Reviews & Analysis

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  • 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
  • Extending mass spectrometry measurements of biomolecules into the megadalton regime is challenging due to the limited resolving power of currently used mass analysers. Now, using single ion-charge detection Orbitrap mass spectrometry, a mass accuracy of 0.001% has been demonstrated for protein particles larger than 9 MDa.

    • Muhammad A. Zenaidee
    • Joseph A. Loo
    News & Views
  • Electron spin relaxation, important in quantum information science, can be slowed down at clock transitions — which are insensitive to magnetic noise. It has now been shown that such transitions can be tuned, to high frequency, in rare-earth coordination complexes through control of s- and d-orbital mixing.

    • Eric J. L. McInnes
    News & Views
  • Many of the methods used to make phosphines proceed via phosphorus trichloride-based intermediates, leading to chloride waste that is difficult to recycle. It has now been shown that this disadvantage can be overcome by using a method that directly converts white phosphorus into value-added phosphorus compounds.

    • Hansjörg Grützmacher
    News & Views
  • A substantial proportion of the data generated in chemistry research is captured non-digitally and reported in ways that non-accessible to both humans and computers. A variety of tools do exist to capture, analyse and publish data in an open, reusable, machine-actionable manner — they should be connected to create an open-science platform for chemistry.

    • Kevin Maik Jablonka
    • Luc Patiny
    • Berend Smit
    Perspective
  • Plastics that are developed from renewable resources and can be recycled are highly environmentally desirable alternatives to current petroleum-based non-degradable polymers. Now, an effective and robust industrially relevant strategy towards high-performance biomass-derived degradable poly(γ-thiobutyrolactone)s has been developed.

    • Sophie M. Guillaume
    News & Views
  • The electronic structure of an electrode can affect the electron transfer rate of electrochemical processes at its surface. Now, it has been shown that varying the ‘twist’ angle between two stacked layers of graphene modifies the bilayer electronic structure and provides a new dimension to control interfacial redox activity.

    • Oluwasegun J. Wahab
    • Patrick R. Unwin
    News & Views
  • Peptides are a class of versatile biomolecules that function as hormones, signalling messengers and drugs. Now, two papers report alternative approaches to tailor their chemical properties, which enables the transport of biomacromolecules into cells. These approaches could find use in a wide range of biomedical applications.

    • Yuan Ping
    News & Views
  • Viruses use the cellular machinery of their host organism to reproduce. This Review discusses how [FeS] cluster-containing proteins activate, support and modulate the innate immune response to restrict viral infections as well as highlighting how some of these proteins simultaneously support the replication of viruses.

    • Kourosh Honarmand Ebrahimi
    • Simone Ciofi-Baffoni
    • Fraser A. Armstrong
    Review Article
  • DNA-encoded libraries can be applied in a diverse range of applications beyond simple binding assays. This Perspective covers the recent progress in using DNA-encoded chemical libraries to investigate complex biological targets and discusses their potential to identify structures that elicit function or possess other useful properties.

    • Yiran Huang
    • Yizhou Li
    • Xiaoyu Li
    Perspective
  • The emergence of protometabolic reactions that evolved into today’s metabolic pathways is unclear. Now, evidence suggests that the chemical origin of biological carbon metabolism may have relied on the versatility of a single primitive C1 feedstock molecule — hydrogen cyanide.

    • Saidul Islam
    News & Views
  • The adsorption of molecules onto a surface from solution generally proceeds spontaneously by means of an equilibrium process. Now, it has been shown that macrocycles can be pumped onto a MOF substrate through the formation of mechanical bonds in a ratcheting mechanism that results in an out-of-equilibrium state.

    • Liang Zhang
    News & Views
  • Despite the disordered and dynamic environment in which it occurs, photosynthetic light harvesting is highly efficient. Now, measurements of energy transfer in single photosynthetic antennae show how these structures deal with protein fluctuations, robustly transferring the energy before it is lost.

    • Pavel Malý
    News & Views