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1 Patchy particles made by colloidal fusion 2017-09-19             

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Patches on the surfaces of colloidal particles provide directional information that enables the self-assembly of the particles into higher-order structures. Although computational tools can make quantitative predictions and can generate design rules that link the patch motif of a particle to its internal microstructure and to the emergent properties of the self-assembled materials, the experimental realization of model systems of particles with surface patches (or ‘patchy’ particles) remains a challenge. Synthetic patchy colloidal particles are often poor geometric approximations of the digital building blocks used in simulations and can only rarely be manufactured in sufficiently high yields to be routinely used as experimental model systems. Here we introduce a method, which we refer to as colloidal fusion, for fabricating functional patchy particles in a tunable and scalable manner. Using coordination dynamics and wetting forces, we engineer hybrid liquid–solid clusters that evolve into particles with a range of patchy surface morphologies on addition of a plasticizer. We are able to predict and control the evolutionary pathway by considering surface-energy minimization, leading to two main branches of product: first, spherical particles with liquid surface patches, capable of forming curable bonds with neighbouring particles to assemble robust supracolloidal structures; and second, particles with a faceted liquid compartment, which can be cured and purified to yield colloidal polyhedra. These findings outline a scalable strategy for the synthesis of patchy particles, first by designing their surface patterns by computer simulation, and then by recreating them in the laboratory with high fidelity.

2 SAM-dependent enzyme-catalysed pericyclic reactions in natural product biosynthesis 2017-09-16             

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Pericyclic reactions—which proceed in a concerted fashion through a cyclic transition state—are among the most powerful synthetic transformations used to make multiple regioselective and stereoselective carbon–carbon bonds. They have been widely applied to the synthesis of biologically active complex natural products containing contiguous stereogenic carbon centres. Despite the prominence of pericyclic reactions in total synthesis, only three naturally existing enzymatic examples (the intramolecular Diels–Alder reaction, and the Cope and the Claisen rearrangements) have been characterized. Here we report a versatile S-adenosyl-l-methionine (SAM)-dependent enzyme, LepI, that can catalyse stereoselective dehydration followed by three pericyclic transformations: intramolecular Diels–Alder and hetero-Diels–Alder reactions via a single ambimodal transition state, and a retro-Claisen rearrangement. Together, these transformations lead to the formation of the dihydropyran core of the fungal natural product, leporin. Combined in vitro enzymatic characterization and computational studies provide insight into how LepI regulates these bifurcating biosynthetic reaction pathways by using SAM as the cofactor. These pathways converge to the desired biosynthetic end product via the (SAM-dependent) retro-Claisen rearrangement catalysed by LepI. We expect that more pericyclic biosynthetic enzymatic transformations remain to be discovered in naturally occurring enzyme ‘toolboxes’. The new role of the versatile cofactor SAM is likely to be found in other examples of enzyme catalysis.

3 Optical physics: A laser model for cosmology 2017-09-16             

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Experiments reveal that the laws governing the immediate aftermath of the Big Bang also apply to the behaviour of coupled lasers. The findings could be used to solve complex computational problems.

4 Hardware-efficient variational quantum eigensolver for small molecules and quantum magnets 2017-09-16             

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Quantum computers can be used to address electronic-structure problems and problems in materials science and condensed matter physics that can be formulated as interacting fermionic problems, problems which stretch the limits of existing high-performance computers. Finding exact solutions to such problems numerically has a computational cost that scales exponentially with the size of the system, and Monte Carlo methods are unsuitable owing to the fermionic sign problem. These limitations of classical computational methods have made solving even few-atom electronic-structure problems interesting for implementation using medium-sized quantum computers. Yet experimental implementations have so far been restricted to molecules involving only hydrogen and helium. Here we demonstrate the experimental optimization of Hamiltonian problems with up to six qubits and more than one hundred Pauli terms, determining the ground-state energy for molecules of increasing size, up to BeH2. We achieve this result by using a variational quantum eigenvalue solver (eigensolver) with efficiently prepared trial states that are tailored specifically to the interactions that are available in our quantum processor, combined with a compact encoding of fermionic Hamiltonians and a robust stochastic optimization routine. We demonstrate the flexibility of our approach by applying it to a problem of quantum magnetism, an antiferromagnetic Heisenberg model in an external magnetic field. In all cases, we find agreement between our experiments and numerical simulations using a model of the device with noise. Our results help to elucidate the requirements for scaling the method to larger systems and for bridging the gap between key problems in high-performance computing and their implementation on quantum hardware.

5 Real-space imaging of non-collinear antiferromagnetic order with a single-spin magnetometer 2017-09-16             

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Although ferromagnets have many applications, their large magnetization and the resulting energy cost for switching magnetic moments bring into question their suitability for reliable low-power spintronic devices. Non-collinear antiferromagnetic systems do not suffer from this problem, and often have extra functionalities: non-collinear spin order may break space-inversion symmetry and thus allow electric-field control of magnetism, or may produce emergent spin–orbit effects that enable efficient spin–charge interconversion. To harness these traits for next-generation spintronics, the nanoscale control and imaging capabilities that are now routine for ferromagnets must be developed for antiferromagnetic systems. Here, using a non-invasive, scanning single-spin magnetometer based on a nitrogen–vacancy defect in diamond, we demonstrate real-space visualization of non-collinear antiferromagnetic order in a magnetic thin film at room temperature. We image the spin cycloid of a multiferroic bismuth ferrite (BiFeO3) thin film and extract a period of about 70 nanometres, consistent with values determined by macroscopic diffraction. In addition, we take advantage of the magnetoelectric coupling present in BiFeO3 to manipulate the cycloid propagation direction by an electric field. Besides highlighting the potential of nitrogen–vacancy magnetometry for imaging complex antiferromagnetic orders at the nanoscale, these results demonstrate how BiFeO3 can be used in the design of reconfigurable nanoscale spin textures.

