Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

New artificial system mimics nature's catalysts

Using synthetic biology, EU-funded scientists successfully built an artificial catalyst that can imitate biochemical synthetic pathways that are important for future biomedical, nanotechnology and materials science applications.
New artificial system mimics nature's catalysts
An emerging pathway in the development of novel catalytic systems is incorporation of small molecule catalysts into supramolecular structures, which allows to achieve unprecedented degrees of control over the reactivity and selectivity of the obtained synthetic supramolecular catalysts. Due to their unique properties amino acids and peptides have led to a significant expansion in the field of artificial enzymes. They are amongst the most attractive building blocks of supramolecular structures due to their structural and functional diversity, and their natural propensity to form defined, 3D architectures.

In FUNCTOPROLASYMMCAT (Application of functionalised oligoprolines in asymmetric catalysis), scientists successfully created a supramolecular assembly consisting of rigid, helical oligoproline units that serve as a template supporting oligomer formation.

Synthesis and fine-tuning of the target structure involved positioning functional groups along the oligoproline backbone chains. Detailed knowledge and control over spatial arrangement and rigidity of oligoprolines was essential for creating functional groups. Proper crystallography and spectroscopy methods enabled the project team to determine with unprecedented precision the distances between residues in the oligoproline backbone chain. Furthermore, they confirmed that the polyproline helix, composed of oligoproline units, is well suited for use as a catalytic assembly.

Using a combination of state-of-the-art synthetic and analytical techniques, the oligoproline template was successfully prepared and functionalised with a set of catalytic moieties and recognition sites. A challenging task was to find the optimal reaction conditions for the final supramolecular catalytic system. Proper conditions enabled the team to increase the efficiency and selectivity of the catalytic transformation into the oligomer of desired length.

The newly developed supramolecular assembly is a unique example of a simple mimic of replication processes occurring in nature, greatly contributing to our ability to understand the complexity of biological systems. As a possible alternative for nature's molecules supporting catalytic processes required for life, it constitutes a landmark achievement of modern organic chemistry with wide impact on other scientific fields.

Related information


Artificial enzyme, synthetic biology, catalytic systems, supramolecular chemistry, oligoprolines
Follow us on: RSS Facebook Twitter YouTube Managed by the EU Publications Office Top