Simple LEGO bricks can be assembled to more complicated structures, which can be further associated into a wide variety of complex architectures, from automobiles, rockets, and ships to gigantic castles and amusement parks. Such an event of multi-step assembly, so-called 'hierarchical self-assembly', also happens in living organisms.
Professor Kimoon Kim (Department of Chemistry, POSTECH) and his research team (Center for Self-assembly and Complexity, Institute for Basic Science) discovered that a cucurbituril1)-based host-guest complex polymerized into a linear polymer chain, which was further associated with each other into a hollow microtubule via van der Waals interactions arising from their shape self-complementarity.2) Their novel findings are introduced as a breaking news in Angewandte Chemie International Edition , which is one of the world's renowned journals in Chemistry.
Microtubules exist in living cells of plants and animals and they are essential in maintaining cellular structures, migration of cells, intracellular transport and more. In other words, essential cellular functions such as cellular divisions and intracellular transport cannot be performed when problems occur in formation or dissociation of microtubules.
These microtubules are formed via hierarchical self-assembly of globular proteins in nanometer size, tubulins3), which grow into linear protofilaments.4) Subsequently, these protofilaments are assembled together to build a multi-stranded tubular structure with a length over tens of micrometers.
Before their findings, many attempts have been made to mimic the self-assembly of microtubules in depth for years. However, the formation mechanism of natural microtubules at the molecular level is still ambiguous. Related Stories
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