Riviste scientifiche

Recycling the recycling machinery

Science - Gio, 05/08/2021 - 18:28

Commensal responses go retro

Science - Gio, 05/08/2021 - 18:28

Structural basis for enhanced infectivity and immune evasion of SARS-CoV-2 variants

Science - Gio, 05/08/2021 - 18:28

Several fast-spreading variants of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) have become the dominant circulating strains in the COVID-19 pandemic. We report here cryo–electron microscopy structures of the full-length spike (S) trimers of the B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 variants, as well as their biochemical and antigenic properties. Amino acid substitutions in the B.1.1.7 protein increase both the accessibility of its receptor binding domain and the binding affinity for receptor angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). The enhanced receptor engagement may account for the increased transmissibility. The B.1.351 variant has evolved to reshape antigenic surfaces of the major neutralizing sites on the S protein, making it resistant to some potent neutralizing antibodies. These findings provide structural details on how SARS-CoV-2 has evolved to enhance viral fitness and immune evasion.

SARS-CoV-2 immune evasion by the B.1.427/B.1.429 variant of concern

Science - Gio, 05/08/2021 - 18:28

A novel variant of concern (VOC) named CAL.20C (B.1.427/B.1.429), which was originally detected in California, carries spike glycoprotein mutations S13I in the signal peptide, W152C in the N-terminal domain (NTD), and L452R in the receptor-binding domain (RBD). Plasma from individuals vaccinated with a Wuhan-1 isolate–based messenger RNA vaccine or from convalescent individuals exhibited neutralizing titers that were reduced 2- to 3.5-fold against the B.1.427/B.1.429 variant relative to wild-type pseudoviruses. The L452R mutation reduced neutralizing activity in 14 of 34 RBD-specific monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). The S13I and W152C mutations resulted in total loss of neutralization for 10 of 10 NTD-specific mAbs because the NTD antigenic supersite was remodeled by a shift of the signal peptide cleavage site and the formation of a new disulfide bond, as revealed by mass spectrometry and structural studies.

De novo assembly, annotation, and comparative analysis of 26 diverse maize genomes

Science - Gio, 05/08/2021 - 18:28

We report de novo genome assemblies, transcriptomes, annotations, and methylomes for the 26 inbreds that serve as the founders for the maize nested association mapping population. The number of pan-genes in these diverse genomes exceeds 103,000, with approximately a third found across all genotypes. The results demonstrate that the ancient tetraploid character of maize continues to degrade by fractionation to the present day. Excellent contiguity over repeat arrays and complete annotation of centromeres revealed additional variation in major cytological landmarks. We show that combining structural variation with single-nucleotide polymorphisms can improve the power of quantitative mapping studies. We also document variation at the level of DNA methylation and demonstrate that unmethylated regions are enriched for cis-regulatory elements that contribute to phenotypic variation.

A noncoding RNA modulator potentiates phenylalanine metabolism in mice

Science - Gio, 05/08/2021 - 18:28

The functional role of long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) in inherited metabolic disorders, including phenylketonuria (PKU), is unknown. Here, we demonstrate that the mouse lncRNA Pair and human HULC associate with phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH). Pair-knockout mice exhibited excessive blood phenylalanine (Phe), musty odor, hypopigmentation, growth retardation, and progressive neurological symptoms including seizures, which faithfully models human PKU. HULC depletion led to reduced PAH enzymatic activities in human induced pluripotent stem cell–differentiated hepatocytes. Mechanistically, HULC modulated the enzymatic activities of PAH by facilitating PAH-substrate and PAH-cofactor interactions. To develop a therapeutic strategy for restoring liver lncRNAs, we designed GalNAc-tagged lncRNA mimics that exhibit liver enrichment. Treatment with GalNAc-HULC mimics reduced excessive Phe in Pair–/– and PahR408W/R408W mice and improved the Phe tolerance of these mice.

