A team of chemists at the University of Reading, led by Professor Howard Colquhoun, have designed a system in which a tweezer-like molecule is able to recognise specific monomer sequences in a linear copolymer. As a result, and for the first time ever, sequence-information in a synthetic polymer has been ‘read’ by a mechanism which mirrors one of the processes on which life itself is based.
The discovery is described in two papers: Recognition of polyimide sequence information by a molecular tweezer (H.M. Colquhoun and Z. Zhu, Angewandte Chemie, International Edition, 2004, Issue 38, p. 5040) and Principles of sequence-recognition in aromatic polyimides (H.M. Colquhoun, Z. Zhu, C.J. Cardin and Y. Gan, Chemical Communications, 2004, Issue 23, p. 2650). These journals are regarded worldwide as the most important media for the publication of urgent communications on important new developments in the chemical sciences.
Professor Colquhoun and his colleague Dr Zhu designed the ‘tweezer’ so that it binds at particular sites along the polymer chain – namely, at the sequences which complement its own structure most closely. The researchers then used spectroscopic methods to show that the molecular tweezer can bind bind at both adjacent and non-adjacent sites along the polymer chain. From this evidence, the specific sequences present within the copolymer, which is made of several different structural units, could be clearly identified. A full and detailed picture of the way in which the tweezer binds to the polymer chain was finally obtained when Dr Zhu obtained crystals of a complex between the tweezer and a model oligomer and their structure was determined by Dr Cardin and Ms Gan.
Craig Hillsley | alfa
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