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  • The β1-adrenergic receptor (β1AR) contains empty cavities in its preactive conformation, which disappear in the active one. Now, using X-ray crystallography of xenon-derivatized β1AR crystals, a cavity has been shown to be in contact with the cholesterol-binding pocket. Monitoring the binding of a cholesterol analogue in solution has explained the function of cholesterol as a negative allosteric modulator of β1AR.

    • Layara Akemi Abiko
    • Raphael Dias Teixeira
    • Stephan Grzesiek
  • The influence that liquid environments have on the ultrafast excited-state dynamics of molecules is poorly understood. Using time-resolved photoelectron spectroscopy, the dynamics of the photoisomerization of stilbene in the gas and liquid phases have now been shown to be qualitatively similar—including the observation of vibrational coherences—but the timescales are significantly longer in the liquid phase.

    • Chuncheng Wang
    • Max D. J. Waters
    • Hans Jakob Wörner
  • Synthetic chemical networks with far-from-equilibrium dynamics akin to genetic regulatory networks in living cells could precisely regulate the kinetics of chemical synthesis or self-assembly. Now standardized excitable chemical regulatory elements, termed genelets, that enable predictive bottom-up construction of in vitro networks with designed temporal and multistable behaviour have been developed.

    • Samuel W. Schaffter
    • Kuan-Lin Chen
    • Rebecca Schulman
  • Most proteins must fold co-translationally on the ribosome to adopt biologically active conformations, yet structural, mechanistic descriptions are lacking. Using 19F NMR spectroscopy to study a nascent multi-domain protein has now enabled the identification of two co-translational folding intermediates that are significantly more stable than intermediates formed off the ribosome, suggesting that the ribosome may thermodynamically regulate folding.

    • Sammy H. S. Chan
    • Tomasz Włodarski
    • John Christodoulou
    Article Open Access
  • Although neutral and anionic low-valent aluminium complexes are widespread, their cationic counterparts have remained rare. Now, a salt of [Al(AlCp*)3]+ featuring a formal low-valent Al+ cation has been isolated that dimerizes in concentrated solutions and the solid state, and also forms Al4 clusters on coordinating with Lewis bases.

    • Philipp Dabringhaus
    • Julie Willrett
    • Ingo Krossing
  • The majority of methods to prepare β-amino acid derivatives require metal-mediated multistep manipulations of pre-functionalized substrates. Now, a metal-free, energy-transfer enabled, highly regioselective aminocarboxylation reaction has been developed, for the single-step installation of both amine and ester functionalities into alkenes or (hetero)arenes. An oxime oxalate ester is used as a bifunctional reagent, supplying C-centred ester and N-centred iminyl radicals.

    • Guangying Tan
    • Mowpriya Das
    • Frank Glorius
  • Intermolecular Coulombic decay (ICD) is a process whereby a photoexcited molecule relaxes while ionizing a neighbouring molecule. ICD is efficient when intermolecular interactions are active and consequently it is usually observed in weakly bound systems. Now, an efficient ICD is shown to occur even between unbound pyridine molecules excited at ambient-light intensities.

    • Saroj Barik
    • Saurav Dutta
    • G. Aravind
  • Malleicyprols are highly reactive polyketides responsible for virulence in some pathogenic bacteria. Now, the enzyme that constructs the cyclopropanol warhead of malleicyprols has been identified. This enzyme could represent a useful target for developing new antivirulence therapeutics.

    • Elijah Abraham
    • Rebecca A. Butcher
    News & Views
  • Bruce Gibb suggests that chemists can play a central role in democratizing access to energy by focusing on common elements.

    • Bruce C. Gibb
  • How electric fields generated by enzyme active sites push and pull on substrates is important to their chemistry, but measuring them is difficult. Now, the electric field within an active site has been measured along two directions using a vibrational probe, revealing that the field effect in enzymes is different compared with that in bulk solvents.

    • Anuj Pennathur
    • Jahan Dawlaty
    News & Views
  • Tova N. Williams explores the history of madder, its components and the perhaps confusing terminology that surrounds this long-known source of red colour.

