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See detailA dynamic upper atmosphere of Venus as revealed by VIRTIS on Venus Express
Drossart, P.; Piccioni, G.; Gérard, Jean-Claude ULg et al

in Nature (2007), 450

The upper atmosphere of a planet is a transition region in which energy is transferred between the deeper atmosphere and outer space. Molecular emissions from the upper atmosphere (90-120 km altitude) of ... [more ▼]

The upper atmosphere of a planet is a transition region in which energy is transferred between the deeper atmosphere and outer space. Molecular emissions from the upper atmosphere (90-120 km altitude) of Venus can be used to investigate the energetics and to trace the circulation of this hitherto little-studied region. Previous spacecraft(1) and ground-based(2-4) observations of infrared emission from CO2, O-2 and NO have established that photochemical and dynamic activity controls the structure of the upper atmosphere of Venus. These data, however, have left unresolved the precise altitude of the emission(1) owing to a lack of data and of an adequate observing geometry(5,6). Here we report measurements of day-side CO2 non-local thermodynamic equilibrium emission at 4.3 mu m, extending from 90 to 120 km altitude, and of night-side O-2 emission extending from 95 to 100 km. The CO2 emission peak occurs at similar to 115 km and varies with solar zenith angle over a range of similar to 10 km. This confirms previous modelling(7), and permits the beginning of a systematic study of the variability of the emission. The O-2 peak emission happens at 96 km +/- 1 km, which is consistent with three-body recombination of oxygen atoms transported from the day side by a global thermospheric sub-solar to anti-solar circulation, as previously predicted(8). [less ▲]

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See detailElectronic and structural transitions in dense liquid sodium
Raty, Jean-Yves ULg; Schwegler, E.; Bonev, S. A.

in Nature (2007), 449(7161), 448-451451

At ambient conditions, the light alkali metals are free-electron-like crystals with a highly symmetric structure. However, they were found recently to exhibit unexpected complexity under pressure 1-6. It ... [more ▼]

At ambient conditions, the light alkali metals are free-electron-like crystals with a highly symmetric structure. However, they were found recently to exhibit unexpected complexity under pressure 1-6. It was predicted from theory 1.2 - and later confirmed by experiment 3-5 - that lithium and sodium undergo a sequence of symmetry-breaking transitions, driven by a Peierls mechanism, at high pressures. Measurements of the sodium melting curve 6 have subsequently revealed an unprecedented (and still unexplained) pressure-induced drop in melting temperature from 1,000 K at 30 GPa down to room temperature at 120 GPa. Here we report results from ab initio calculations that explain the unusual melting behaviour in dense sodium. We show that molten sodium undergoes a series of pressure-induced structural and electronic transitions, analogous to those observed in solid sodium but commencing at much lower pressure in the presence of liquid disorder. As pressure is increased, liquid sodium initially evolves by assuming a more compact local structure. However, a transition to a lower-coordinated liquid takes place at a pressure of around 65 GPa, accompanied by a threefold drop in electrical conductivity. This transition is driven by the opening of a pseudogap, at the Fermi level, in the electronic density of states - an effect that has not hitherto been observed in a liquid metal. The lower-coordinated liquid emerges at high temperatures and above the stability region of a close-packed free-electron-like metal. We predict that similar exotic behaviour is possible in other materials as well. [less ▲]

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See detailDiscovery of a bright quasar without a massive host galaxy
Magain, Pierre ULg; Letawe, Géraldine ULg; Courbin, F. et al

in Nature (2005), 437(7057), 381-384

A quasar is thought to be powered by the infall of matter onto a supermassive black hole at the centre of a massive galaxy(1,2). Because the optical luminosity of quasars exceeds that of their host galaxy ... [more ▼]

A quasar is thought to be powered by the infall of matter onto a supermassive black hole at the centre of a massive galaxy(1,2). Because the optical luminosity of quasars exceeds that of their host galaxy, disentangling the two components can be difficult. This led in the 1990s to the controversial claim of the discovery of 'naked' quasars(3-7). Since then, the connection between quasars and galaxies has been well established(8). Here we report the discovery of a quasar lying at the edge of a gas cloud, whose size is comparable to that of a small galaxy, but whose spectrum shows no evidence for stars. The gas in the cloud is excited by the quasar itself. If a host galaxy is present, it is at least six times fainter than would normally be expected(8,9) for such a bright quasar. The quasar is interacting dynamically with a neighbouring galaxy, whose gas might be feeding the black hole. [less ▲]

