Stimulus-Responsive Dynamic Foldamers as Molecular Communication Devices

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Chemistry


Biology communicates information by means of conformational change, and the aim of this project is to design and synthesise artificial mimics of biological communication systems, such as those responsible for smell, taste and vision. These mimics will be based on new classes of dynamic foldamers (chain-like molecules that fold into a conformationally ordered state in solution.)

The student will develop synthetic routes to novel foldamers with reversible chirality or polarity, and devise methods for inducing conformational change in these molecules by modulation of their environment, such as pH change and visible/UV light irradiation. The student will also develop synthetic routes to novel ligands which are designed to bind with said foldamers.

In particular, the student will look to combine the use of novel wavelength-dependent photoacids (molecules that become more acidic upon irradiation with visible light) with dynamic foldamers. The student will monitor the transmission of conformational information using common analytical techniques such as CD (circular dichroism) and NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) spectroscopy.

To the best of our knowledge, the use of light-induced pH change, to subsequently induce conformational change in foldamers, is an entirely novel concept. Such systems could ultimately be utilised as trans-membrane communication devices in artificial cells (e.g. artificial "smell/taste receptors" or "light sensors")

Relevant EPSRC research areas: Analytical science, Synthetic biology, Synthetic coordination/organic/supramolecular chemistry.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509619/1 30/09/2016 29/09/2021
2123557 Studentship EP/N509619/1 23/09/2018 30/03/2022 Matthew Wootten
EP/R513179/1 30/09/2018 29/09/2023
2123557 Studentship EP/R513179/1 23/09/2018 30/03/2022 Matthew Wootten