PerspectiveSelf-Organization

Fueling connections between chemistry and biology

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Science  04 Sep 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6252, pp. 1056-1057
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad0194

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Summary

Many biological functions are the result of architectures that form through strong, directional interactions between subunits that constitute the cellular structure. These self-assembly processes display rich, dynamic behavior, where growth and shrinkage are carefully controlled by biochemical feedback mechanisms. One fascinating example is the guanosine triphosphate (GTP)–mediated assembly and disassembly of tubulin into microtubules (1). The realization of a chemically fueled synthetic mimic is a long-standing challenge in the field of supramolecular chemistry (2). On page 1075 of this issue, Boekhoven et al. (3) demonstrate the far-from-equilibrium self-assembly of molecular subunits driven by the consumption of a chemical fuel, leading to the transient formation of fibrous hydrogel materials. These conditions result in peculiar self-assembly processes unprecedented in synthetic systems, mimicking in part the fluctuations observed in microtubules.