6 Superparamagnetic enhancement of thermoelectric performance 2017-09-16             

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The ability to control chemical and physical structuring at the nanometre scale is important for developing high-performance thermoelectric materials. Progress in this area has been achieved mainly by enhancing phonon scattering and consequently decreasing the thermal conductivity of the lattice through the design of either interface structures at nanometre or mesoscopic length scales or multiscale hierarchical architectures. A nanostructuring approach that enables electron transport as well as phonon transport to be manipulated could potentially lead to further enhancements in thermoelectric performance. Here we show that by embedding nanoparticles of a soft magnetic material in a thermoelectric matrix we achieve dual control of phonon- and electron-transport properties. The properties of the nanoparticles—in particular, their superparamagnetic behaviour (in which the nanoparticles can be magnetized similarly to a paramagnet under an external magnetic field)—lead to three kinds of thermoelectromagnetic effect: charge transfer from the magnetic inclusions to the matrix; multiple scattering of electrons by superparamagnetic fluctuations; and enhanced phonon scattering as a result of both the magnetic fluctuations and the nanostructures themselves. We show that together these effects can effectively manipulate electron and phonon transport at nanometre and mesoscopic length scales and thereby improve the thermoelectric performance of the resulting nanocomposites.

7 Detection of titanium oxide in the atmosphere of a hot Jupiter 2017-09-16             

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As an exoplanet transits its host star, some of the light from the star is absorbed by the atoms and molecules in the planet’s atmosphere, causing the planet to seem bigger; plotting the planet’s observed size as a function of the wavelength of the light produces a transmission spectrum. Measuring the tiny variations in the transmission spectrum, together with atmospheric modelling, then gives clues to the properties of the exoplanet’s atmosphere. Chemical species composed of light elements—such as hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, sodium and potassium—have in this way been detected in the atmospheres of several hot giant exoplanets, but molecules composed of heavier elements have thus far proved elusive. Nonetheless, it has been predicted that metal oxides such as titanium oxide (TiO) and vanadium oxide occur in the observable regions of the very hottest exoplanetary atmospheres, causing thermal inversions on the dayside. Here we report the detection of TiO in the atmosphere of the hot-Jupiter planet WASP-19b. Our combined spectrum, with its wide spectral coverage, reveals the presence of TiO (to a confidence level of 7.7σ), a strongly scattering haze (7.4σ) and sodium (3.4σ), and confirms the presence of water (7.9σ) in the atmosphere.

8 Materials science: Nanomagnets boost thermoelectric output 2017-09-16             

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The direct conversion of heat into electricity — a reversible process known as the thermoelectric effect — can be greatly enhanced in some materials by embedding them with a small number of magnetic nanoparticles. See Letter p.247

9 Use of CRISPR-modified human stem cell organoids to study the origin of mutational signatures in cancer 2017-09-15             

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Mutational processes underlie cancer initiation and progression. Signatures of these processes in cancer genomes may explain cancer etiology, and hold diagnostic and prognostic value. Here, we develop a strategy that can be used to explore the origin of cancer-associated mutational signatures. We used CRISPR/Cas9 technology to delete key DNA repair genes in human colon organoids, followed by delayed sub-cloning and whole-genome sequencing. We found that mutation accumulation in organoids deficient in the mismatch repair gene MLH1 is driven by replication errors and accurately models the mutation profiles observed in mismatch repair-deficient colorectal cancers. Application of this strategy to the cancer predisposition gene NTHL1, which encodes a base excision repair protein, revealed a mutational footprint (signature 30) previously observed in a breast cancer cohort. We show that signature 30 can arise from germline NTHL1 mutations.

10 ZATT (ZNF451)-mediated resolution of topoisomerase 2 DNA-protein cross-links 2017-09-15             

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Topoisomerase 2 (TOP2) DNA transactions are essential for life, and proceed via formation of the TOP2 cleavage complex (TOP2cc), a covalent enzyme-DNA reaction intermediate that is vulnerable to trapping by potent anticancer TOP2 drugs. How genotoxic TOP2 DNA-protein cross-links are resolved is unclear. We found that the SUMO ligase ZATT (ZNF451) is a multifunctional DNA repair factor that controls cellular responses to TOP2 damage. ZATT binding to TOP2cc facilitates a proteasome-independent tyrosyl-DNA phosphodiesterase 2 (TDP2) hydrolase activity on stalled TOP2cc. The ZATT SUMO ligase activity further promotes TDP2 interactions with SUMOylated TOP2, regulating efficient TDP2 recruitment through a "split-SIM" SUMO2 engagement platform. These findings uncover a ZATT-TDP2–catalyzed and SUMO2-modulated pathway for direct resolution of TOP2cc.

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