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  • Phytochromes regulate plant growth by sensing far-red light through the photoisomerization of their protein-bound chromophores. In the phytochrome Agp2, it has now been demonstrated that ultrafast proton-transfer occurs from the chromophore to a protein–water network before photoisomerization, inducing protein changes on the ultrafast timescale. These protein changes develop further on longer timescales, resulting in an activated protein conformation.

    • Yang Yang
    • Till Stensitzki
    • Karsten Heyne
    Article Open Access
  • Many bioactive compounds are trisubstituted macrocyclic alkenes, but use of current methods often results in poor yields and low stereoselectivity. Now, a ring-closing metathesis strategy has been developed that enables these compounds to be prepared efficiently and in either stereoisomeric form: an approach that may prove useful in the late stages of total syntheses, for skeletal editing and in drug discovery.

    • Yucheng Mu
    • Felix W. W. Hartrampf
    • Amir H. Hoveyda
  • Preorganized electric fields may be essential for the extraordinary catalytic power of enzymes. Now, it has been demonstrated how electric field strengths can be monitored along two directions using a vibrational Stark probe, enabling the observation of distinct electric field orientations in an enzyme active site compared with those in simple solvents.

    • Chu Zheng
    • Yuezhi Mao
    • Steven G. Boxer
  • HCN and its isomer HNC are both observed in the interstellar medium and inelastic collisions with helium and other species strongly influence their derived abundances. Now it has been shown experimentally and theoretically that HNC is much more strongly excited than HCN in collisions with helium at the low temperatures of interstellar space.

    • Brian M. Hays
    • Divita Gupta
    • Ian R. Sims
  • The collision dynamics between a pair of aligned molecules in the presence of a scattering resonance provide the most sensitive probe of the long-range anisotropic forces important to chemistry. By simultaneously controlling the collision temperature and geometry between a pair of aligned D2 molecules, we unravel the anisotropic dynamics of a cold scattering process.

    • Haowen Zhou
    • William E. Perreault
    • Richard N. Zare
  • The molecular driving forces underlying the liquid–liquid phase separation (LLPS) of RNA are not well understood. Now simulations show that low-complexity RNA sequences undergo LLPS at high RNA concentrations, driven by the formation of Watson–Crick base pairs between distinct RNA polymers. LLPS occurs by merger of small droplets into larger ones and RNA chains in the large droplets exhibit reptation dynamics.

    • Hung T. Nguyen
    • Naoto Hori
    • D. Thirumalai
  • Entomopathogenic nematodes carrying Xenorhabdus and Photorhabdus bacteria prey on insect larvae in the soil. Now, a comprehensive analysis of the bacterial genome has revealed ubiquitous and unique families of biosynthetic gene clusters. Evaluation of the bioactivity of the natural products expressed by the most prevalent cluster families explains the functional basis of bacterial natural products involved in bacteria–nematode–insect interactions.

    • Yi-Ming Shi
    • Merle Hirschmann
    • Helge B. Bode
    Article Open Access
  • 2D–2D heterostructures are typically held together by van der Waals interactions. Now, an on-device MoS2–graphene heterostructure has been prepared that is covalently linked through a bifunctional molecule featuring a maleimide and a diazonium group. The electronic properties of the resulting heterostructure are shown to be dominated by the molecular interface.

    • Manuel Vázquez Sulleiro
    • Aysegul Develioglu
    • Emilio M. Pérez
  • Catalytic transformations of methane frequently involve the formation of a metal–methane complex, but these compounds are challenging to observe. Now, a relatively long-lived osmium–methane complex has been characterized using NMR spectroscopy and forms from the direct binding of methane to a photolytically generated, coordinatively unsaturated cationic osmium–carbonyl complex dissolved in an inert hydrofluorocarbon solvent at –90 °C.

    • James. D. Watson
    • Leslie. D. Field
    • Graham. E. Ball
  • Molecular π-stacked chromophores are promising photonic materials, but much of our understanding is limited to covalent dimers. Now it has been shown that, in a slip-stacked perylenediimide trimer, coherent vibronic coupling to high-frequency modes facilitates ultrafast state mixing between the Frenkel exciton and charge-transfer states, which then collapses by solvent fluctuations and low-frequency vibronic coupling, resulting in ultrafast symmetry-breaking charge separation.

