Making molecules that make molecules

Nature builds proteins in complex molecular factories where information from the genetic code is used to programme the linking of molecular building blocks in the correct order.

Leigh Machine
Artificial molecular machine

Nature builds proteins in complex molecular factories where information from the genetic code is used to programme the linking of molecular building blocks in the correct order. The most extraordinary of these factories is the ribosome, a massive molecular machine found in all living cells that assembles amino acids from transfer RNA (tRNA) building blocks into a peptide chain with an order defined by the sequence of the messenger RNA (mRNA) strand that the molecular machine moves along.

Now Professor David Leigh’s group have built an artificial molecular machine that builds chemical structures in a similar way. Their molecular machine features a functionalized nanometer-sized ring that moves along a molecular track, picking up building blocks located on the path and connecting them together in a specific order to synthesize the desired new molecule. Please click on the following link to see a cartoon of the molecular machine in operation.

The research was published in the journal Science [Science 339, 189-193 (2013)] and highlighted in NatureNew ScientistChemical & Engineering NewsChemistry World and on the BBC.

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