Quantum-enhanced sensing of displacements and electric fields with two-dimensional trapped-ion crystals

Science - Gio, 05/08/2021 - 18:28

Fully controllable ultracold atomic systems are creating opportunities for quantum sensing, yet demonstrating a quantum advantage in useful applications by harnessing entanglement remains a challenging task. Here, we realize a many-body quantum-enhanced sensor to detect displacements and electric fields using a crystal of ~150 trapped ions. The center-of-mass vibrational mode of the crystal serves as a high-Q mechanical oscillator, and the collective electronic spin serves as the measurement device. By entangling the oscillator and collective spin and controlling the coherent dynamics via a many-body echo, a displacement is mapped into a spin rotation while avoiding quantum back-action and thermal noise. We achieve a sensitivity to displacements of 8.8 ± 0.4 decibels below the standard quantum limit and a sensitivity for measuring electric fields of 240 ± 10 nanovolts per meter in 1 second. Feasible improvements should enable the use of trapped ions in searches for dark matter.

Watching a hydroperoxyalkyl radical (bulletQOOH) dissociate

Science - Gio, 05/08/2021 - 18:28

A prototypical hydroperoxyalkyl radical (•QOOH) intermediate, transiently formed in the oxidation of volatile organic compounds, was directly observed through its infrared fingerprint and energy-dependent unimolecular decay to hydroxyl radical and cyclic ether products. Direct time-domain measurements of •QOOH unimolecular dissociation rates over a wide range of energies were found to be in accord with those predicted theoretically using state-of-the-art electronic structure characterizations of the transition state barrier region. Unimolecular decay was enhanced by substantial heavy-atom tunneling involving O-O elongation and C-C-O angle contraction along the reaction pathway. Master equation modeling yielded a fully a priori prediction of the pressure-dependent thermal unimolecular dissociation rates for the •QOOH intermediate—again increased by heavy-atom tunneling—which are required for global models of atmospheric and combustion chemistry.

Suppressing atomic diffusion with the Schwarz crystal structure in supersaturated Al-Mg alloys

Science - Gio, 05/08/2021 - 18:28

High atomic diffusivity in metals enables substantial tuneability of their structure and properties by tailoring the diffusional processes, but this causes their customized properties to be unstable at elevated temperatures. Eliminating diffusive interfaces by fabricating single crystals or heavily alloying helps to address this issue but does not inhibit atomic diffusion at high homologous temperatures. We discovered that the Schwarz crystal structure was effective at suppressing atomic diffusion in a supersaturated aluminum–magnesium alloy with extremely fine grains. By forming these stable structures, diffusion-controlled intermetallic precipitation from the nanosized grains and their coarsening were inhibited up to the equilibrium melting temperature, around which the apparent across-boundary diffusivity was reduced by about seven orders of magnitude. Developing advanced engineering alloys using the Schwarz crystal structure may lead to useful properties for high-temperature applications.

Modeling of emergent memory and voltage spiking in ionic transport through angstrom-scale slits

Science - Gio, 05/08/2021 - 18:28

Recent advances in nanofluidics have enabled the confinement of water down to a single molecular layer. Such monolayer electrolytes show promise in achieving bioinspired functionalities through molecular control of ion transport. However, the understanding of ion dynamics in these systems is still scarce. Here, we develop an analytical theory, backed up by molecular dynamics simulations, that predicts strongly nonlinear effects in ion transport across quasi–two-dimensional slits. We show that under an electric field, ions assemble into elongated clusters, whose slow dynamics result in hysteretic conduction. This phenomenon, known as the memristor effect, can be harnessed to build an elementary neuron. As a proof of concept, we carry out molecular simulations of two nanofluidic slits that reproduce the Hodgkin-Huxley model and observe spontaneous emission of voltage spikes characteristic of neuromorphic activity.

Hierarchical-morphology metafabric for scalable passive daytime radiative cooling

Science - Gio, 05/08/2021 - 18:28

Incorporating passive radiative cooling structures into personal thermal management technologies could effectively defend humans against intensifying global climate change. We show that large-scale woven metafabrics can provide high emissivity (94.5%) in the atmospheric window and high reflectivity (92.4%) in the solar spectrum because of the hierarchical-morphology design of the randomly dispersed scatterers throughout the metafabric. Through scalable industrial textile manufacturing routes, our metafabrics exhibit desirable mechanical strength, waterproofness, and breathability for commercial clothing while maintaining efficient radiative cooling ability. Practical application tests demonstrated that a human body covered by our metafabric could be cooled ~4.8°C lower than one covered by commercial cotton fabric. The cost-effectiveness and high performance of our metafabrics present substantial advantages for intelligent garments, smart textiles, and passive radiative cooling applications.

