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  • The biochemical roles and mechanisms of multiphase membraneless organelles are not yet well understood. Now, multiphase peptide droplets have been shown to sort RNA based on whether it is single- or double-stranded, as well as impact RNA duplexation through in-droplet thermodynamic equilibria. This work provides insight into possible primitive mechanisms for multicompartment intracellular condensates and can aid in the design of functional artificial membraneless organelles.

    • Saehyun Choi
    • McCauley O. Meyer
    • Christine D. Keating
  • Ions in salt solutions perturb the hydrogen bonding between the surrounding water molecules, altering the properties of water, but how ion polarity affects this is not fully understood. By monitoring the dissipation of terahertz energy in salt solutions, it has now been shown that intermolecular rotational-to-translational energy transfer is enhanced by highly charged cations and reduced by highly charged anions.

    • Vasileios Balos
    • Naveen Kumar Kaliannan
    • Mohsen Sajadi
    Article Open Access
  • Despite mechanically axially chiral (MAC) catenanes being recognized in 1961, their stereoselective synthesis had not been disclosed until now. Closer inspection of the MAC stereogenic unit has also led to the identification of an analogous, but unremarked upon, form of rotaxane stereochemistry and the conceptualization of a general approach to prepare MAC molecules stereoselectively.

    • John R. J. Maynard
    • Peter Gallagher
    • Stephen M. Goldup
  • The strained topology of [n]paracyclophenylenes ([n]CPPs) typically prevents their π sysytem from being extended, but now the formation of a planar π-extended CPP has been achieved through a bottom-up on-surface synthesis approach. The planar π-extended [12]CPP produced by this method is a nanographene featuring an all-armchair edge, which leads to delocalized electronic states around the entire ring.

    • Feifei Xiang
    • Sven Maisel
    • Sabine Maier
  • The direct copolymerization of carbon dioxide and commodity olefins has been a long-standing challenge in polymer science. Now, an indirect approach has been developed in which hydrogenated disubstituted valerolactones derived from telomerization of CO2 and butadiene can undergo ring-opening polymerization, yielding chemically recyclable and degradable aliphatic polyesters with high CO2 content.

    • Rachel M. Rapagnani
    • Rachel J. Dunscomb
    • Ian A. Tonks
  • A strategy for protecting redox-active ortho-quinones, which show promise as anticancer agents but suffer from redox-cycling behaviour and systemic toxicity, has been developed. The ortho-quinones are derivatized to redox-inactive para-aminobenzyl ketols. Upon amine deprotection, an acid-promoted, self-immolative C–C bond-cleaving 1,6-elimination releases the redox-active hydroquinone. The strategy also enables conjugation to a carrier for targeted delivery of ortho-quinone species.

    • Lavinia Dunsmore
    • Claudio D. Navo
    • Gonçalo J. L. Bernardes
    Article Open Access
  • Functionalizing an intact carbohydrate core with acetals allows for the dramatically simplified production of a plastic precursor directly during the initial fractionation of non-edible biomass. When polymerized, the rigid and polar carbohydrate core also leads to bioplastics with competitive material and end-of life properties.

    • Lorenz P. Manker
    • Graham R. Dick
    • Jeremy S. Luterbacher
  • Analogues of mRNA 5′ caps containing a photo-cleavable group have now been developed. These so-called FlashCaps can be used for routine in vitro transcription to make long mRNAs containing a cap. In cells, the capped mRNAs are translationally muted; however, upon irradiation by light, the photo-cleavable group is removed without leaving any remaining modification and mRNA is then translated into the corresponding protein.

    • Nils Klöcker
    • Florian P. Weissenboeck
    • Andrea Rentmeister
    Article Open Access
  • Cytoskeletons are essential components of cells that perform a variety of tasks, and artificial cytoskeletons that perform these functions are required for the bottom-up assembly of synthetic cells. Now, a multi-functional cytoskeleton mimic has been engineered from DNA, consisting of confined DNA filaments that are capable of reversible self-assembly and transport of gold nanoparticles and vesicular cargo.

