Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Synthetic Molecules Emulate Enzyme Behavior For the First Time

04.07.2008
Chemists have created a synthetic catalyst that can fold its molecular structure into a specific shape for a specific job, similar to natural catalysts. In laboratory tests, researchers were able to cause a synthetic catalyst -- an enzyme-like molecule that enables hydrogenation, a reaction used to transform fats in the food industry -- to fold itself into a specific shape, or into its mirror image.

When chemists want to produce a lot of a substance -- such as a newly designed drug -- they often turn to catalysts, molecules that speed chemical reactions.

Many jobs require highly specialized catalysts, and finding one in just the right shape to connect with certain molecules can be difficult. Natural catalysts, such as enzymes in the human body that help us digest food, get around this problem by shape-shifting to suit the task at hand.

Chemists have made little progress in getting synthetic molecules to mimic this shape shifting behavior -- until now.

... more about:
»Parquette »RajanBabu »catalyst »mirror »synthetic

Ohio State University chemists have created a synthetic catalyst that can fold its molecular structure into a specific shape for a specific job, similar to natural catalysts.

In laboratory tests, researchers were able to cause a synthetic catalyst -- an enzyme-like molecule that enables hydrogenation, a reaction used to transform fats in the food industry -- to fold itself into a specific shape, or into its mirror image.

The study appears in the June 25 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Being able to quickly produce a catalyst of a particular shape would be a boon for the pharmaceutical and chemical industries, said Jonathan Parquette, professor of chemistry at Ohio State.

The nature of the fold in a molecule determines its shape and function, he explained. Natural catalysts reconfigure themselves over and over again in response to different chemical cues -- as enzymes do in the body, for example.

When scientists need a catalyst of a particular shape or function, they synthesize it through a process that involves a lot of trial and error.

"It's not uncommon to have to synthesize dozens of different catalysts before you get the shape you're looking for," Parquette said. "Probably the most important contribution this research makes is that it might give scientists a quick and easy way to get the catalyst that they want."

The catalyst in this study is just a prototype for all the other molecules that the chemists hope to make, said co-author and professor of chemistry T.V. RajanBabu.

"Eventually, we want to make catalysts for many other reactions using the fundamental principles we unearthed here," RajanBabu said.

For this study, Parquette, RajanBabu, and postdoctoral researcher Jianfeng Yu synthesized batches of a hydrogenation catalyst in the lab and coaxed the molecules to change shape.

The technique that the chemists developed amounts to nudging certain atoms on the periphery of the catalyst molecule in just the right way to initiate a change in shape. The change propagates to a key chemical bond in the middle of the molecule. That bond swings like a hinge, to initiate a twist in one particular direction that spreads throughout the rest of the molecule.

Parquette offered a concrete analogy for the effect.

"Think of the Radio City Rockettes dance line. The first Rockette kicks her leg in one direction, and the rest of them kick the same leg in the same direction -- all the way down the line. A change in shape that starts at one end of a molecule will propagate smoothly all the way to the other end."

In tests, the chemists caused the catalysts to twist one way or the other, either to form one chemical product or its mirror image. They confirmed the shape of the molecules at each step using techniques such as nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy.

That's what the Ohio State chemists find most exciting: the molecule does not maintain only one shape. Depending on its surroundings -- the chemical "nudges" that it receives on the outside -- it will adjust.

"For many chemical reactions to work, molecules must be able to fit a catalyst like a hand fits a glove," RajanBabu said. "Our synthetic molecules are special because they’re flexible. It doesn't matter if the hand is a small hand or a big hand, the 'glove' will change its shape to fit it, as long as there is even a slight chemical preference for one of the hands. The 'flexible glove' will find a way to make a better fit, and so it will assist in specifically making one of the mirror image forms.”

Despite decades of research, scientists aren't sure exactly how this kind of propagation works. It may have something to do with the polarity of different parts of the molecule, or the chemical environment around the edges of the molecule.

But Parquette says the new study demonstrates that propagation can be used to make synthetic catalysts change shape quickly and efficiently -- an idea that wasn't apparent before. The use of adaptable synthetic molecules may even speed the discovery of new catalysts.

This work was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Contact: Jonathan Parquette, (614) 292-5886; Parquette.1@osu.edu
T.V. RajanBabu, (614) 688-3543; Rajanbabu.1@osu.edu

Pam Frost Gorder | newswise
Further information:
http://www.osu.edu

Further reports about: Parquette RajanBabu catalyst mirror synthetic

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Symbiotic bacteria: from hitchhiker to beetle bodyguard
28.04.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

nachricht Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis
28.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Grenzflächen- und Bioverfahrenstechnik IGB

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>