What knot to make?
Leigh group paper on molecular knots published in Science.
Knots form spontaneously in everything from headphone cables to bowls of spaghetti and, at molecular length scales, are found in polymers and some proteins. However, the chemistry of molecular knots is an almost completely unexplored area of the molecular world. Now that strategies and tactics are beginning to be developed through which chemists can build such structures, for the first time their properties can be discovered, sometimes with surprising results. Now a team of research scientists led by Dr Vanesa Marcos from the Leigh group have found that molecular knots can catalyze chemical reactions. The knot architecture is crucial to the catalysis; the equivalent unknotted molecules are catalytically inactive. The results suggest that a biological role of knotting in proteins may be to prevent them from adopting low energy, but inactive, folded states.
The research is reported in Science, 352, 1555-1559 (2016) and it can be read here.