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See detailMorphological differences between Saturn's ultraviolet aurorae and those of Earth and Jupiter
Clarke, J. T.; Gérard, Jean-Claude ULg; Grodent, Denis ULg et al

in Nature (2005), 433(7027), 717-719

It has often been stated that Saturn's magnetosphere and aurorae are intermediate between those of Earth, where the dominant processes are solar wind driven(1), and those of Jupiter, where processes are ... [more ▼]

It has often been stated that Saturn's magnetosphere and aurorae are intermediate between those of Earth, where the dominant processes are solar wind driven(1), and those of Jupiter, where processes are driven by a large source of internal plasma(2-4). But this view is based on information about Saturn that is far inferior to what is now available. Here we report ultraviolet images of Saturn, which, when combined with simultaneous Cassini measurements of the solar wind(5) and Saturn kilometric radio emission(6), demonstrate that its aurorae differ morphologically from those of both Earth and Jupiter. Saturn's auroral emissions vary slowly; some features appear in partial corotation whereas others are fixed to the solar wind direction; the auroral oval shifts quickly in latitude; and the aurora is often not centred on the magnetic pole nor closed on itself. In response to a large increase in solar wind dynamic pressure(5) Saturn's aurora brightened dramatically, the brightest auroral emissions moved to higher latitudes, and the dawn side polar regions were filled with intense emissions. The brightening is reminiscent of terrestrial aurorae, but the other two variations are not. Rather than being intermediate between the Earth and Jupiter, Saturn's auroral emissions behave fundamentally differently from those at the other planets. [less ▲]

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See detailSolar wind dynamic pressure and electric field as the main factors controlling Saturn's aurorae
Crary, Frank J.; Clarke, John T.; Dougherty, Michele K. et al

in Nature (2005), 433(7027), 720-722

The interaction of the solar wind with Earth's magnetosphere gives rise to the bright polar aurorae and to geomagnetic storms(1), but the relation between the solar wind and the dynamics of the outer ... [more ▼]

The interaction of the solar wind with Earth's magnetosphere gives rise to the bright polar aurorae and to geomagnetic storms(1), but the relation between the solar wind and the dynamics of the outer planets' magnetospheres is poorly understood. Jupiter's magnetospheric dynamics and aurorae are dominated by processes internal to the jovian system(2), whereas Saturn's magnetosphere has generally been considered to have both internal and solar-wind-driven processes. This hypothesis, however, is tentative because of limited simultaneous solar wind and magnetospheric measurements. Here we report solar wind measurements, immediately upstream of Saturn, over a one-month period. When combined with simultaneous ultraviolet imaging(3) we find that, unlike Jupiter, Saturn's aurorae respond strongly to solar wind conditions. But in contrast to Earth, the main controlling factor appears to be solar wind dynamic pressure and electric field, with the orientation of the interplanetary magnetic field playing a much more limited role. Saturn's magnetosphere is, therefore, strongly driven by the solar wind, but the solar wind conditions that drive it differ from those that drive the Earth's magnetosphere. [less ▲]

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See detailAn Earth-like correspondence between Saturn's auroral features and radio emission
Kurth, William S.; Gurnett, Donald A.; Clarke, John T. et al

in Nature (2005), 433(7027), 722-725

Saturn is a source of intense kilometre-wavelength radio emissions that are believed to be associated with its polar aurorae(1,2), and which provide an important remote diagnostic of its magnetospheric ... [more ▼]

Saturn is a source of intense kilometre-wavelength radio emissions that are believed to be associated with its polar aurorae(1,2), and which provide an important remote diagnostic of its magnetospheric activity. Previous observations implied that the radio emission originated in the polar regions, and indicated a strong correlation with solar wind dynamic pressure(1,3-7). The radio source also appeared to be fixed near local noon and at the latitude of the ultraviolet aurora(1,2). There have, however, been no observations relating the radio emissions to detailed auroral structures. Here we report measurements of the radio emissions, which, along with high-resolution images of Saturn's ultraviolet auroral emissions(8), suggest that although there are differences in the global morphology of the aurorae, Saturn's radio emissions exhibit an Earth-like correspondence between bright auroral features and the radio emissions. This demonstrates the universality of the mechanism that results in emissions near the electron cyclotron frequency narrowly beamed at large angles to the magnetic field(9,10). [less ▲]

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See detailEurope-Wide Reduction In Primary Productivity Caused By The Heat And Drought In 2003
Ciais, P.; Reichstein, M.; Viovy, N. et al

in Nature (2005), 437(7058),

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See detailAnthropogenic ocean acidification over the twenty-first century and its impact on calcifying organisms
Orr, James C.; Fabry, Victoria J.; Aumont, Olivier et al

in Nature (2005), 437(7059), 681-686

Today's surface ocean is saturated with respect to calcium carbonate, but increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are reducing ocean pH and carbonate ion concentrations, and thus the level of ... [more ▼]