    • Tova N. Williams
    In Your Element
  • Burkholderia pseudomallei is a species of bacteria that poses a global health threat and, more generally, bacteria of the Burkholderia pseudomallei group cause severe diseases that are recalcitrant to treatment with antibiotics. Now, it has been shown how these infamous pathogens repurpose the widespread enzyme BurG to produce a reactive cyclopropanol head group found in the virulence-promoting malleicyprol toxins. Interrupting the synthesis of the cyclopropanol warhead is a potential route for developing antivirulence treatments.

    • Felix Trottmann
    • Keishi Ishida
    • Christian Hertweck
    Article Open Access
  • The rational synthesis of advanced porous materials that mimic the behaviours of biological proteins remains challenging. Now, a distinct type of crystalline porous peptide framework has been prepared through bioinspired noncovalent assembly, enabling chemical tuning of the properties and functions of the pore environments.

    • Jinqiao Dong
    • Dan Zhao
    News & Views
  • The apparent disconnect between prebiotic aldehyde-based Strecker synthesis of amino acids and the α-ketoacid-based metabolism of extant biochemistry necessitates an evolutionary switch between these disparate chemistries. Now it has been shown that Bucherer–Bergs reactions of α-ketoacids produce α-amino acids and dihydroorotate, paralleling the biochemical synthesis of orotate and suggesting a more congruent evolutionary pathway from cyanide-based chemistries.

    • Sunil Pulletikurti
    • Mahipal Yadav
    • Ramanarayanan Krishnamurthy
  • Supramolecular interactions play an essential role in organic electronic materials and biological systems. Now, it has been demonstrated that the σ–σ stacking interactions between neighbouring non-conjugated molecules can offer an efficient pathway for charge transport through supramolecular junctions, which provides a new guideline for the design and fabrication of organic materials and devices.

    • Anni Feng
    • Yu Zhou
    • Wenjing Hong
  • N-heterocycles are valuable motifs in pharmaceuticals and materials, but divergent synthetic strategies are lacking. Now, bifunctional sulfilimines have been shown to form nitrogen-centred radicals under photocatalytic conditions, and subsequent coupling with olefins enables the synthesis of diverse N-heterocycles.

    • Prabagar Baskaran
    • Wei Li
    News & Views
  • Intermolecular cyclization reactions using nitrogen-containing building blocks are scarce. Now, bifunctional sulfilimines have been shown to enable the modular construction of a diverse range of N-heterocycles by reacting with alkenes in a single photocatalysed step. Both sulfilimines and alkenes are easily accessible, providing access to a wide range of N-heterocycles with different ring types, ring sizes and substituents on the skeleton.

    • Qiang Cheng
    • Zibo Bai
    • Tobias Ritter
    Article Open Access
  • Droplet interface bilayers (DIBs) are a type of artificial bilayer that can act as cell membrane mimics. This Perspective surveys how DIBs can be used to mimic key cellular features (such as bilayer asymmetry) and processes (such as drug movement), and discusses challenges that need to be overcome to enable DIBs to reach their full potential as biomimetic model membranes.

    • Elanna B. Stephenson
    • Jaime L. Korner
    • Katherine S. Elvira
  • The introduction of fluorine into a drug molecule can alter the biological responses to it, including modulating bioavailability, pharmacokinetics and selectivity. Now, a hybrid polyketide/fatty acid synthase multienzyme has been designed to incorporate fluorinated precursors during polyketide biosynthesis in an approach that provides new chemoenzymatic access to fluorinated natural compounds.

    • Alexander Rittner
    • Mirko Joppe
    • Martin Grininger
  • Laser cooling of molecules with more than six atoms is challenging, mainly due to vibrational loss to dark states. Now, taking a step towards the development of a ‘quantum functional group’, it has been shown that such vibrational loss in molecules like phenol can be greatly restricted by functionalizing with a Ca(I)–O unit, which may serve as a generic qubit moiety.

    • Guo-Zhu Zhu
    • Debayan Mitra
    • Eric R. Hudson