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Researchers at the Molecular Photonics group of the Van "t Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences at the University of Amsterdam have significantly improved the experimental determination of the chirality or "handedness" of molecules using vibrational circular dichroism (VCD) spectroscopy. By employing a genetic algorithm they were able to "tame" the uncertainties in VCD analysis resulting from the fact that flexible molecules can adopt many structural conformations. Their improvement could see VCD applied on a large scale, for instance as a tool for high-throughput screening of pharmaceutical compounds or real-time monitoring of (bio)chemical processes.
The team led by professor Wybren Jan Buma publish their novel VCD method in the 7 September issue of Chemical Science, the flagship journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry.
Author - PhD - Student - Mark - Koenis
According to first author Ph.D. student Mark Koenis, "It is now possible to determine the handedness of molecules much more reliably and with better quantitative measures than before."
In their paper, Buma and co-workers demonstrate their novel approach, amongst others, by studies on citronellal. It is a typical example of the class of molecules that have until now posed challenges—often insurmountable—to VCD analysis. It is chiral, meaning that it can exist as two molecular structures that are non-superimposable mirror images of each other—just like a right hand and a left hand. It is also a very flexible and dynamic molecule that can adopt many different spatial structures, called conformations.
Class - Molecules - Relevance - Molecules - Proteins
Being chiral, citronellal represents a class of molecules of great biochemical and pharmaceutical relevance. Since many biological molecules (proteins, enzymes, receptors, and so forth) are chiral, the "handedness" of chiral molecules determines their biological interactions. In the case of citronellal, its chiral mirror structures (called enantiomers) differ in interaction with olfactory receptors so that the "left-handed" molecule smells of oranges and its "right-handed" counterpart of lemons. In many other molecules, the effect...
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