    • Chenjian Lin
    • Taeyeon Kim
    • Michael R. Wasielewski
  • Soft bioelectronic devices have exciting potential applications in robotics, computing and medicine, but they are typically restricted by the requirement for tethers or stiff electrodes. Now, a synthetic nerve has been developed that is bioinspired, wireless and powered by light. By patterning functionalized lipid membrane compartments, information was directionally conveyed using electrochemical signals.

    • Charlotte E. G. Hoskin
    • Vanessa Restrepo Schild
    • Hagan Bayley
  • Flexible metal–organic frameworks (MOFs) in which guest uptake and release occur above certain threshold pressures are attractive adsorbents. Now, the gated sorption behaviour of such a zinc-based mixed-ligand MOF has been tuned to match the narrow temperature and pressure range required for safe, efficient acetylene storage by adjusting the ratio of two different functional groups on its benzenedicarboxylate ligands.

    • Mickaele Bonneau
    • Christophe Lavenn
    • Susumu Kitagawa
  • Nickel-rich layered oxides, such as NCM622, are promising cathode materials for lithium batteries, but chemo-mechanical failures hinder their practical application. Now the solid-state synthesis of NCM622 has been studied using multiscale in situ techniques, and kinetic competition between precursor decomposition and lithiation has been observed to lead to spatially heterogeneous intermediates and the formation of defects that are detrimental to cycling.

    • Hyeokjun Park
    • Hayoung Park
    • Kisuk Kang
  • The planar hexazine dianion ring (N62), which had previously been predicted to exist, has now been synthesized from potassium azide (KN3) under laser heating in a diamond anvil cell above 45 GPa; it remains metastable down to 20 GPa. By contrast, at 30 GPa an unusual N2-containing compound with the formula K3(N2)4 was produced.

    • Yu Wang
    • Maxim Bykov
    • Alexander F. Goncharov
  • In a similar fashion to its macroscopic counterpart, molecular gearing is a correlated motion of intermeshed molecular fragments against one another. Now it has been shown that photogearing can be used to actively fuel molecular gearing motions with light and concomitantly shift the axis of rotation.

    • Aaron Gerwien
    • Frederik Gnannt
    • Henry Dube
  • Ion pairing is ubiquitous in low-dielectric-constant solvents, but whether it influences the reactivity of common cationic photoredox catalysts has been unclear. However, it has now been shown that ion pairing is responsible for a 4-fold modulation in reactivity in a prototypical Ir(III) complex and is explained by excited-state ion-pair reorganization.

    • J. D. Earley
    • A. Zieleniewska
    • G. Rumbles
  • Most chemical glycosylation methods operate by acid-promoted, ionic activation of donors. Now, by exploiting the formation of a halogen-bond complex, the activation of glycosyl donors was achieved via a visible light-promoted radical cascade process, resulting in a general, simple and mild way to build challenging 1,2-cis-glycosidic bonds.

    • Chen Zhang
    • Hao Zuo
    • Dawen Niu
  • A reduction reaction is usually equated with an electron transfer reaction. Now, ultrafast time-resolved serial femtosecond X-ray crystallography has enabled the visualization of the stepwise structural changes that occur after electron transfers have been observed in the light-triggered reduction of flavin adenine dinucleotide catalysed by DNA photolyase.

    • Manuel Maestre-Reyna
    • Cheng-Han Yang
    • Ming-Daw Tsai
  • A straightforward method for synthesizing optically active α-amino acids from abundant carboxylic acids has been developed. Based on a nitrene-mediated stereocontrolled 1,3-nitrogen shift, this approach provides access to a large variety of unnatural α-amino acids with aryl, allyl, propargyl and alkyl side chains and enables late-stage amination of carboxylic-acid-containing drugs.

    • Chen-Xi Ye
    • Xiang Shen
    • Eric Meggers
  • Combinatorial high-throughput methodologies can accelerate screening and discovery in biochemistry and biomedical sciences, but they often rely on large-scale analyses, making them time-consuming and expensive. Now, DNA-mediated fusion of single liposomes has been shown to enable the spatially resolved and parallel cargo delivery of subattolitre volumes in a stochastic order of succession.

    • Mette Galsgaard Malle
    • Philipp M. G. Löffler
    • Nikos S. Hatzakis