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The best in science news, commentary, and research

Mutations can alter protein conformations in the same way that allosteric small molecules do. Authors: Tina Perica, Yasushi Kondo, Sandhya P. Tiwari, Stephen H. McLaughlin, Katherine R. Kemplen, Xiuwei Zhang, Annette Steward, Nathalie Reuter, Jane Clarke, Sarah A. Teichmann

Long before I dreamed of becoming a scientist, I wondered why Earth was teeming with life, while Mars was a barren, rocky outpost and Venus was shrouded in a dense atmosphere. Somewhere, I read that comets were the reason. Strike a rocky planet with one volatile- and organic-rich comet and an Earth-like environment results. Two comets produce a Venus. No comets: Mars. Of course, this theory was far too simple to explain the differences in the evolution of the inner planets, but no one had ever explored comets up close to know how they might alter a planet's composition and history—until now. Last month, after many years of planning and a decade in transit, the European Space Agency's spacecraft Rosetta reached Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, surveyed landing sites, and deployed its probe, Philae, to execute the first-ever soft landing on a comet's surface (see the News story, p. 1442). Author: Marcia McNutt

A roundup of weekly science policy and related news.

Scientific community battles with its federal office. Author: Adrian Cho

NASA, NSF among 2015 winners in difficult year. Authors: Jeffrey Mervis, David Malakoff

Genomes from ancient horses show the genetic changes wrought by domestication—and their costs. Author: Ann Gibbons

New government rethinks plan to take over INBio's money-losing theme parks. Author: Lizzie Wade

After 14 years and $1.2 billion spent, design and management troubles topple National Children's Study. Author: Jocelyn Kaiser

Rosetta's short-lived lander grabbed the headlines, but the ongoing orbital mission is the real news for science. And this year, Science decided to give its readers a say in picking their own top breakthroughs of 2014. Author: Eric Hand

In addition to its Breakthrough of the Year, Science named nine runners-up as significant scientific achievements of 2014.

Every year, the Breakthrough staff picks scientific developments likely to make news in the coming months.

Science is a moving target. In addition to looking back on achievements of the previous year, the Breakthrough staff also hazards a few informed guesses about developments likely to make news in months to come.

Slow international response and missed opportunities to contain the outbreak make this year's Ebola epidemic Science's breakdown of the year. Also, Breakthrough staff chose a few of this year's notable flaps, stumbles, and reverses as runners-up.

Technologies and policies can improve authentication Authors: Jon R. Lorsch, Francis S. Collins, Jennifer Lippincott-Schwartz

Silent retroviruses present in the human genome help B cells launch a rapid response to pathogenic antigens [Also see Research Article by Zeng et al.] Authors: Emilie K. Grasset, Andrea Cerutti

A designed protein transports ions across a membrane [Also see Report by Joh et al.] Author: Andrei N. Lupas

Local electric fields accelerate an enzymatic reaction [Also see Report by Fried et al.] Author: Peter Hildebrandt

Examining histone mutations points to possible therapies for a lethal brain tumor [Also see Report by Funato et al.] Authors: Oren J. Becher, Robert J. Wechsler-Reya

Nanovesicles derived from cells of cancer patients carry microRNAs that initiate tumor growth in normal cells Authors: Eleni Anastasiadou, Frank J. Slack

How accurate are regional projections of climate change derived from downscaling global climate model results? Author: Alex Hall

Author: Andrew Robinson

Author: Yevgeniya Nusinovich

Author: Salman Hameed

A listing of books received at Science during the week ending 12 December 2014.

