Table of contents

Nature Chemistry Insight – Chemistry beyond the bench



Keeping up with the journals p649


With more and more scientific articles and journals being published, how can you effectively keep abreast of new research relevant to your own projects?



Spellbound by books pp651 - 652

Michelle Francl


Michelle Francl wants a chemistry book that could conjure up Linus Pauling.

Subject term: General chemistry


Books and Arts

Crystal engineering comes of age p653

Michael J. Zaworotko reviews Crystal Engineering: A Textbook by Gautam R. Desiraju, Jagadese J. Vittal & Arunachalam Ramanan




Blogroll: ChemBark, PI p655



News and Views

Nanoscale electrochemistry: Feeling the strain pp656 - 657

Johannes A. A. W. Elemans


Characterizing electrochemical behaviour on the nanometre scale is fundamental to gaining complete insight into the working mechanisms of fuel cells. The application of a new scanning probe microscopy technique can now relate local surface structure to electrochemical activity at a resolution below 10 nm.

Subject terms: Nanotechnology | Surface chemistry | Catalysis

See also: Article by Kumar et al.

Molecularly imprinted polymers: Smart hydrogel crystal gardens pp657 - 658

Michael J. Whitcombe


Growing good-quality single crystals of proteins for high-resolution X-ray diffraction relies on the use of a diverse range of materials as nucleating agents. Smart hydrogels, in the form of molecularly imprinted polymers, may provide a general solution.

Subject terms: Materials chemistry | Polymer chemistry

Analytical chemistry: Sweet solution to sensing pp659 - 660

Samuel K. Sia & Curtis D. Chin


Glucose meters allow rapid and quantitative measurement of blood sugar levels for diabetes sufferers worldwide. Now a new method allows this proven technology to be used to quantify a much wider range of analytes.

Subject terms: Analytical chemistry | Organic chemistry

See also: Article by Xiang & Lu

Bürgenstock 2011: A stereochemical sojourn pp660 - 662

Mark S. Taylor


Stereochemistry represents a common thread uniting chemists from a range of sub-disciplines at the Bürgenstock conference, an annual scientific meeting rich in tradition and characterized by intensive, interdisciplinary discussion.

Subject terms: Chemical biology | Organic chemistry | Organometallic chemistry

Ion–protein coordination: The many faces of a proton pp662 - 663

Victor L. Davidson


A joint X-ray/neutron diffraction study has enabled the direct observation of a hydronium ion coordinated by three amino-acid residues of an enzyme. This sighting will affect our views on how enzymes transport and use protons.

Subject term: Biochemistry

Two-dimensional chirality: Intelligent design pp663 - 665

Leila M. Foroughi & Adam J. Matzger


Achiral molecules have now been assembled into a homochiral porous network at a solid–liquid interface. This has implications for practical processes such as separations, but also for understanding how homochirality — crucial in biological systems — arose from achiral or racemic species.

Subject terms: Supramolecular chemistry | Surface chemistry

See also: Article by Tahara et al.

Protein dynamics: Whispering within pp665 - 666

Rafael Brüschweiler


Dynamic communication between atoms within folded proteins is potentially important for function, but its measurement has been a challenge. Now, a combined NMR and modelling study provides insights on the presence and strengths of such correlations.

Subject terms: Chemical biology | Theoretical chemistry



Chemistry beyond the bench p669




Sex and the citadel of science pp670 - 673

Michelle Francl


One hundred years on from Marie Curie being awarded her second Nobel Prize there has been only a handful of female scientists who have received the call from Stockholm. Why are women still under-represented? A lack of ability or passion, or could it be that we create labs into which women don't quite fit?

Subject term: General chemistry

Communicating chemistry for public engagement pp674 - 677

Matthew R. Hartings & Declan Fahy


The communication of chemistry to wider society is difficult because of 'chemophobia', its inherent complexity and its lack of unifying grand themes. To engage with citizens about the benefits and related dangers of the field, chemists must improve their dialogue with broader sections of the public — but how?

Subject term: General chemistry

The two faces of chemistry in the developing world pp678 - 680

C. N. R. Rao


Chemistry creates both agony and hope in less-developed countries — although it may provide solutions to many of the problems faced there, the lack of expertise and poor infrastructure renders research extremely difficult. What challenges must scientists overcome and what can be done to improve matters?

Subject term: General chemistry

From crazy chemists to engaged learners through education pp681 - 684

David K. Smith


As well as teaching students what we know, it is becoming increasingly important to teach them how we think. We must take a scientific approach to science education and experiment with teaching methods, including context-led work and media-rich resources, to foster active and independent student engagement.

Subject term: General chemistry

The changing landscape of careers in the chemical industry pp685 - 687

Keith J. Watson


Changes in the chemical industry over the past decade — ranging from globalization to an increased focus on speciality chemicals — threaten to leave the aspiring industrial chemist unprepared. This Commentary discusses those changes and outlines strategies to enter the job market as well equipped as possible.

Subject term: General chemistry

Minerals go critical pp688 - 691

Roderick G. Eggert


The spectre of insecure supplies of some mineral raw materials could hinder the development and deployment of new technology. This Commentary discusses and analyses the reasons behind the potential insecurity, how markets are responding, and what roles government should play.

