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  • Methods to access bicyclo[1.1.1]pentane building blocks are limited, with current routes requiring multiple steps. Now, a diverse array of bicyclo[1.1.1]pentane boronates can be accessed via a multi-component reaction in a single step. Alkyl, aryl and alkenyl substructures can be installed onto bicyclo[1.1.1]pentane boronates by the use of carboxylic acids and organohalides.

    • Weizhe Dong
    • Expédite Yen-Pon
    • Gary A. Molander
    Article
  • A genetically encoded phototrigger based on a xanthone amino acid can expand the scope of time-resolved serial femtosecond crystallography beyond naturally photoactive proteins. This approach has been used to uncover metastable reaction intermediates that occur prior to C–H bond activation in a human liver fatty-acid-binding protein mutant.

    • Xiaohong Liu
    • Pengcheng Liu
    • Jiangyun Wang
    Article
  • Metal-free amyloid-β (Aβ) and metal-bound Aβ (metal–Aβ) are found in the brain of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Now, it has been shown that the conformation of a native neuropeptide, somatostatin, is changed in the presence of copper ions, Aβ and metal–Aβ. The conformational change results in a loss of function of somatostatin as a neurotransmitter and a gain of function as a modulator against metal–Aβ.

    • Jiyeon Han
    • Jiwon Yoon
    • Mi Hee Lim
    Article
  • The composition of toxic protein aggregates associated with neurodegenerative diseases is difficult to determine. Now, a method has been developed that can capture amyloid-containing aggregates in human biofluids using a structure-specific chemical dimer. This method—known as amyloid precipitation—enables unbiased determination of the molecular composition and structural features of the in vivo aggregates.

    • M. Rodrigues
    • P. Bhattacharjee
    • D. Klenerman
    Article
  • Proton wires in enzyme active sites enable stereoselective reactions under mild conditions by facilitating dual activation of a nucleophile and an electrophile through reciprocal proton transfer. Now it has been shown that such an activation mode can be mimicked inside a supramolecular capsule, enabling a general approach to β-glycosides.

    • Tian-Ren Li
    • Fabian Huck
    • Konrad Tiefenbacher
    Article
  • Developing stimuli-responsive bioorthogonal tetrazine ligations remains highly challenging, but a versatile approach that uses photocaged dihydrotetrazines has now been developed. Photouncaging results in the spontaneous formation of reactive tetrazines that rapidly react with dienophiles such as trans-cyclooctenes. As a demonstration, the method was used for live-cell labelling with single-cell precision and light-triggered drug delivery.

    • Luping Liu
    • Dongyang Zhang
    • Neal K. Devaraj
    Article
  • Photoredox catalysts offer a promising approach to performing reactions with high energetic requirements, however, the influence of solvent and counter ions is not fully understood. Now, a microwave-based technique is shown to give direct insight into their effects on charge reorganization during catalysis.

    • Ferdinand C. Grozema
    News & Views
  • Choline 2-hexenoate is an ionic compound that is a liquid at room temperature, and is just one of a class of compounds that have huge potential in biomedical research and clinical applications, explains Eden E. L. Tanner.

    • Eden E. L. Tanner
    In Your Element
  • Michelle Francl explores how glass revolutionized chemistry.

    • Michelle Francl
    Thesis
  • Amino-containing four-carbon threose nucleic acids (TNAs) have long been considered to be prebiotically irrelevant due to their difficult formation. Now, a prebiotically plausible route to 3′-amino-TNA nucleoside triphosphate has been developed, raising the possibility of 3′-amino-TNA as a non-canonical nucleic acid during the origin of life.

    • Yingyu Liu
    • Yajun Wang
    News & Views
  • This year marks the 50th anniversary of Baird’s rules of aromaticity — a set of perturbational molecular orbital theory analyses that has garnered considerable attention in the past ten years in light of its many real-world applications in photochemistry.

    • Lucas J. Karas
    • Judy I. Wu
    News & Views
  • Over the past 25 years, the photo-induced spin-crossover behaviour of Fe(II) complexes has puzzled scientists. Now, a symmetry-breaking twisting mode has been observed during the relaxation of such a complex. Controlling its configuration using enantiopure counterions has also been shown to slow down the relaxation.

    • J. Olof Johansson
    News & Views
  • Antibody-mediated delivery of therapeutics has been primarily limited to agents containing amine, alcohol or thiol functional groups. Now, an approach has been developed to create stable and bio-reversible prodrugs that mask ortho-quinones. Drug release requires both protease activation followed by acid-assisted elimination.

    • Thomas Pillow
    News & Views
  • Nucleotides are essential to the origins of life, and their synthesis is a key challenge for prebiotic chemistry. Contrary to prior expectation, non-canonical 3′-amino-TNA nucleosides are shown to be synthesized diastereoselectively and regiospecifically under prebiotically plausible conditions. The enhanced reactivity of 3′-amino-TNAs also promotes their selective non-enzymatic triphosphorylation in water.

    • Daniel Whitaker
    • Matthew W. Powner
    Article
  • Chemically fuelled synthetic molecular machines are capable of driving and sustaining non-equilibrium motion, analogous to the biomachinery that underpins life. This Review discusses the chemical and physical features of biological and synthetic chemical fuels and highlights potential challenges and opportunities for the development of synthetic chemically fuelled machinery.

    • Stefan Borsley
    • David A. Leigh
    • Benjamin M. W. Roberts
    Review Article
  • 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
    Article
  • 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