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This Week in Nature: Feb 17, 2011

In Nature this week, investigators at Northwestern University, along with their collaborators in Korea, report mutants of the novel Drosophila gene twenty-four, or tyf, which they say "show weak [circadian] behavioral rhythms." The team goes on to suggest that, as "TYF activates reporter expression when tethered to reporter messenger RNA," it may activate translation of the clock protein Period "in pacemaker neurons to sustain robust rhythms, revealing a new and important role for translational control in the Drosophila circadian clock."

Researchers at the Salk Institute show that lifespan extension in C. elegans "induced by AMPK and calcineurin is mediated by CRTC-1 and CREB." More specifically, AMPK and calcineurin post-translationally modify CRTC-1, the authors report, adding that "down-regulation of crtc-1 increases lifespan in a crh-1-dependent manner and directly reducing crh-1 expression increases longevity."

A team led by investigators at Japan's RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology shows that in mouse embryonic stem cells, the zinc-finger nuclear protein Zfp521 is essential for intrinsic neural differentiation. The team shows that "forced expression of Zfp521 enables the neural conversion of ES cells, even in the presence of BMP4," an inhibitor of neural differentiation. In particular, the RIKEN researchers report that the murine ES cell differentiation transition from epiblasts to neuroectodermal progenitors "depends on the cell-intrinsic expression and activator function of Zfp521."

Investigators at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, and their collaborators show in Nature this week that RANKL-producing T cells, most of which express the transcription factor FOXP3, are located next to stromal cells in mouse and human breast cancers. Furthermore, the team shows that exogenous RANKL can replace the dependence of pulmonary metastasis of RANK+human breast cancer cells, and therefore suggest that "targeting of RANKL-RANK can be used in conjunction with the therapeutic elimination of primary breast tumors to prevent recurrent metastatic disease."

The Scan

Study Reveals New Details About Genetics of Major Cause of Female Infertility

Researchers in Nature Medicine conducted a whole-exome sequencing study of mote than a thousand patients with premature ovarian insufficiency.

Circulating Tumor DNA Shows Potential as Biomarker in Rare Childhood Cancer

A study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology has found that circulating tumor DNA levels in rhabdomyosarcoma may serve as a biomarker for prognosis.

Study Recommends Cancer Screening for Dogs Beginning Age Seven, Depending on Breed

PetDx researchers report in PLOS One that annual cancer screening for dogs should begin by age seven.

White-Tailed Deer Harbor SARS-CoV-2 Variants No Longer Infecting Humans, Study Finds

A new study in PNAS has found that white-tailed deer could act as a reservoir of SARS-CoV-2 variants no longer found among humans.