where carnivores hunt.
- Perception of root-derived peptides by shoot LRR-RKs mediates systemic N-demand signaling. [Journal Article, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't]
- Science 2014 Oct 17; 346(6207):343-6.
Nitrogen (N) is a critical nutrient for plants but is often distributed unevenly in the soil. Plants therefore have evolved a systemic mechanism by which N starvation on one side of the root system leads to a compensatory and increased nitrate uptake on the other side. Here, we study the molecular systems that support perception of N and the long-distance signaling needed to alter root development. Rootlets starved of N secrete small peptides that are translocated to the shoot and received by two leucine-rich repeat receptor kinases (LRR-RKs). Arabidopsis plants deficient in this pathway show growth retardation accompanied with N-deficiency symptoms. Thus, signaling from the root to the shoot helps the plant adapt to fluctuations in local N availability.
- Ultrafast electron dynamics in phenylalanine initiated by attosecond pulses. [Journal Article, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't]
- Science 2014 Oct 17; 346(6207):336-9.
In the past decade, attosecond technology has opened up the investigation of ultrafast electronic processes in atoms, simple molecules, and solids. Here, we report the application of isolated attosecond pulses to prompt ionization of the amino acid phenylalanine and the subsequent detection of ultrafast dynamics on a sub-4.5-femtosecond temporal scale, which is shorter than the vibrational response of the molecule. The ability to initiate and observe such electronic dynamics in polyatomic molecules represents a crucial step forward in attosecond science, which is progressively moving toward the investigation of more and more complex systems.
- Loss-induced suppression and revival of lasing. [Journal Article, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't, Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.]
- Science 2014 Oct 17; 346(6207):328-32.
Controlling and reversing the effects of loss are major challenges in optical systems. For lasers, losses need to be overcome by a sufficient amount of gain to reach the lasing threshold. In this work, we show how to turn losses into gain by steering the parameters of a system to the vicinity of an exceptional point (EP), which occurs when the eigenvalues and the corresponding eigenstates of a system coalesce. In our system of coupled microresonators, EPs are manifested as the loss-induced suppression and revival of lasing. Below a critical value, adding loss annihilates an existing Raman laser. Beyond this critical threshold, lasing recovers despite the increasing loss, in stark contrast to what would be expected from conventional laser theory. Our results exemplify the counterintuitive features of EPs and present an innovative method for reversing the effect of loss.
- Laboratory formation of a scaled protostellar jet by coaligned poloidal magnetic field. [Journal Article, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't, Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.]
- Science 2014 Oct 17; 346(6207):325-8.
Although bipolar jets are seen emerging from a wide variety of astrophysical systems, the issue of their formation and morphology beyond their launching is still under study. Our scaled laboratory experiments, representative of young stellar object outflows, reveal that stable and narrow collimation of the entire flow can result from the presence of a poloidal magnetic field whose strength is consistent with observations. The laboratory plasma becomes focused with an interior cavity. This gives rise to a standing conical shock from which the jet emerges. Following simulations of the process at the full astrophysical scale, we conclude that it can also explain recently discovered x-ray emission features observed in low-density regions at the base of protostellar jets, such as the well-studied jet HH 154.
- Constraints on Mimas' interior from Cassini ISS libration measurements. [Journal Article, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't]
- Science 2014 Oct 17; 346(6207):322-4.
Like our Moon, the majority of the solar system's satellites are locked in a 1:1 spin-orbit resonance; on average, these satellites show the same face toward the planet at a constant rotation rate equal to the satellite's orbital rate. In addition to the uniform rotational motion, physical librations (oscillations about an equilibrium) also occur. The librations may contain signatures of the satellite's internal properties. Using stereophotogrammetry on Cassini Image Science Subsystem (ISS) images, we measured longitudinal physical forced librations of Saturn's moon Mimas. Our measurements confirm all the libration amplitudes calculated from the orbital dynamics, with one exception. This amplitude depends mainly on Mimas' internal structure and has an observed value of twice the predicted one, assuming hydrostatic equilibrium. After considering various possible interior models of Mimas, we argue that the satellite has either a large nonhydrostatic interior, or a hydrostatic one with an internal ocean beneath a thick icy shell.
- Motor skill learning requires active central myelination. [Journal Article, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't, Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.]
- Science 2014 Oct 17; 346(6207):318-22.
Myelin-forming oligodendrocytes (OLs) are formed continuously in the healthy adult brain. In this work, we study the function of these late-forming cells and the myelin they produce. Learning a new motor skill (such as juggling) alters the structure of the brain's white matter, which contains many OLs, suggesting that late-born OLs might contribute to motor learning. Consistent with this idea, we show that production of newly formed OLs is briefly accelerated in mice that learn a new skill (running on a "complex wheel" with irregularly spaced rungs). By genetically manipulating the transcription factor myelin regulatory factor in OL precursors, we blocked production of new OLs during adulthood without affecting preexisting OLs or myelin. This prevented the mice from mastering the complex wheel. Thus, generation of new OLs and myelin is important for learning motor skills.
- Eyeing the Sun. Probing the solar interface region. Introduction. [Introductory Journal Article]
- Science 2014 Oct 17; 346(6207):315.