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Journal: eLife


Sleep plays a crucial role in the consolidation of newly acquired memories. Yet, how our brain selects the noteworthy information that will be consolidated during sleep remains largely unknown. Here we show that post-learning sleep favors the selectivity of long-term consolidation: when tested three months after initial encoding, the most important (i.e., rewarded, strongly encoded) memories are better retained, and also remembered with higher subjective confidence. Our brain imaging data reveals that the functional interplay between dopaminergic reward regions, the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus contributes to the integration of rewarded associative memories. We further show that sleep spindles strengthen memory representations based on reward values, suggesting a privileged replay of information yielding positive outcomes. These findings demonstrate that post-learning sleep determines the neural fate of motivationally-relevant memories and promotes a value-based stratification of long-term memory stores.

Concepts: Brain, Sleep, Neuroscience, Memory, Cerebrum, Hippocampus, Limbic system, Long-term potentiation


The 14th-18th century pandemic of Yersinia pestis caused devastating disease outbreaks in Europe for almost 400 years. The reasons for plague’s persistence and abrupt disappearance in Europe are poorly understood, but could have been due to either the presence of now-extinct plague foci in Europe itself, or successive disease introductions from other locations. Here we present five Y. pestis genomes from one of the last European outbreaks of plague, from 1722 in Marseille, France. The lineage identified has not been found in any extant Y. pestis foci sampled to date, and has its ancestry in strains obtained from victims of the 14th century Black Death. These data suggest the existence of a previously uncharacterized historical plague focus that persisted for at least three centuries. We propose that this disease source may have been responsible for the many resurgences of plague in Europe following the Black Death.

Concepts: Pandemic, Italy, Yersinia pestis, Bubonic plague, Black Death, Plague, Third Pandemic, London


Many organisms spanning from bacteria to mammals orient to the earth’s magnetic field. For a few animals, central neurons responsive to earth-strength magnetic fields have been identified; however, magnetosensory neurons have yet to be identified in any animal. We show that the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans orients to the earth’s magnetic field during vertical burrowing migrations. Well-fed worms migrated up, while starved worms migrated down. Populations isolated from around the world, migrated at angles to the magnetic vector that would optimize vertical translation in their native soil, with northern- and southern-hemisphere worms displaying opposite migratory preferences. Magnetic orientation and vertical migrations required the TAX-4 cyclic nucleotide-gated ion channel in the AFD sensory neuron pair. Calcium imaging showed that these neurons respond to magnetic fields even without synaptic input. C. elegans may have adapted magnetic orientation to simplify their vertical burrowing migration by reducing the orientation task from three dimensions to one.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Magnetic field, Earth's magnetic field, Earth, Caenorhabditis elegans, Animal, Human migration


Social chemosignaling is a part of human behavior, but how chemosignals transfer from one individual to another is unknown. In turn, humans greet each other with handshakes, but the functional antecedents of this behavior remain unclear. To ask whether handshakes are used to sample conspecific social chemosignals, we covertly filmed 271 subjects within a structured greeting event either with or without a handshake. We found that humans often sniff their own hands, and selectively increase this behavior after handshake. After handshakes within gender, subjects increased sniffing of their own right shaking hand by more than 100%. In contrast, after handshakes across gender, subjects increased sniffing of their own left non-shaking hand by more than 100%. Tainting participants with unnoticed odors significantly altered the effects, thus verifying their olfactory nature. Thus, handshaking may functionally serve active yet subliminal social chemosignaling, which likely plays a large role in ongoing human behavior.


Kinase inhibitors are effective cancer therapies, but tumors frequently develop resistance. Current strategies to circumvent resistance target the same or parallel pathways. We report here that targeting a completely different process, autophagy, can overcome multiple BRAF inhibitor resistance mechanisms in brain tumors. BRAF(V600E)mutations occur in many pediatric brain tumors. We previously reported that these tumors are autophagy-dependent and a patient was successfully treated with the autophagy inhibitor chloroquine after failure of the BRAF(V600E) inhibitor vemurafenib, suggesting autophagy inhibition overcame the kinase inhibitor resistance. We tested this hypothesis in vemurafenib-resistant brain tumors. Genetic and pharmacological autophagy inhibition overcame molecularly distinct resistance mechanisms, inhibited tumor cell growth, and increased cell death. Patients with resistance had favorable clinical responses when chloroquine was added to vemurafenib. This provides a fundamentally different strategy to circumvent multiple mechanisms of kinase inhibitor resistance that could be rapidly tested in clinical trials in patients with BRAF(V600E) brain tumors.

