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Catalysis in Dynamic Molecular Networks (DynaCat)
Start date: Mar 1, 2013, End date: Feb 28, 2015 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Most catalytic reactions in Nature are mediated by enzymes. The concentrations of these enzymes are controlled in space and time through elaborate regulatory mechanisms, giving rise to complex functional behaviour that is essential to biology. Synthetic catalysts have been developed, many of which complement enzymatic catalysis with respect to types of reactions and substrate scope. Yet, in synthetic systems temporal control over catalyst concentrations remains underdeveloped, imposing limits on the functional potential. We reasoned that more elaborate control over synthetic catalysts may be achieved using a dynamic molecular network. Such networks have been mostly used for creating dynamic combinatorial libraries (DCLs). In dynamic combinatorial chemistry, a small set of building blocks react to form a combinatorial library of molecules that continuously exchange their building blocks, producing an equilibrium mixture. With the exception of applications in sensing, the objective of most DCL experiments is reductionistic: the identification of a single molecule with special properties. However, their network character makes DCLs potentially powerful tools for systems chemistry, where function derives from the entire network as opposed to an individual molecule. We now propose to apply the inherent dynamic nature of DCLs to several catalytic scenarios. The overall aim is to develop novel catalytic systems that exhibit some of the control mechanisms that have until now been exclusive to biology (i.e. responsiveness; feedback behaviour; regulation by signal molecules). Concretely, we aim to develop systems where the substrate induces the transient formation of its own catalyst, to develop systems in which catalysis is controlled by added effector molecules and to develop systems where catalysis shows feedback behaviour by the product of the reaction.
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