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Reactivity and mechanism in chemical and synthetic biology

Richards, Nigel G. J. ORCID:, Bearne, Stephen L., Goto, Yuki and Parker, Emily J. 2023. Reactivity and mechanism in chemical and synthetic biology. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 378 (1871) , 20220023. 10.1098/rstb.2022.0023

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Physical organic chemistry and mechanistic thinking provide a strong intellectual framework for understanding the chemical logic of evolvable informational macromolecules and metabolic transformations in living organisms. These concepts have also led to numerous successes in designing and applying tools to delineate biological function in health and disease, chemical ecology and possible alternative chemistries employed by extraterrestrial life. A symposium at the 2020 Pacifichem meeting was scheduled in December 2020 to discuss designing and exploiting expanded genetic alphabets, methods to understand the biosynthesis of natural products and re-engineering primary metabolism in bacteria. The COVID-19 pandemic led to postponement of in-person discussions, with the symposium eventually being held on 20–21 December 2021 as an online event. This issue is a written record of work presented on biosynthetic pathways and enzyme catalysis, engineering microorganisms with new metabolic capabilities, and the synthesis of non-canonical, nucleobases for medical applications and for studies of alternate chemistries for living organisms. The variety of opinion pieces, reviews and original research articles provide a starting point for innovations that clarify how complex biological systems emerge from the rules of chemical reactivity and mechanism. This article is part of the themed issue ‘Reactivity and mechanism in chemical and synthetic biology’.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Chemistry
Additional Information: License information from Publisher: LICENSE 1: URL:, Type: open-access
Publisher: The Royal Society
ISSN: 0962-8436
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 13 January 2023
Date of Acceptance: 28 November 2022
Last Modified: 04 May 2023 23:16

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