Authors: Giuseppe Lia, Bénédicte Michel, Jean-François Allemand

Author: Gerald Mayr

Authors: Marie-Claire Koschowitz, Markus Lambertz, Christian Fischer, P. Martin Sander

Zhang et al. (Reports, 4 April 2014, p. 84) interpret TEX86 and U37K' paleotemperature data as providing a fundamentally new view of tropical Pacific climate during the warm Pliocene period. We argue that, within error, their Pliocene data actually support previously published data indicating average western warm-pool temperature similar to today and a reduced zonal gradient, referred to as a permanent El Niño–like state. Authors: Ana Christina Ravelo, Kira Trillium Lawrence, Alexey Fedorov, Heather Louise Ford

Contrary to our conclusions, Ravelo et al. argue that our TEX86-based sea surface temperature (SST) records do not conflict with the supposition of “permanent El Niño–like” conditions during the early Pliocene. We show that the way Ravelo et al. treat the existing temperature data perpetuates an inaccurate impression of cooler Pacific warm-pool SSTs and low equatorial temperature gradients in the past. Authors: Yi Ge Zhang, Mark Pagani, Zhonghui Liu

Integrate biology, physics, engineering, and social science to innovate Author: Phillip A. Sharp

A monthly roundup of recent news and projects of Science's publisher, the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Success for Europe's large carnivores? | Using ozone below may conserve it above | Drug resistance, up close and personal | A brief hiccup in deep ocean circulation | For the immune system, silence is golden | How trans-polar arcs transpire above | Building transmembrane zinc transporters | Look, pathologists! No lens! | Controlling the state of dynamic proteins | Modeling brain cancer from stem to stern | Endogenous retroviruses trigger B cells | Big impact from a well-placed shake | Dispersing catalytic gold as widely as possible | Nanoparticle growth starts at the edges | Stark influence on reaction rates | Promoters tune gene expression noise | Designing activity at an interface | Can regional climate change be predicted? | Menacing exosomes spread cancer | Stopping inflammation after infection

Document DNA shows agriculture's course | Meeting the demands of a complex network | Better cloning through expression | Neuronal function requires the real deal | Parasites are rising with the seas | Translating clicks into efficiency | The right combination of additives | The socioeconomics of good sanitation

Secondary chemotherapies can be developed by screening drug-resistant cells from individual cancer patients. Authors: Adam S. Crystal, Alice T. Shaw, Lecia V. Sequist, Luc Friboulet, Matthew J. Niederst, Elizabeth L. Lockerman, Rosa L. Frias, Justin F. Gainor, Arnaud Amzallag, Patricia Greninger, Dana Lee, Anuj Kalsy, Maria Gomez-Caraballo, Leila Elamine, Emily Howe, Wooyoung Hur, Eugene Lifshits, Hayley E. Robinson, Ryohei Katayama, Anthony C. Faber, Mark M. Awad, Sridhar Ramaswamy, Mari Mino-Kenudson, A. John Iafrate, Cyril H. Benes, Jeffrey A. Engelman

Endogenous retroviruses materially contribute to humoral immunity in mice. [Also see Perspective by Grasset and Cerutti] Authors: Ming Zeng, Zeping Hu, Xiaolei Shi, Xiaohong Li, Xiaoming Zhan, Xiao-Dong Li, Jianhui Wang, Jin Huk Choi, Kuan-wen Wang, Tiana Purrington, Miao Tang, Maggy Fina, Ralph J. DeBerardinis, Eva Marie Y. Moresco, Gabriel Pedersen, Gerald M. McInerney, Gunilla B. Karlsson Hedestam, Zhijian J. Chen, Bruce Beutler

Vibrational excitation can modulate electron transfer probabilities in real time. Authors: Milan Delor, Paul A. Scattergood, Igor V. Sazanovich, Anthony W. Parker, Gregory M. Greetham, Anthony J. H. M. Meijer, Michael Towrie, Julia A. Weinstein

A photochemical route to a nylon precursor could prove more environmentally benign than current approaches. Authors: Kuo Chu Hwang, Arunachalam Sagadevan

Alkali atoms help disperse catalytically active gold on high–surface-area alumina and silica supports. Authors: Ming Yang, Sha Li, Yuan Wang, Jeffrey A. Herron, Ye Xu, Lawrence F. Allard, Sungsik Lee, Jun Huang, Manos Mavrikakis, Maria Flytzani-Stephanopoulos

Platinum-rich phases that initially form create the edges and corners of octahedral nanoparticle alloys. Authors: Lin Gan, Chunhua Cui, Marc Heggen, Fabio Dionigi, Stefan Rudi, Peter Strasser