Acrobatic squirrels learn to leap and land on tree branches without falling

Science - Gio, 05/08/2021 - 18:28

Arboreal animals often leap through complex canopies to travel and avoid predators. Their success at making split-second, potentially life-threatening decisions of biomechanical capability depends on their skillful use of acrobatic maneuvers and learning from past efforts. Here, we found that free-ranging fox squirrels (Sciurus niger) leaping across unfamiliar, simulated branches decided where to launch by balancing a trade-off between gap distance and branch-bending compliance. Squirrels quickly learned to modify impulse generation upon repeated leaps from unfamiliar, compliant beams. A repertoire of agile landing maneuvers enabled targeted leaping without falling. Unanticipated adaptive landing and leaping "parkour" behavior revealed an innovative solution for particularly challenging leaps. Squirrels deciding and learning how to launch and land demonstrates the synergistic roles of biomechanics and cognition in robust gap-crossing strategies.

Maturation of the matrix and viral membrane of HIV-1

Science - Gio, 05/08/2021 - 18:28

Gag, the primary structural protein of HIV-1, is recruited to the plasma membrane for virus assembly by its matrix (MA) domain. Gag is subsequently cleaved into its component domains, causing structural maturation to repurpose the virion for cell entry. We determined the structure and arrangement of MA within immature and mature HIV-1 through cryo–electron tomography. We found that MA rearranges between two different hexameric lattices upon maturation. In mature HIV-1, a lipid extends out of the membrane to bind with a pocket in MA. Our data suggest that proteolytic maturation of HIV-1 not only assembles the viral capsid surrounding the genome but also repurposes the membrane-bound MA lattice for an entry or postentry function and results in the partial removal of up to 2500 lipids from the viral membrane.

Over the baby bump

Science - Gio, 05/08/2021 - 18:28

Effect of natural mutations of SARS-CoV-2 on spike structure, conformation, and antigenicity

Science - Gio, 05/08/2021 - 18:28

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) variants with multiple spike mutations enable increased transmission and antibody resistance. We combined cryo–electron microscopy (cryo-EM), binding, and computational analyses to study variant spikes, including one that was involved in transmission between minks and humans, and others that originated and spread in human populations. All variants showed increased angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor binding and increased propensity for receptor binding domain (RBD)–up states. While adaptation to mink resulted in spike destabilization, the B.1.1.7 (UK) spike balanced stabilizing and destabilizing mutations. A local destabilizing effect of the RBD E484K mutation was implicated in resistance of the B.1.1.28/P.1 (Brazil) and B.1.351 (South Africa) variants to neutralizing antibodies. Our studies revealed allosteric effects of mutations and mechanistic differences that drive either interspecies transmission or escape from antibody neutralization.

Semiconductor quantum dots: Technological progress and future challenges

Science - Gio, 05/08/2021 - 18:28

In quantum-confined semiconductor nanostructures, electrons exhibit distinctive behavior compared with that in bulk solids. This enables the design of materials with tunable chemical, physical, electrical, and optical properties. Zero-dimensional semiconductor quantum dots (QDs) offer strong light absorption and bright narrowband emission across the visible and infrared wavelengths and have been engineered to exhibit optical gain and lasing. These properties are of interest for imaging, solar energy harvesting, displays, and communications. Here, we offer an overview of advances in the synthesis and understanding of QD nanomaterials, with a focus on colloidal QDs, and discuss their prospects in technologies such as displays and lighting, lasers, sensing, electronics, solar energy conversion, photocatalysis, and quantum information.

The post-antibiotic era is here

Science - Gio, 29/07/2021 - 18:41

News at a glance

Science - Gio, 29/07/2021 - 18:41