EventsProf. Sijbren Otto

Autocatalytic Formation of Nanostructures by Self-Assembly driven
Self-Replication

Nature is proof that self-assembly is a powerful tool for constructing materials of impressive complexity and function. Chemists have taken inspiration from Nature and many self-assembled materials have been developed. Most of these methods rely on thermodynamic control, resulting in formation of the most stable self-assembled product. However, self-assembly in Nature is in most cases controlled by kinetics rather than thermodynamics, giving much richer behavior in terms of function and dynamics of the biomaterials.1 We have recently developed a new approach to self-assembling materials that, like in Nature, relies on kinetics rather than thermodynamics.2-4 We use autocatalytic self-assembly processes, where the assembly drives the synthesis of the very molecules that self-assemble. By mixing relatively simple building blocks containing peptides or nucleobases that can form reversible covalent bonds with each other, we initially produce a complex mixture of many interconverting molecules. Self-assembly then shifts the product distribution to the self-assembling molecules, in many cases quantitatively. In this way, the self-assembling molecules self-replicate and the resulting materials can be considered to be self-synthesizing. As self-assembly occurs through a nucleation-growth mechanism the lengths of the assemblies can be controlled with unprecedentedly narrow polydispersities.4 I will also show how this approach can give rise to supramolecular block-copolymers, which have until now remained elusive.4 Thus, many of the powerful characteristics of traditional living polymerization are now becoming applicable also in supramolecular polymerization.

[1] E. Mattia, S. Otto, Supramolecular Systems Chemistry. Nat. Nanotechnol. 2015, 10, 111–119

[2] J. M. A. Carnall, C. A. Waudby, A. M. Belenguer, M. C. A. Stuart, J. J.-P. Peyralans, S. Otto, Mechanosensitive Self-replication driven by Self-organization. Science 2010, 327, 1502 – 1506

[3] J. W. Sadownik, E. Mattia, P. Nowak, S. Otto, Diversification of Self-Replicating Molecules. Nature Chem. 2016, 8, 264–269

[4] LA. Pal, M. Malakoutikhah, G. Leonetti, M. Tezcan, M. Colomb-Delsuc, V. D. Nguyen, J. van der Gucht, S. Otto. Controlling the Structure and Length of Self-Synthesizing Supramolecular Polymers through Nucleated Growth and Disassembly. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2015, 54, 7852–7856

About The Speaker

Prof. Sijbren (born 1971) received his M.Sc. (1994) and Ph.D. (1998) degrees cum laude from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. He worked on physical organic chemistry in aqueous solutions in the group of Prof. Jan B. F. N. Engberts. In 1998 he moved to the United States for a year as a postdoctoral researcher with Prof. Steven L. Regen (Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania) investigating synthetic systems mediating ion transport through lipid bilayers. In 1999 he received a Marie Curie Fellowship and moved to the University of Cambridge where he worked for two years with Prof. Jeremy K. M. Sanders on dynamic combinatorial libraries.

Prof. Sijbren started his independent research career in 2001 as a Royal Society University Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge in the UK and accepted an appointment as Assistant Professor at the University of Groningen in 2009 and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2011 and Full Professor in 2016. He is director of the Chemistry MSc degree program.

Prof. Sijbren was awarded an ERC starting grant from the EU and a VICI grant from NWO in the Netherlands and is one of six main applicants of the prestigious multimillion national gravitation program on Functional Molecular Systems (FMS). He is Chair of COST Action CM1304 on the subject of Systems Chemistry uniting more than 90 European research groups.