Today's surface ocean is saturated with respect to calcium carbonate, but increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are reducing ocean pH and carbonate ion concentrations, and thus the level of calcium carbonate saturation. Experimental evidence suggests that if these trends continue, key marine organisms - such as corals and some plankton - will have difficulty maintaining their external calcium carbonate skeletons. Here we use 13 models of the ocean - carbon cycle to assess calcium carbonate saturation under the IS92a 'business-as-usual' scenario for future emissions of anthropogenic carbon dioxide. In our projections, Southern Ocean surface waters will begin to become undersaturated with respect to aragonite, a metastable form of calcium carbonate, by the year 2050. By 2100, this undersaturation could extend throughout the entire Southern Ocean and into the subarctic Pacific Ocean. When live pteropods were exposed to our predicted level of undersaturation during a two-day shipboard experiment, their aragonite shells showed notable dissolution. Our findings indicate that conditions detrimental to high-latitude ecosystems could develop within decades, not centuries as suggested previously. [less ▲]

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See detailInsight and the sleep committee
Maquet, Pierre ULg; Ruby, P.

in Nature (2004), 427(6972), 304-305

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See detailStructural basis of protein phosphatase 1 regulation
Terrak, Mohammed ULg; Kerff, Frédéric ULg; Langsetmo, K. et al

in Nature (2004), 429(6993), 780-4

The coordinated and reciprocal action of serine/threonine (Ser/Thr) protein kinases and phosphatases produces transient phosphorylation, a fundamental regulatory mechanism for many biological processes ... [more ▼]

The coordinated and reciprocal action of serine/threonine (Ser/Thr) protein kinases and phosphatases produces transient phosphorylation, a fundamental regulatory mechanism for many biological processes. The human genome encodes a far greater number of Ser/Thr protein kinases than of phosphatases. Protein phosphatase 1 (PP1), in particular, is ubiquitously distributed and regulates a broad range of cellular functions, including glycogen metabolism, cell-cycle progression and muscle relaxation. PP1 has evolved effective catalytic machinery but lacks substrate specificity. Substrate specificity is conferred upon PP1 through interactions with a large number of regulatory subunits. The regulatory subunits are generally unrelated, but most possess the RVxF motif, a canonical PP1-binding sequence. Here we reveal the crystal structure at 2.7 A resolution of the complex between PP1 and a 34-kDa N-terminal domain of the myosin phosphatase targeting subunit MYPT1. MYPT1 is the protein that regulates PP1 function in smooth muscle relaxation. Structural elements amino- and carboxy-terminal to the RVxF motif of MYPT1 are positioned in a way that leads to a pronounced reshaping of the catalytic cleft of PP1, contributing to the increased myosin specificity of this complex. The structure has general implications for the control of PP1 activity by other regulatory subunits. [less ▲]

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See detailInsight and the sleep committee
Maquet, Pierre ULg; Ruby, Perrine

in Nature (2004), 427(6972), 304-305

We all spend about a third of our lives asleep, an essential but seemingly unproductive state. Experimental evidence now emerges to support anecdotal evidence that sleep can stimulate creative thinking.

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See detailCorrigenda: The lipid phosphatase SHIP2 controls insulin sensitivity
Clément, S.; Krause, U.; Desmedt, F. et al

in Nature (2004), 431

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See detailEvolution of the polarization of the optical afterglow of the γ-ray burst GRB030329
Greiner, Jochen; Klose, Sylvio; Reinsch, Klaus et al

in Nature (2003), 426

The association of a supernova with GRB030329 strongly supports the `collapsar' model of γ-ray bursts, where a relativistic jet forms after the progenitor star collapses. Such jets cannot be spatially ... [more ▼]

The association of a supernova with GRB030329 strongly supports the `collapsar' model of γ-ray bursts, where a relativistic jet forms after the progenitor star collapses. Such jets cannot be spatially resolved because γ-ray bursts lie at cosmological distances; their existence is instead inferred from `breaks' in the light curves of the afterglows, and from the theoretical desire to reduce the estimated total energy of the burst by proposing that most of it comes out in narrow beams. Temporal evolution of the polarization of the afterglows may provide independent evidence for the jet structure of the relativistic outflow. Small-level polarization (~1-3 per cent) has been reported for a few bursts, but its temporal evolution has yet to be established. Here we report polarimetric observations of the afterglow of GRB030329. We establish the polarization light curve, detect sustained polarization at the per cent level, and find significant variability. The data imply that the afterglow magnetic field has a small coherence length and is mostly random, probably generated by turbulence, in contrast with the picture arising from the high polarization detected in the prompt γ-rays from GRB021206 (ref. 18). [less ▲]

