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The discovery of a synthetic molecule, made up of 60 simple components that are able to reorganize themselves to produce new functions, will lead to better understanding of nature’s processes. Anion-induced reconstitution of a self-assembling system to express a chloride-binding Co10L15 pentagonal prism was published this month in the journal Nature Chemistry. The team has produced a movie showing the molecule and its 60 simple components to assist readers to understand its complexity.

The incredibly complex structure of the pentagonal prismatic molecule was discovered when researchers working at The University of Queensland (UQ), The University of Cambridge, and Randolph-Macon College in the USA, formed the structure by transforming a tetrahedral molecule into a second structure – a barrel-like pentagonal prism.

Understanding the structure of synthetic molecules which are able to reorganize themselves is important as it helps scientists to understand natural processes in molecules such as viruses which are assembled from small parts.

In synthesizing the molecule, the researchers used a technique known as “self-assembly”, which regulates many of the complex and functional components in biological systems like DNA, to prepare a molecular tetrahedron from twenty-two simple building blocks.

The building blocks employed were then chemically programmed to spontaneously react together to form the desired molecule.

UQ’s School of Chemistry & Molecular Biosciences Dr. Jack Clegg said in addition of a chemical template, the tetrahedral molecule was reconfigured into a new barrel-like structure composed of an impressive 60 smaller molecules.

“Up until now we’ve only be able to do this on a very basic level,” Dr Clegg said. “We’ve succeeded in preparing and characterizing a new chemical system that is capable of structural reconstitution on receipt of one molecular signal to create a tight binding pocket for a chloride anion.”

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