Top 5 papers of 2010

The most highly ranked articles in all of biology, according to the Faculty of 1000

By | December 9, 2010

This was a year of headline science news: the first cell with a linkurl:synthetic genome,; a new linkurl:human-Neanderthal ancestor; and, recently, alien life. Oh, wait...that was just linkurl:bacteria growing on arsenic.; linkurl:Never mind.;
But, according to scientists, this year's most important papers were not those that made the front page of international newspapers, but the quiet and persistent investigations of the molecular foundations of life. From the long-awaited structure of a bacterial enzyme to how Salmonella grows in the gut, presented here in ascending order are the five most important papers in biology of 2010, as reviewed and ranked by members of the Faculty of 1000. linkurl:5. Mechanotransduction proteins found; linkurl:The paper:;,f1000m B. Coste, et al., "Piezo1 and Piezo2 are essential components of distinct mechanically activated cation channels," Science, 330:55-60, 2010. A new family of proteins, characterized in a mouse cell line, shines new light on the previously mysterious molecular basis of mechanosensation in mammals. Called Piezos, these proteins have been identified as a critical molecular component in mechanically activated ion channels, which make possible several sensations, such as hearing, touch and pain. linkurl:4. Inflammation amplification; linkurl:The paper:;,f1000m E. Boilard, et al., "Platelets amplify inflammation in arthritis via collagen-dependent microparticle production," Science, 327:580-83, 2010. Researchers identify platelet "microparticles" -- tiny vesicles that bud from the membranes of activated platelets -- in the fluid of inflamed joints, which rarely contain blood. Importantly, depleting the microparticles using an antibody seemed to cure arthritis in mice. The discovery, published in a January issue of Science, demonstrates the previously unappreciated role of platelets in inflammatory arthritis. Read the full story linkurl:here.; linkurl:3. Complex I enzyme revealed; linkurl:The paper:;,f1000m R.G. Efremov, et al., "The architecture of respiratory complex I," Nature, 465:441-5, 2010. The long-awaited structure of a bacterial complex I enzyme -- first in line in the energy-producing respiratory chain -- reveals important mechanics of this ubiquitous protein. Specifically, the structure shows how the enzyme hustles electrons and protons across membranes. The structure, published by Nature in May, is one of the largest protein membrane complexes ever solved. linkurl:2. How cilia talk; linkurl:The paper:;,f1000m Q. Hu, et al., "A septin diffusion barrier at the base of the primary cilium maintains ciliary membrane protein distribution," Science, 329:436-39, 2010. Primary (nonmotile) cilia -- sensory organelles in eukaryotic cells that act as antennae -- rely on membrane proteins to send and receive extracellular signals. New findings, published in the July issue of Science, show how cilia retain those membrane proteins -- a barrier at the base of cilia made up of proteins called septins. Septins, originally identified as cell division mutants in yeast, localize at the base of the cilium where they maintain a barrier to control the localization of membrane proteins. The discovery solves the long-standing mystery of how signaling proteins are retained in the primary cilium. One of the paper's corresponding authors, Elias Spiliotis, is this month's linkurl:Scientist to Watch.; You can read more about septins, and how they may also help protect yeast from the effects of aging, in our linkurl:October cover story by Yves Barral.; linkurl:1. Immune response feeds parasite; linkurl:The paper:;,f1000m S.E. Winter, et al., "Gut inflammation provides a respiratory electron acceptor for Salmonella," Nature, 467:426-9, 2010. Salmonella is able to out-compete resident gut microbes by deriving energy from the immune response that is supposed to combat the pathogen, according to a study published in September in Nature. Inflammation in a mouse gut generates a sulfur-based molecule called tetrathionate, which Salmonella uses during respiration for enhanced growth. Read the full news story linkurl:here.; This is a snapshot of the highest ranked biology articles from the previous year on Faculty of 1000, as calculated on December 2, 2010. Faculty Members evaluate and rate the most important papers in their field. To see the latest rankings, search the database, and read daily evaluations, visit linkurl:;
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:Top 7 papers in cell biology;
[6th December 2010] *linkurl:Top 7 hidden jewels;
[13th September 2010] *linkurl:The five hottest biology papers of 2009;
[17th December 2009]


Avatar of: Mike Waldrep

Mike Waldrep

Posts: 155

December 9, 2010

Avatar of: David Colquhoun

David Colquhoun

Posts: 5

December 9, 2010

Articles like this just pander to dimwitted bibliometrics and science 'managers'. The idea that you can decide the five best papers in this way is plain stupid. I suppose it is gimmick by the publishers of the Scientist. is it too much to ask that a magazine with that title should at least desist from damaging science?
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 3

December 9, 2010

I note that many of these papers appear in Science. I always cringe when a paper in my field appears in Science as they always make some astounding claim, but are invariably of very poor quality lacking even the most basic controls. The main conclusions almost always turn out to be illusions. I can only assume the same is true for most papers in Science. It seems the editors would rather publish 20 pieces of garbage for every stellar paper. Unfortunately the other 19 cause decades of problems!
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

December 10, 2010

I completely agreee with David Colquhoun on this. Maybe people are just not writing traditional papers anymore on breakthrough discoveries and applications because of the fierce competition out there and are using other methods to communicate their directions.


Posts: 1

December 10, 2010

Are these really the top five or is it biased by the journals that published them.
Avatar of: Edward Draper

Edward Draper

Posts: 3

December 12, 2010

Granted that any "best of" list is biased in construction and grossly oversimplified in execution, for non-research oriented professionals in related disciplines like me the list provides interesting hints for further exploration.
Avatar of: Jun Zhang

Jun Zhang

Posts: 10

December 13, 2010

So, next year, pick the most trusted 5 papers!\nEasy to read [if not watchable]and understand.\n\nDo research from ABC, \nor, everyone still won't quite understand or trust everyone else.
Avatar of: Richard Grant

Richard Grant

Posts: 8

December 15, 2010

Thanks for your comments.\n\nTo help you understand the rankings from which these Top 5 or Top 7 lists are drawn, here's a quick summary of how they're calculated. When a Faculty Member selects an article for inclusion in F1000, they also give it a rating. For a single evaluation, the rating becomes the F1000 Factor. When an article is selected more than once, we increment the Factor to reflect the ratings and the number of evaluations that article has attracted.\n\nI've written a bit more about this on Naturally Selected, The Scientist's blog.\n\nThe upshot is that when we rank papers according to their Factor, we get a feel for how interesting a paper is within the community: higher numbers mean more Faculty Members have chosen that paper to evaluate. Because our Faculty Members are chosen by and from among their peers, we feel we can rightly use the F1000 Factor to gauge how important papers are to practising scientists, in a way that usage statistics and citation rates never can. The 'top' papers in these lists are what the scientific community thinks are exciting or interesting.\n\nThat many of these 'top' papers are in Science or Nature suggests to me that not only do the editors at these journals have a good eye for interesting work, but also that scientists are pretty good at judging the value of their own work (because they submit there in the first place), and the work of others (if they have reviewed and recommended these papers for publication). Nonetheless, we don't only evaluate papers from these popular journals. It's currently running at around 15-20% coming from such journals, depending on where you draw the line. Just for kicks, I looked at the latest ten evaluations on F1000 just now and counted one Nature paper, one from Science, one from Nature Medicine and one from Current Biology.\n\nI happen to think that the 19/20 stat below is a tad unfair. I am pretty certain that an equal or greater percentage of papers in less glamorous journals as appear in Science or Nature are unsound; it's just that you don't hear about it so much. \n

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