Subject terms: General chemistry | Materials chemistry

Getting physical to fix pharma pp692 - 695

Patrick R. Connelly, T. Minh Vuong & Mark A. Murcko


Powerful technologies allow the synthesis and testing of large numbers of new compounds, but the failure rate of pharmaceutical R&D remains very high. Greater understanding of the fundamental physical chemical behaviour of molecules could be the key to greatly enhancing the success rate of drug discovery.

Subject terms: Medicinal chemistry | Organic chemistry | Physical chemistry



Using personal glucose meters and functional DNA sensors to quantify a variety of analytical targets pp697 - 703

Yu Xiang & Yi Lu


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Portable sensors for the rapid quantitation of a variety of analytical targets could revolutionize both medical diagnostics and environmental monitoring. Here, functional DNA sensors that release the enzyme invertase in response to an analyte of choice are described. The enzyme converts sucrose to glucose which can then be easily detected using a widely available personal glucose meter.

Subject term: Analytical chemistry

See also: News and Views by Sia & Chin

A route to enantiopure RNA precursors from nearly racemic starting materials pp704 - 706

Jason E. Hein, Eric Tse & Donna G. Blackmond


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A drawback of recently reported prebiotic routes to RNA is a requirement for enantioenriched reactants. Here, the presence of a slightly enantioenriched amino acid in the reaction mixture is shown to drive the formation of enantiopure RNA precursors. This provides a plausible scenario in which single-handed biological molecules were formed prior to the emergence of self-replicating informational polymers.

Subject terms: Biochemistry | Organic chemistry

Measuring oxygen reduction/evolution reactions on the nanoscale pp707 - 713

Amit Kumar, Francesco Ciucci, Anna N. Morozovska, Sergei V. Kalinin & Stephen Jesse


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Optimizing oxygen-reduction and -evolution reactions is crucial for improving fuel cell efficiency, but the reaction is poorly understood at the nanoscopic level. Now, the oxygen activity of a platinum-functionalized surface has been mapped at below 10-nm resolution using electrochemical strain microscopy.

Subject terms: Nanotechnology | Surface chemistry | Catalysis

See also: News and Views by Elemans

Control and induction of surface-confined homochiral porous molecular networks pp714 - 719

Kazukuni Tahara, Hiroyuki Yamaga, Elke Ghijsens, Koji Inukai, Jinne Adisoejoso, Matthew O. Blunt, Steven De Feyter & Yoshito Tobe


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The generation of two-dimensional homochiral porous molecular networks at the liquid–solid interface is described. Using scanning tunnelling microscopy, the formation of homochiral porous networks was observed both from solutions of homochiral molecules and from solutions of achiral molecules in the presence of a small amount of a chiral modifier.

Subject terms: Supramolecular chemistry | Surface chemistry

See also: News and Views by Foroughi & Matzger

Peptide–nucleotide microdroplets as a step towards a membrane-free protocell model pp720 - 724

Shogo Koga, David S. Williams, Adam W. Perriman & Stephen Mann


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Membrane-enclosed reaction compartments are considered important for establishing plausible pathways of prebiotic organization. Here, simple mixing of mononucleotides and cationic peptides in water is shown to produce microdroplets that sequester photo-active molecules, catalytic nanoparticles and enzymes. Such droplets might provide plausible pathways of prebiotic organization prior to the emergence of membrane-based compartmentalization on the early Earth.

Subject term: General chemistry

The transcription factor FOXM1 is a cellular target of the natural product thiostrepton pp725 - 731

Nagaratna S. Hegde, Deborah A. Sanders, Raphaël Rodriguez & Shankar Balasubramanian


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The natural product thiostrepton is known to have anticancer properties but its mechanism of action is not known. Here, it is shown that thiostrepton binds to the protein FOXM1, preventing its interaction with several gene promoters and inhibits their expression. This illustrates the druggability of transcription factors, and provides a molecular basis for targeting FOXM1.

Subject terms: Chemical biology | Medicinal chemistry

Reactions of the inner surface of carbon nanotubes and nanoprotrusion processes imaged at the atomic scale pp732 - 737

Thomas W. Chamberlain, Jannik C. Meyer, Johannes Biskupek, Jens Leschner, Adriano Santana, Nicholas A. Besley, Elena Bichoutskaia, Ute Kaiser & Andrei N. Khlobystov


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The outer surfaces of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) are known to participate in a range of chemical reactions, but the inner surfaces have so far been thought to be somewhat unreactive. Now, it has been shown that electron-beam irradiation of rhenium–fullerene complexes inside SWNTs can trigger reactions at the inner wall to form protrusions on the nanotube surface.

Subject terms: Nanotechnology | Theoretical chemistry

Regio- and stereoselectivity of P450-catalysed hydroxylation of steroids controlled by laboratory evolution pp738 - 743

Sabrina Kille, Felipe E. Zilly, Juan P. Acevedo & Manfred T. Reetz


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Selective reaction of one C–H bond among many in complex organic molecules is a grand challenge for organic chemistry. Here, starting from an enzyme that oxidizes two positions in a steroid without bias, laboratory evolution is used to prepare mutants that can regio- and stereoselectively oxidize either position.

Subject terms: Biochemistry | Catalysis | Synthesis


In Your Element

All about arsenic p744

Katherine Haxton


If ever there was an element that epitomizes the notion that chemicals might be good or bad depending on their use, arsenic must be it. Katherine Haxton explains why.