Concepts: Medicine, Cancer, Oncology, Brain tumor, Tumor, Neoplasm, Enzyme inhibitor, Inhibitor


Eukaryotes have two types of spliceosomes, comprised of either major (U1, U2, U4, U5, U6) or minor (U11, U12, U4atac, U6atac; <1%) snRNPs. The high conservation of minor introns, typically one amidst many major introns in several hundred genes, despite their poor splicing, has been a long-standing enigma. Here, we discovered that the low abundance minor spliceosome's catalytic snRNP, U6atac, is strikingly unstable (t½<2 hr). We show that U6atac level depends on both RNA polymerases II and III and can be rapidly increased by cell stress-activated kinase p38MAPK, which stabilizes it, enhancing mRNA expression of hundreds of minor intron-containing genes that are otherwise suppressed by limiting U6atac. Furthermore, p38MAPK-dependent U6atac modulation can control minor intron-containing tumor suppressor PTEN expression and cytokine production. We propose that minor introns are embedded molecular switches regulated by U6atac abundance, providing a novel post-transcriptional gene expression mechanism and a rationale for the minor spliceosome's evolutionary conservation. DOI:

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Cell nucleus, Gene expression, RNA, Messenger RNA, Spliceosome, RNA splicing


Plants have evolved intracellular immune receptors to detect pathogen proteins known as effectors. How these immune receptors detect effectors remains poorly understood. Here we describe the structural basis for direct recognition of AVR-Pik, an effector from the rice blast pathogen, by the rice intracellular NLR immune receptor Pik. AVR-PikD binds a dimer of the Pikp-1 HMA integrated domain with nanomolar affinity. The crystal structure of the Pikp-HMA/AVR-PikD complex enabled design of mutations to alter protein interaction in yeast and in vitro, and perturb effector-mediated response both in a rice cultivar containing Pikp and upon expression of AVR-PikD and Pikp in the model plant Nicotiana benthamiana. These data reveal the molecular details of a recognition event, mediated by a novel integrated domain in an NLR, which initiates a plant immune response and resistance to rice blast disease. Such studies underpin novel opportunities for engineering disease resistance to plant pathogens in staple food crops.

Concepts: Immune system, Protein, Bacteria, Molecular biology, Signal transduction, Fungus, Rice, Plant pathogens and diseases


Ki-67 and RepoMan have key roles during mitotic exit. Previously, we showed that Ki-67 organizes the mitotic chromosome periphery and recruits protein phosphatase 1 (PP1) to chromatin at anaphase onset, in a similar manner as RepoMan (Booth et al., 2014). Here we show how Ki-67 and RepoMan form mitotic exit phosphatases by recruiting PP1, how they distinguish between distinct PP1 isoforms and how the assembly of these two holoenzymes are dynamically regulated by Aurora B kinase during mitosis. Unexpectedly, our data also reveal that Ki-67 and RepoMan bind PP1 using an identical, yet novel mechanism, interacting with a PP1 pocket that is engaged only by these two PP1 regulators. These findings not only show how two distinct mitotic exit phosphatases are recruited to their substrates, but also provide immediate opportunities for the design of novel cancer therapeutics that selectively target the Ki-67:PP1 and RepoMan:PP1 holoenzymes.

Concepts: Cell nucleus, Enzyme, Chromosome, Cell cycle, Kinase, Mitosis, Chromatin, Phosphatase


Nuclear pore complexes form a selective filter that allows the rapid passage of transport factors (TFs) and their cargoes across the nuclear envelope, while blocking the passage of other macromolecules. Intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs) containing phenylalanyl-glycyl (FG) rich repeats line the pore and interact with TFs. However, the reason that transport can be both fast and specific remains undetermined, through lack of atomic-scale information on the behavior of FGs and their interaction with TFs. We used NMR spectroscopy to address these issues. We show that FG repeats are highly dynamic IDPs, stabilized by the cellular environment. Fast transport of TFs is supported because the rapid motion of FG motifs allows them to exchange on and off TFs extremely quickly through transient interactions. Because TFs uniquely carry multiple pockets for FG repeats, only they can form the many frequent interactions needed for specific passage between FG repeats to cross the NPC.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Cell nucleus, Nuclear magnetic resonance, NMR spectroscopy, Interaction, Nuclear pore, Nuclear envelope, The Passage


The staining of neurons with silver began in the 1800s, but until now the great resolving power of the laser scanning confocal microscope has not been utilized to capture the in-focus and three-dimensional cytoarchitecture of metal-impregnated cells. Here, we demonstrate how spectral confocal microscopy, typically reserved for fluorescent imaging, can be used to visualize metal-labeled tissues. This imaging does not involve the reflectance of metal particles, but rather the excitation of silver (or gold) nanoparticles and their putative surface plasmon resonance. To induce such resonance, silver or gold particles were excited with visible-wavelength laser lines (561 or 640 nm), and the maximal emission signal was collected at a shorter wavelength (i.e., higher energy state). Because the surface plasmon resonances of noble metal nanoparticles offer a superior optical signal and do not photobleach, our novel protocol holds enormous promise of a rebirth and further development of silver- and gold-based cell labeling protocols.

Concepts: Nanoparticle, Optics, Microscope, Gold, Surface plasmon resonance, Microscopy, Plasmon, Extraordinary optical transmission