Reviews & Analysis

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  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Nitrous oxide is traditionally considered to be an inert molecule, and methods for its activation and utilization are currently limited. Now, a strategy has been developed — involving an organometallic Baeyer–Villiger step — for the conversion of aryl halides to phenols under mild conditions, using N2O as the oxygen source.

    • Jun-Jie Chen
    • Huan-Ming Huang
    News & Views
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • The emerging field of dissipative DNA nanotechnology aims at developing synthetic devices and nanomaterials with life-like properties such as directional motion, transport, communication or adaptation. This Review surveys how dissipative DNA systems combine the programmability of nucleic-acid reactions with the consumption of energy stored in chemical fuel molecules to perform work and cyclical tasks.

    • Erica Del Grosso
    • Elisa Franco
    • Francesco Ricci
    Review Article
  • Being able to run two reactions concurrently enables synthetic methods to be streamlined, but simultaneously controlling the selectivity of both reactions is an enormous challenge. Now, a directing group is used to reinvent a classic tandem reaction, activating specific sp3 C–H bonds with pinpoint accuracy.

    • Sarah E. Jenny
    • Graham E. Dobereiner
    News & Views
  • The rational synthesis of organic nanotubes and their hierarchical architectures has remained challenging. Now, one-dimensional hollow covalent organic frameworks have been prepared that can further assemble into toroid-shaped materials.

    • Gabrielle A. Leith
    • Natalia B. Shustova
    News & Views
  • Understanding how surface structure affects catalyst selectivity is limited by the ability to synthesize atomically precise active-site ensembles. Now, by using intermetallic Pd–Zn, a series of well-defined multinuclear Pd–metal–Pd catalytic sites have been generated and studied, providing insights into their selectivity for the semi-hydrogenation of acetylene.

    • Max Mortensen
    • Siris Laursen
    News & Views
  • Molecular photocatalysts for generating solar fuels such as hydrogen degrade over time, ceasing to function as intended. Now the mechanism by which a ruthenium–platinum-based hydrogen-evolving photocatalyst breaks down has been identified, leading to the development of a repair strategy that uses singlet oxygen to regenerate an inactivated bridging ligand.

    • Claudia Turro
    News & Views
  • Enzymes, either purified or as whole-cell biocatalysts, can be concatenated into catalytic cascades and used to produce pharmaceutically relevant molecules. This Review discusses the advantages and requirements of multistep enzyme cascades and also highlights how they can be harnessed to achieve highly sustainable and cost-efficient syntheses.

    • Ana I. Benítez-Mateos
    • David Roura Padrosa
    • Francesca Paradisi
    Review Article