    • Pengfei Zhan
    • Kevin Jahnke
    • Kerstin Göpfrich
    Article Open Access
  • Aqueous organic redox flow batteries offer a safe and inexpensive solution to the problem of storing electricity produced from intermittent renewables. However, decomposition of the redox-active organic molecules that they rely on limits their lifetimes, preventing commercialization. Now it has been shown that these redox molecules can be electro-recomposed in situ, rejuvenating their function.

    • Yan Jing
    • Evan Wenbo Zhao
    • Michael J. Aziz
  • The asymmetric hydrogenation of oximes to chiral hydroxylamines is a long-standing challenge because of the labile N–O bond and inert C=N bond. Now, it has been shown that this reaction can be catalysed with a chiral nickel complex, and the weak interactions between catalyst and substrate are found to play a crucial role.

    • Bowen Li
    • Jianzhong Chen
    • Wanbin Zhang
  • Precursors for the release of phosphorus mononitride in solution under mild conditions have remained elusive. Now, an explosive anthracene-stabilized azidophosphine has shown PN transfer reactivity in the synthesis of an Fe–NP complex. The PN ligand is N-bonded, as the Fe–N interaction shows significant covalent character and a less unfavourable Pauli repulsion than its Fe–P counterpart.

    • André K. Eckhardt
    • Martin-Louis Y. Riu
    • Christopher C. Cummins
  • Moving beyond binary responses in photoswitches necessitates the introduction of new elements along their switching pathway. Now, a modified donor–acceptor Stenhouse adduct (DASA) capable of independently addressing multiple molecular states has been developed. This enables the transformation of a three-stage photoswitch to be controlled by regulating intermediates along the DASA reaction pathway.

    • Friedrich Stricker
    • David M. Sanchez
    • Javier Read de Alaniz
  • The acetylene contaminant present in ethylene feeds used to produce polymers is typically removed by thermal hydrogenation. Now, it has been shown that the conversion of acetylene to ethylene at room temperature can be achieved in a visible-light-driven process using an earth-abundant metal (cobalt) catalyst and a water proton source.

    • Francesca Arcudi
    • Luka Ðorđević
    • Emily A. Weiss
  • Trisubstituted macrocyclic alkenes are prominent moieties in natural products, and although ring-closing metathesis reactions can be used to access such targets, the yields are typically suboptimal and the stereochemical outcome is unpredictable. Now, a methodology has been developed that tackles both of these challenges.

    • Damian W. Young
    • Srinivas Chamakuri
    News & Views
  • The tris(2,2′-bipyridine)ruthenium(II) cation, or ‘rubipy’ to its friends, has had a significant influence on our understanding of the photophysics of transition metal complexes, and has also helped revolutionize organic photochemistry, explains Daniela M. Arias-Rotondo.

    • Daniela M. Arias-Rotondo
    In Your Element
  • Explaining the controlled emergence and growth of molecular complexity at life’s origins is one of prebiotic chemistry’s grand challenges. Now, it has been shown that we can observe how the self-organization of a complex carbohydrate network can be modulated by its environment.

    • Quentin Dherbassy
    • Kamila B. Muchowska
    News & Views
  • In early 2020, Shira Joudan was in the final stages of her PhD when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Despite the challenging circumstances, she graduated, found a postdoc position and will begin her independent academic career in early 2023.

    • Shira Joudan
  • In 1931, Erich Hückel published a landmark paper — the seed of the now famous 4n + 2 rule for aromaticity in annulenes that bears his name. Electron counting has since been extended to other classes of compounds, resulting in a multitude of rules aiming to capture the concept of aromaticity and its impact in chemistry.

    • Miquel Solà
  • The process by which life arose using information from the prebiotic environment and inherent molecular reactivity is unclear. Now, it has been shown that systems of chemical reactions exhibit well-defined self-organization in varying environments, providing a potential mechanism for chemical evolution processes that bridge the gap between prebiotic building blocks and life’s origin.

    • William E. Robinson
    • Elena Daines
    • Wilhelm T. S. Huck