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See detailA regulatory mutation in IGF2 causes a major QTL effect on muscle growth in the pig
Van Laere, Anne-Sophie ULg; Nguyen, Minh Ngoc ULg; Braunschweig, M. et al

in Nature (2003), 425(6960), 832-836

Most traits and disorders have a multifactorial background indicating that they are controlled by environmental factors as well as an unknown number of quantitative trait loci (QTLs)(1,2). The ... [more ▼]

Most traits and disorders have a multifactorial background indicating that they are controlled by environmental factors as well as an unknown number of quantitative trait loci (QTLs)(1,2). The identification of mutations underlying QTLs is a challenge because each locus explains only a fraction of the phenotypic variation(3,4). A paternally expressed QTL affecting muscle growth, fat deposition and size of the heart in pigs maps to the IGF2 (insulin-like growth factor 2) region(5,6). Here we show that this QTL is caused by a nucleotide substitution in intron 3 of IGF2. The mutation occurs in an evolutionarily conserved CpG island that is hypomethylated in skeletal muscle. The mutation abrogates in vitro interaction with a nuclear factor, probably a repressor, and pigs inheriting the mutation from their sire have a threefold increase in IGF2 messenger RNA expression in postnatal muscle. Our study establishes a causal relationship between a single-base-pair substitution in a non-coding region and a QTL effect. The result supports the long-held view that regulatory mutations are important for controlling phenotypic variation(7). [less ▲]

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See detailLubrication by charged polymers
Raviv, Uri; Giasson, Suzanne; Kampf, Nir et al

in Nature (2003), 425(6954), 163-165

Long-ranged forces between surfaces in a liquid control effects from colloid stability [1] to biolubrication [2], and can be modified either by steric factors due to flexible polymers [3], or by surface ... [more ▼]

Long-ranged forces between surfaces in a liquid control effects from colloid stability [1] to biolubrication [2], and can be modified either by steric factors due to flexible polymers [3], or by surface charge effects [4]. In particular, neutral polymer 'brushes' may lead to a massive reduction in sliding friction between the surfaces to which they are attached [5-7], whereas hydrated ions can act as extremely efficient lubricants between sliding charged surfaces [8]. Here we show that brushes of charged polymers (polyelectrolytes) attached to surfaces rubbing across an aqueous medium result in superior lubrication compared to other polymeric surfactants. Effective friction coefficients with polyelectrolyte brushes in water are lower than about 0.0006-0.001 even at low sliding velocities and at pressures of up to several atmospheres (typical of those in living systems). We attribute this to the exceptional resistance to mutual interpenetration displayed by the compressed, counterion-swollen brushes, together with the fluidity of the hydration layers surrounding the charged, rubbing polymer segments. Our findings may have implications for biolubrication effects, which are important in the design of lubricated surfaces in artificial implants, and in understanding frictional processes in biological systems. [less ▲]

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See detailA camelid antibody fragment inhibits the formation of amyloid fibrils by human lysozyme
Dumoulin, Mireille ULg; Last, A. M.; Desmyter, A. et al

in Nature (2003), 424(6950), 783-788

Amyloid diseases are characterized by an aberrant assembly of a specific protein or protein fragment into fibrils and plaques that are deposited in various organs and tissues(1-3), often with serious ... [more ▼]

Amyloid diseases are characterized by an aberrant assembly of a specific protein or protein fragment into fibrils and plaques that are deposited in various organs and tissues(1-3), often with serious pathological consequences. Non-neuropathic systemic amyloidosis (4-6) is associated with single point mutations in the gene coding for human lysozyme. Here we report that a single-domain fragment of a camelid antibody(7-9) raised against wild-type human lysozyme inhibits the in vitro aggregation of its amyloidogenic variant, D67H. Our structural studies reveal that the epitope includes neither the site of mutation nor most residues in the region of the protein structure that is destabilized by the mutation. Instead, the binding of the antibody fragment achieves its effect by restoring the structural cooperativity characteristic of the wild-type protein. This appears to occur at least in part through the transmission of long-range conformational effects to the interface between the two structural domains of the protein. Thus, reducing the ability of an amyloidogenic protein to form partly unfolded species can be an effective method of preventing its aggregation, suggesting approaches to the rational design of therapeutic agents directed against protein deposition diseases. [less ▲]

