Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Scientists discover ’reading’ molecule at Reading


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.

“This is a unique system in which sequence-information in a polymer chain can be ‘read’ through sequence-selective interactions with small molecules,” said Professor Colquhoun. “As such, we believe that the ‘tweezer’ will represent a significant contribution to the eventual development of ultra-miniaturised information-storage and processing at the molecular level.

“Moreover, the principles of sequence-recognition emerging from this entirely synthetic system could help us develop an understanding of the way in which biological information-processing may have originated some three billion years ago. A paradoxical feature of information theory is that polymers with entirely random sequences (as in the copolymers we are working with) contain more potential information than any other type of polymer. Indeed, DNA itself appears at first sight to be an entirely random copolymer, in the sense that there are no rules governing the sequence of the bases. The sequence acquires meaning only though the operation of the genetic code, which is itself based on sequence-specific binding of small molecules to polymer chains. This observation, together with our own results, lead one to speculate that the earliest biological sequence-information may have originated as a (natural) selection from random monomer sequences occurring in a population of replicating co-polymers.”

In the future, the researchers hope to modify the tweezer so as to promote reaction between neighbouring molecules when these are bound to the polymer. This would mimic biological information-processing to an even greater extent, as sequence-information would then be copied into an entirely different type of molecule.

Craig Hillsley | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Make way for the mini flying machines
21.03.2018 | American Chemical Society

nachricht New 4-D printer could reshape the world we live in
21.03.2018 | American Chemical Society

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

TRAPPIST-1 planets provide clues to the nature of habitable worlds

21.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

The search for dark matter widens

21.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Natural enemies reduce pesticide use

21.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>