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Volume 11 Issue 7, July 2019

Forming Fractals

A wide range of fractal objects — such as plants, lungs and snowflakes — exist in nature. Fractal topologies are statistically self-similar over multiple length scales, and possess a high surface area-to-volume ratio, which can provide functional advantages for processes such as molecular trapping and exchange. Now, Sagar D. Khare and co-workers have developed a computationally guided design approach for constructing protein-based fractals. Using engineered proteins as the basic building blocks, the team created fractal structures that assemble in response to phosphorylation. The cover of this issue shows the fractal assemblies imaged using helium ion microscopy.

See Khare et al

IMAGE: Nancy Estela Hernandez and Viacheslav Manichev (Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey)COVER DESIGN: Tulsi Voralia


  • Michelle Francl wonders if a molecule can be just a little bit chiral?

    • Michelle Francl


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News & Views

  • Nature harnesses fractal geometry to create structures with unusual surface-to-volume ratios. Now, a new design approach enables the reversible assembly of functional enzymes into arboreal patterns with fractal geometry.

    • Iris D. Young
    • James S. Fraser
    News & Views
  • Light is often used to trigger reactions, energetically exciting the reactant(s) to kick them over the intrinsic reaction barrier. Now, however, the reaction between an excited atom and a charged molecule at very low temperatures has been shown not to adhere to this paradigm, instead undergoing a reaction blockading effect.

    • Roland Wester
    News & Views
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Meeting Reports

  • The contributions of women to the development of the periodic table have long been overlooked. Claire Murray relates how the recent ‘Setting their table’ conference set out to highlight their prominent role in element discovery and use.

    • Claire A. Murray
    Meeting Report
  • The Women in Chemistry conference held on International Women’s Day was an opportunity to celebrate the varied careers of female chemists and showcase every step along the way. Suze Kundu emphasizes that successes, failures — and everything in between — are all intrinsically valuable.

    • Suze Kundu
    Meeting Report
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  • Fractal topologies are ubiquitous, and synthetic fractal objects provide unique functional advantages by virtue of their high surface area:volume ratios. Now, a computationally guided bottom-up design approach for constructing protein-based fractal assemblies in response to phosphorylation has been developed. Designed assemblies are shown to perform reversible and efficient molecular capture.

    • Nancy E. Hernández
    • William A. Hansen
    • Sagar D. Khare
  • Structural defects are known to exist in metal–organic frameworks (MOFs), and to affect the materials’ properties, but their exact structures have remained difficult to determine. Now, missing-linker and missing-cluster defects have been observed in a MOF using low-dose transmission electron microscopy, enabling their distributions, evolutions during crystallization and effects on the material’s catalytic activity to be explored.

    • Lingmei Liu
    • Zhijie Chen
    • Yu Han
  • Abasic sites are amongst the most common forms of DNA damage. Despite their biological significance, little is known regarding the distribution of these sites within DNA. Now a method to sequence abasic sites at single-nucleotide resolution has been developed. This method allows the location of abasic sites to be mapped genome-wide.

    • Zheng J. Liu
    • Sergio Martínez Cuesta
    • Shankar Balasubramanian
  • Conventional chemical reactors are subject to the equilibrium limitations imposed by the overall reaction. It has now been shown that this limitation can be overcome if reactants are fed separately to a reactor and a non-stoichiometric oxygen carrier is used to transfer both oxygen and key chemical information across a reaction cycle.

    • Ian S. Metcalfe
    • Brian Ray
    • John S. O. Evans
  • Modulating particular ubiquitin chains using binding molecules is challenging given the diversity of chain lengths and linkages found in vivo. Now, tight binding modulators that are specific to K48-linked ubiquitin chains have been found by combining protein synthesis and screening of macrocyclic peptide ligands.

    • Mickal Nawatha
    • Joseph M. Rogers
    • Ashraf Brik
  • Non-ribosomal peptide synthetases have now been modified and de novo non-ribosomal peptide synthetases constructed using new assembly points within condensation domains. This approach enabled the production of new-to-nature peptides, including some carrying synthetic amino acids, as well as the generation of peptide libraries.

    • Kenan A. J. Bozhüyük
    • Annabell Linck
    • Helge B. Bode
  • The relative orientation of molecules when they collide is of particular interest to chemists as it provides information on the preferred collision mechanism. Now, experiments in which NO molecules are oriented sideways to incoming Ar atoms show that the spatial manipulation of the collision partners provides a means to control the scattering outcome.

    • Cornelia G. Heid
    • Victoria Walpole
    • F. Javier Aoiz
  • Natural hydrogenases exclusively utilize Ni and/or Fe to activate or produce hydrogen. Now, a catalytically active [Mn]-hydrogenase has been prepared by incorporating a synthetic Mn complex into the apoenzyme of [Fe]-Hydrogenase. The semi-synthetic [Mn]-hydrogenase shows higher activity than the corresponding Fe analogue.

    • Hui-Jie Pan
    • Gangfeng Huang
    • Xile Hu
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