Plasma observed in magnetotail lobes results from trapped magnetic flux and is also manifested as transpolar arc auroras. Authors: R. C. Fear, S. E. Milan, R. Maggiolo, A. N. Fazakerley, I. Dandouras, S. B. Mende

Vibrational spectroscopy pinpoints a surprisingly large local electric field where an enzyme binds its substrate. [Also see Perspective by Hildebrandt] Authors: Stephen D. Fried, Sayan Bagchi, Steven G. Boxer

Southern Hemisphere deep water formation stuttered during the last interglacial period. Authors: Christopher T. Hayes, Alfredo Martínez-García, Adam P. Hasenfratz, Samuel L. Jaccard, David A. Hodell, Daniel M. Sigman, Gerald H. Haug, Robert F. Anderson

Many populations of brown bears, lynx, grey wolves, and wolverines persist successfully outside protected areas in Europe. Authors: Guillaume Chapron, Petra Kaczensky, John D. C. Linnell, Manuela von Arx, Djuro Huber, Henrik Andrén, José Vicente López-Bao, Michal Adamec, Francisco Álvares, Ole Anders, Linas Balčiauskas, Vaidas Balys, Péter Bedő, Ferdinand Bego, Juan Carlos Blanco, Urs Breitenmoser, Henrik Brøseth, Luděk Bufka, Raimonda Bunikyte, Paolo Ciucci, Alexander Dutsov, Thomas Engleder, Christian Fuxjäger, Claudio Groff, Katja Holmala, Bledi Hoxha, Yorgos Iliopoulos, Ovidiu Ionescu, Jasna Jeremić, Klemen Jerina, Gesa Kluth, Felix Knauer, Ilpo Kojola, Ivan Kos, Miha Krofel, Jakub Kubala, Saša Kunovac, Josip Kusak, Miroslav Kutal, Olof Liberg, Aleksandra Majić, Peep Männil, Ralph Manz, Eric Marboutin, Francesca Marucco, Dime Melovski, Kujtim Mersini, Yorgos Mertzanis, Robert W. Mysłajek, Sabina Nowak, John Odden, Janis Ozolins, Guillermo Palomero, Milan Paunović, Jens Persson, Hubert Potočnik, Pierre-Yves Quenette, Georg Rauer, Ilka Reinhardt, Robin Rigg, Andreas Ryser, Valeria Salvatori, Tomaž Skrbinšek, Aleksandar Stojanov, Jon E. Swenson, László Szemethy, Aleksandër Trajçe, Elena Tsingarska-Sedefcheva, Martin Váňa, Rauno Veeroja, Petter Wabakken, Manfred Wölfl, Sybille Wölfl, Fridolin Zimmermann, Diana Zlatanova, Luigi Boitani

Computational design yields a transmembrane protein that selectively transports zinc cations. [Also see Perspective by Lupas] Authors: Nathan H. Joh, Tuo Wang, Manasi P. Bhate, Rudresh Acharya, Yibing Wu, Michael Grabe, Mei Hong, Gevorg Grigoryan, William F. DeGrado

A monomeric redox protein can be engineered into a tetrameric β-lactamase that confers antibiotic resistance in vivo. Authors: Woon Ju Song, F. Akif Tezcan

A stem cell model of a lethal brain tumor in children shows how a recurrent histone mutation leads to cancer. [Also see Perspective by Becher and Wechsler-Reya] Authors: Kosuke Funato, Tamara Major, Peter W. Lewis, C. David Allis, Viviane Tabar

Changes to regulatory DNA tune gene expression noise in a quantitatively predictable way. Authors: Daniel L. Jones, Robert C. Brewster, Rob Phillips

Healthy individuals harbor “silenced” self-reactive T cells. Authors: Yuka Maeda, Hiroyoshi Nishikawa, Daisuke Sugiyama, Danbee Ha, Masahide Hamaguchi, Takuro Saito, Megumi Nishioka, James B. Wing, Dennis Adeegbe, Ichiro Katayama, Shimon Sakaguchi