Table of contents



Elements of a competition p901


To join in with the International Year of Chemistry celebrations, we launched a competition earlier this year inviting aspiring science communicators to write an essay about one of seven elements.



A quantum of history pp902 - 903

Michelle Francl


Michelle Francl wonders how much time chemists should spend learning history.

Subject terms: General chemistry | Physical chemistry


Books and Arts

Chemical counselling p905

Katherine Haxton reviews Letters to a Young Chemist by Abhik Ghosh




Blogroll: Trouble brewing p907



News and Views

Reversible covalent chemistry: Alcohols in the mix pp909 - 910

Ognjen Š. Miljanić


The scope of dynamic combinatorial chemistry is somewhat limited by the small number of predictably reversible reactions. Now, secondary alcohols are shown to quickly and reversibly react with iminium ions to form hemiaminal ethers, opening up opportunites for their use in the construction of complex — and functional — dynamic architectures.

Subject terms: Organic chemistry | Supramolecular chemistry

See also: Article by You et al.

Protein thermodynamics: Are native proteins metastable? pp910 - 911

D. Thirumalai & G. Reddy


Thermodynamic measurements show that the most stable structural form of a number of proteins under cellular conditions is fibrillar, implying that their functional states may only be metastable.

Subject terms: Chemical biology | Physical chemistry

Cross-coupling: The final frontier pp912 - 913

Ben W. Glasspoole & Cathleen M. Crudden


Cross-coupling between a racemic secondary alkyl halide and an alkyl borane to produce an enantioenriched alkyl–alkyl product is one of the final substrate combinations to succumb to the synthetically powerful Suzuki–Miyaura methodology.

Subject terms: Synthesis | Catalysis

RNA structure: Adding a second dimension pp913 - 915

Katja Petzold & Hashim M. Al-Hashimi


Mutating RNA one nucleotide at a time and measuring the impact of this on its chemical reactivity provides a strategy for determining its three-dimensional structure, and from there, hopefully, its function.

Subject terms: Biochemistry | Chemical biology

See also: Article by Kladwang et al.

Molecular motors: Fuelling movement at the nanoscale pp915 - 916

Ben Feringa


Autonomous propulsion of microparticles using catalytic olefin polymerization, and directional rotation of a molecule on a metal surface using electrons from the tip of a scanning tunnelling microscope.

Subject term: Nanotechnology



Single-chain technology using discrete synthetic macromolecules pp917 - 924

Makoto Ouchi, Nezha Badi, Jean-François Lutz & Mitsuo Sawamoto


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Contemporary macromolecular chemistry and physics offer interesting options for making, characterizing and manipulating single polymer chains. Although it is not yet possible to emulate the structural control and functional ability of biopolymers, recent advances have opened up interesting avenues for applications of these synthetic systems in microelectronics, photovoltaics, catalysis and biotechnology.

Subject term: Polymer chemistry



Cytocompatible click-based hydrogels with dynamically tunable properties through orthogonal photoconjugation and photocleavage reactions pp925 - 931

Cole A. DeForest & Kristi S. Anseth


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Cell-laden synthetic hydrogels — formed via a copper-free click reaction between a poly(ethylene glycol) tetra-cyclooctyne and a peptide-diazide — provide a platform to investigate the cells' response to various stimuli during growth. The hydrogel's biochemical aspects are readily controlled by a thiol-ene photocoupling reaction initiated with visible light, whereas the biomechanical properties of the network are altered via a UV-mediated photodegradation.

Subject terms: Materials chemistry | Polymer chemistry | Photochemistry

Roaming-mediated isomerization in the photodissociation of nitrobenzene pp932 - 937

Michael L. Hause, Nuradhika Herath, Rongshun Zhu, M. C. Lin & Arthur G. Suits


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‘Roaming’ is a recently discovered reaction dynamics phenomenon in which a molecule undergoes frustrated dissociation to radicals, followed by an intramolecular abstraction reaction. An imaging study, with associated high-level ab initio calculations, has now shown that ‘roaming-mediated isomerization’ plays a key role in the photodissociation of nitrobenzene.

Subject terms: Physical chemistry | Photochemistry

The total synthesis of hyperpapuanone, hyperibone L, epi-clusianone and oblongifolin A pp938 - 942

Nicole Biber, Katrin Möws & Bernd Plietker


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The polyprenylated polycyclic acylphloroglucines (PPAPs) are a family of natural products in which a common core is decorated with four different substituents. Here, a synthetic strategy is presented that separates the core building steps from the core decorating steps, offering a general solution to the synthesis of these natural products that will allow investigation of their biological activities.

Subject terms: Organic chemistry | Synthesis

Dynamic multi-component covalent assembly for the reversible binding of secondary alcohols and chirality sensing pp943 - 948

Lei You, Jeffrey S. Berman & Eric V. Anslyn


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The reversible covalent binding of mono-alcohols with high affinity is challenging because of their poor nucleophilicity. A multi-component assembly has now been used to achieve reversible binding of secondary alcohols through iminium activation and product stabilization. Moreover, such assemblies can be used to determine alcohol chirality and enantiomeric excess.

Subject terms: Organic chemistry | Supramolecular chemistry

See also: News and Views by Miljanić

Synthesis and structure of solution-stable one-dimensional palladium wires pp949 - 953

Michael G. Campbell, David C. Powers, Jean Raynaud, Michael J. Graham, Ping Xie, Eunsung Lee & Tobias Ritter


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One-dimensional wires with metal–metal bonding have been studied for more than a century, but control over structure and properties has remained challenging. Here, palladium–palladium bonding is used to make one-dimensional wires with lengths of up to 750 nm in solution, whose molecular structures can be rationally modified.

Subject term: Organometallic chemistry

A two-dimensional mutate-and-map strategy for non-coding RNA structure pp954 - 962

Wipapat Kladwang, Christopher C. VanLang, Pablo Cordero & Rhiju Das


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Non-coding RNAs are ubiquitous biomolecules with intricate three-dimensional folds that are difficult to characterize. This Article presents an information-rich strategy for inferring RNA structure by combining nucleotide-by-nucleotide mutagenesis with single-nucleotide-resolution chemical mapping.

Subject terms: Biochemistry | Chemical biology

See also: News and Views by Petzold & Al-Hashimi

Stability of quantum dots in live cells pp963 - 968

Zheng-Jiang Zhu, Yi-Cheun Yeh, Rui Tang, Bo Yan, Joshua Tamayo, Richard W. Vachet & Vincent M. Rotello


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Intracellular biothiols can degrade nanoparticle monolayers, compromising the function of these potentially promising tools. Here, we describe a label-free method for quantifying the intracellular stability of quantum dot monolayers, using laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry coupled with inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry.

Subject terms: Biochemistry | Medicinal chemistry

Remodelling of the natural product fumagillol employing a reaction discovery approach pp969 - 973

Bradley R. Balthaser, Meghan C. Maloney, Aaron B. Beeler, John A. Porco, Jr & John K. Snyder


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The natural product fumagillol has been exploited as a stereochemically rich scaffold for the synthesis of a structurally unique, chemically diverse library with chemotypes distinctly different from the parent structure. Thus, fumagillol has been remodelled into a diverse array of isoindoles, isoquinolines, furans, mopholinones and benzoxazepines.

Subject terms: Organic chemistry | Synthesis


In Your Element

A pinch of sodium p974

Margit S. Müller


Sodium, ubiquitous on Earth in living organisms, oceans and minerals — all the way to table salt — may seem like one of the more ordinary elements. Margit S. Müller highlights why we, like the fairytale king, should not take it for granted.


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