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See detailCritical thickness for ferroelectricity in perovskite ultrathin films
Junquera, J.; Ghosez, Philippe ULg

in Nature (2003), 422(6931), 506-509

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See detailApolipoprotein L-I is the trypanosome lytic factor of human serum.
Vanhamme, Luc; Paturiaux-Hanocq, Francoise; Poelvoorde, Philippe et al

in Nature (2003), 422(6927), 83-7

Human sleeping sickness in east Africa is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense. The basis of this pathology is the resistance of these parasites to lysis by normal human serum (NHS ... [more ▼]

Human sleeping sickness in east Africa is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense. The basis of this pathology is the resistance of these parasites to lysis by normal human serum (NHS). Resistance to NHS is conferred by a gene that encodes a truncated form of the variant surface glycoprotein termed serum resistance associated protein (SRA). We show that SRA is a lysosomal protein, and that the amino-terminal alpha-helix of SRA is responsible for resistance to NHS. This domain interacts strongly with a carboxy-terminal alpha-helix of the human-specific serum protein apolipoprotein L-I (apoL-I). Depleting NHS of apoL-I, by incubation with SRA or anti-apoL-I, led to the complete loss of trypanolytic activity. Addition of native or recombinant apoL-I either to apoL-I-depleted NHS or to fetal calf serum induced lysis of NHS-sensitive, but not NHS-resistant, trypanosomes. Confocal microscopy demonstrated that apoL-I is taken up through the endocytic pathway into the lysosome. We propose that apoL-I is the trypanosome lytic factor of NHS, and that SRA confers resistance to lysis by interaction with apoL-I in the lysosome. [less ▲]

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See detailUltraviolet emissions from the magnetic footprints of Io, Ganymede and Europa on Jupiter
Clarke, J. T.; Ajello, Joseph M.; Ballester, G. et al

in Nature (2002), 415(6875), 997-1000

Io leaves a magnetic footprint on Jupiter's upper atmosphere that appears as a spot of ultraviolet emission that remains fixed underneath Io as Jupiter rotates(1-3). The specific physical mechanisms ... [more ▼]

Io leaves a magnetic footprint on Jupiter's upper atmosphere that appears as a spot of ultraviolet emission that remains fixed underneath Io as Jupiter rotates(1-3). The specific physical mechanisms responsible for generating those emissions are not well understood, but in general the spot seems to arise because of an electromagnetic interaction between Jupiter's magnetic field and the plasma surrounding Io, driving currents of around 1 million amperes down through Jupiter's ionosphere(4-6). The other galilean satellites may also leave footprints, and the presence or absence of such footprints should illuminate the underlying physical mechanism by revealing the strengths of the currents linking the satellites to Jupiter. Here we report persistent, faint, far-ultraviolet emission from the jovian footprints of Ganymede and Europa. We also show that Io's magnetic footprint extends well beyond the immediate vicinity of Io's flux-tube interaction with Jupiter, and much farther than predicted theoretically(4-6); the emission persists for several hours downstream. We infer from these data that Ganymede and Europa have persistent interactions with Jupiter's magnetic field despite their thin atmospheres. [less ▲]

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See detailTransient aurora on Jupiter from injections of magnetospheric electrons
Mauk, B. H.; Clarke, J. T.; Grodent, Denis ULg et al

in Nature (2002), 415(6875), 1003-1005

Energetic electrons and ions that are trapped in Earth's magnetosphere can suddenly be accelerated towards the planet(1-5). Some dynamic features of Earth's aurora (the northern and southern lights) are ... [more ▼]

Energetic electrons and ions that are trapped in Earth's magnetosphere can suddenly be accelerated towards the planet(1-5). Some dynamic features of Earth's aurora (the northern and southern lights) are created by the fraction of these injected particles that travels along magnetic field lines and hits the upper atmosphere(4). Jupiter's aurora appears similar to Earth's in some respects; both appear as large ovals circling the poles and both show transient events(6-11). But the magnetospheres of Jupiter and Earth are so different-particularly in the way they are powered-that it is not known whether the magnetospheric drivers(12) of Earth's aurora also cause them on Jupiter. Here we show a direct relationship between Earth-like injections of electrons in Jupiter's magnetosphere and a transient auroral feature in Jupiter's polar region. This relationship is remarkably similar to what happens at Earth, and therefore suggests that despite the large differences between planetary magnetospheres, some processes that generate aurorae are the same throughout the Solar System. [less ▲]

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