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  • Aqueous organic redox flow batteries are promising for low-cost and large-scale energy storage, but the redox-active molecules they rely on degrade prematurely. Now, a facile electrochemical protocol to regenerate them has been proposed, resulting in extended battery lifetimes.

    • Antoni Forner-Cuenca
    News & Views
  • Quantitatively studying the partitioning of biomolecules and reaction equilibria in cellular systems is an enormous challenge. Now, a multiphase coacervate model system provides insight into this complex biological problem, illustrating how coexisting phases influence RNA partitioning and duplex dissociation.

    • Shuqi Wu
    • Liangfei Tian
    News & Views
  • Proteins rich in phenylalanine-glycine (FG) repeats can phase separate through FG–FG interactions. The molecular interactions of an important FG-repeat protein, nucleoporin 98, have now been studied in liquid-like transient and amyloid-like cohesive states. These interactions underlie the behaviour of FG-repeat proteins and their function in physiological and pathological cell activities.

    • Alain Ibáñez de Opakua
    • James A. Geraets
    • Markus Zweckstetter
    Article Open Access
  • A method has been developed to identify RNA transcript isoforms at the single-molecule level using solid-state nanopore microscopy. In this method, target RNA is refolded into RNA identifiers with designed sets of complementary DNA strands. Each reshaped molecule carries a unique sequence of structural (pseudo)colours that enables identification and quantification using solid-state nanopore microscopy.

    • Filip Bošković
    • Ulrich Felix Keyser
  • The principal mid-visible light-harvesting system in cyanobacteria is the phycobilisome. Now, using broadband multidimensional spectroscopy, delocalized vibronic excitations and sub-picosecond excitation transfer pathways have been observed in the rods of intact phycobilisomes. An observed kinetic bottleneck in the phycobilisome’s core arises from the intramolecular charge-transfer character of the bilin chromophores, enabling photoregulatory processes to operate on the >10-ps timescale.

    • Sourav Sil
    • Ryan W. Tilluck
    • Warren F. Beck
  • The total synthesis and complete stereochemical assignment of the cyclic peptide natural product SR-A3—which has potential as a cancer therapeutic—has now been reported. Single-molecule biophysical and cellular experiments reveal a crucial, stereospecific role for a side-chain hydroxyl in SR-A3, which confers enhanced target residence time and efficacy in a mouse tumour model.

    • Hao-Yuan Wang
    • Haojun Yang
    • Jack Taunton
  • Noyori-type hydrogenation catalysts consist of an N–H moiety coordinated to a metal centre. Now, a metal-hydride amidate complex (HMn–NLi) has been isolated and found to have superior reactivity and catalytic performance compared with the corresponding HMn–NH complex, highlighting the superiority of M/NM′ bifunctional catalysis over the classic M/NH bifunctional catalysis for hydrogenation reactions.

    • Yujie Wang
    • Shihan Liu
    • Qiang Liu
  • The reduction of nitrite (NO2) to nitric oxide (NO), relevant to the biogeochemical nitrogen cycle as well as radioactive waste, typically occurs at redox-active metal centres. Now, a Lewis acid-capped nitrite has been reduced to the nitrite dianion (NO22−), a nitrogen-centred radical that connects three redox levels in the global nitrogen cycle through NO2, NO and N2O.

    • Valiallah Hosseininasab
    • Ida M. DiMucci
    • Timothy H. Warren
  • In silico chemical prediction of a polyketide synthase gene cluster in the bacterium Gynuella sunshinyii has led to the discovery of a class of natural products called janustatins. The absolute configuration of the stereocentres in these compounds was determined by a combination of techniques including DFT calculations and 2D NMR experiments—and finally confirmed by total synthesis. Janustatins were found to cause delayed, synchronized cell death at subnanomolar concentrations.

    • Reiko Ueoka
    • Philipp Sondermann
    • Jörn Piel
  • Cyclic polymers are topologically interesting and envisioned as a lubricant material, but methods for the scalable synthesis of pure cyclic polymers are currently elusive. Now, a scalable process has been developed by leveraging heterogeneity of the catalysts with the help of compartmentalized custom glassware, namely, a cyclic polymer dispenser.

    • Ki-Young Yoon
    • Jinkyung Noh
    • Robert H. Grubbs
  • Oligonucleotide catalysts such as ribozymes and DNAzymes can cleave RNA efficiently and specifically but are typically dependent on high concentrations of divalent cations, limiting their biological applications. A modular XNAzyme catalyst composed of 2′-deoxy-2′-fluoro-β-d-arabino nucleic acid (FANA) has now been developed that can cleave long (>5 kb), highly structured mRNAs under physiological conditions and enables allele-specific catalytic RNA knockdown inside cells.

    • Alexander I. Taylor
    • Christopher J. K. Wan
    • Philipp Holliger
  • Amines with free N–H groups have long posed a tremendous challenge in transition metal-catalysed amination reactions. Now, use of a bidentate phosphorus ligand enables the palladium-catalysed oxidative amination of simple olefins with Lewis basic amines, with no prefunctionalization, forming both alkyl and aryl allylamines.

    • Logan E. Vine
    • Jennifer M. Schomaker
    News & Views
  • The study of rare isotopes is hampered by their scarcity, cost and sometimes toxicity. Now polyoxometalate ligands have been shown to facilitate the capture of f-block elements and their characterization. Single-crystal X-ray diffraction structures have been obtained for several molecular complexes, including three of the rare curium-248, from minute amounts (micrograms) of material.

    • Ian Colliard
    • Jonathan R. I. Lee
    • Gauthier J.-P. Deblonde
  • Given the importance of amine compounds, methods for their synthesis continue to be in high demand. Now, a palladium-catalysed strategy has been developed for the selective oxidative amination of unactivated olefins with Lewis basic amines, via C(sp3)–H activation, forming architecturally versatile and functionally diverse allylamines in a single step.

    • Yangbin Jin
    • Yaru Jing
    • Huanfeng Jiang
  • In some cases, hydrogen adsorption close to its boiling temperature shows unusually high monolayer capacities, but the microscopic nature of this adsorbate phase is not well understood. Now, H2 adsorbed on a well-ordered mesoporous silica surface has been shown to form a 2D monolayer with very short H2···H2 intermolecular distances and a density more than twice that of bulk-solid H2.

    • Rafael Balderas-Xicohténcatl
    • Hung-Hsuan Lin
    • Michael Hirscher
    Article Open Access
  • The application of machine learning to big data, to make quantitative predictions about reaction outcomes, has been fraught with failure. This is because so many chemical-reaction data are not fit for purpose, but predictions would be less error-prone if synthetic chemists changed their reaction design and reporting practices.

    • Jacqueline M. Cole
    News & Views
  • A grand challenge for bio-based plastics is the ability to cost-effectively manufacture high-performance polymers directly from renewable resources that are also recyclable-by-design. A one-step conversion of xylose to polyesters has been reported, combining a sustainable lifecycle with impressive materials performance.

    • Robin M. Cywar
    • Gregg T. Beckham
    News & Views
  • An alcohol-functionalized cyclophane has been shown to form a bowl-shaped cavity large enough to host tris(bipyridine)ruthenium(ii). The macrocycle captures, and suppresses the activity of, the ruthenium complex in water but, when oxidized to its ketone-bearing counterpart, releases the ruthenium guest.

    • David Van Craen
    News & Views