Molecular recognition

Molecular recognition

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The term molecular recognition refers to the specific interaction between two or more molecule
A molecule is an electrically neutral group of at least two atoms held together by covalent chemical bonds. Molecules are distinguished from ions by their electrical charge...

s through noncovalent bonding
Noncovalent bonding
A noncovalent bond is a type of chemical bond, typically between macromolecules, that does not involve the sharing of pairs of electrons, but rather involves more dispersed variations of electromagnetic interactions. The noncovalent bond is the dominant type of bond between supermolecules in...

 such as hydrogen bond
Hydrogen bond
A hydrogen bond is the attractive interaction of a hydrogen atom with an electronegative atom, such as nitrogen, oxygen or fluorine, that comes from another molecule or chemical group. The hydrogen must be covalently bonded to another electronegative atom to create the bond...

ing, metal coordination, hydrophobic forces
Hydrophobic effect
The hydrophobic effect is the observed tendency of nonpolar substances to aggregate in aqueous solution and exclude water molecules. The name, literally meaning "water-fearing," describes the segregation and apparent repulsion between water and nonpolar substances...

, van der Waals force
Van der Waals force
In physical chemistry, the van der Waals force , named after Dutch scientist Johannes Diderik van der Waals, is the sum of the attractive or repulsive forces between molecules other than those due to covalent bonds or to the electrostatic interaction of ions with one another or with neutral...

s, π-π interactions, electrostatic and/or electromagnetic effects. The host and guest
Host-guest chemistry
In supramolecular chemistry, host-guest chemistry describes complexes that are composed of two or more molecules or ions that are held together in unique structural relationships by forces other than those of full covalent bonds. Host-guest chemistry encompasses the idea of molecular recognition...

 involved in molecular recognition exhibit molecular complementarity.

Biological systems

Molecular recognition plays an important role in biological
Biology is a natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy. Biology is a vast subject containing many subdivisions, topics, and disciplines...

 systems and is observed in between receptor-ligand, antigen
An antigen is a foreign molecule that, when introduced into the body, triggers the production of an antibody by the immune system. The immune system will then kill or neutralize the antigen that is recognized as a foreign and potentially harmful invader. These invaders can be molecules such as...

An antibody, also known as an immunoglobulin, is a large Y-shaped protein used by the immune system to identify and neutralize foreign objects such as bacteria and viruses. The antibody recognizes a unique part of the foreign target, termed an antigen...

Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

Proteins are biochemical compounds consisting of one or more polypeptides typically folded into a globular or fibrous form, facilitating a biological function. A polypeptide is a single linear polymer chain of amino acids bonded together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of...

, sugar
Sugar is a class of edible crystalline carbohydrates, mainly sucrose, lactose, and fructose, characterized by a sweet flavor.Sucrose in its refined form primarily comes from sugar cane and sugar beet...

Lectins are sugar-binding proteins that are highly specific for their sugar moieties. They play a role in biological recognition phenomena involving cells and proteins. For example, some viruses use lectins to attach themselves to the cells of the host organism during infection...

Ribonucleic acid , or RNA, is one of the three major macromolecules that are essential for all known forms of life....

A ribosome is a component of cells that assembles the twenty specific amino acid molecules to form the particular protein molecule determined by the nucleotide sequence of an RNA molecule....

, etc. An important example of molecular recognition is the antibiotic
An antibacterial is a compound or substance that kills or slows down the growth of bacteria.The term is often used synonymously with the term antibiotic; today, however, with increased knowledge of the causative agents of various infectious diseases, antibiotic has come to denote a broader range of...

Vancomycin INN is a glycopeptide antibiotic used in the prophylaxis and treatment of infections caused by Gram-positive bacteria. It has traditionally been reserved as a drug of "last resort", used only after treatment with other antibiotics had failed, although the emergence of...

 that selectively binds with the peptides with terminal D-alanyl-D-alanine in bacterial cells through five hydrogen bonds. The vancomycin is lethal to the bacteria since once it has bound to these particular peptides they are unable to be used to construct the bacteria’s cell wall
Cell wall
The cell wall is the tough, usually flexible but sometimes fairly rigid layer that surrounds some types of cells. It is located outside the cell membrane and provides these cells with structural support and protection, and also acts as a filtering mechanism. A major function of the cell wall is to...


Supramolecular systems

Chemists have demonstrated that artificial supramolecular
Supramolecular chemistry
Supramolecular chemistry refers to the area of chemistry beyond the molecules and focuses on the chemical systems made up of a discrete number of assembled molecular subunits or components...

 systems can be designed that exhibit molecular recognition. One of the earliest examples of such a system are crown ethers which are capable of selectively binding specific cations. However, a number of artificial systems have since been established.

Static vs. dynamic

Molecular recognition can be subdivided into static molecular recognition and dynamic molecular recognition. Static molecular recognition is likened to the interaction between a key and a keyhole; it is a 1:1 type complexation reaction between a host molecule and a guest molecule to form a host-guest complex
Host-guest chemistry
In supramolecular chemistry, host-guest chemistry describes complexes that are composed of two or more molecules or ions that are held together in unique structural relationships by forces other than those of full covalent bonds. Host-guest chemistry encompasses the idea of molecular recognition...

. To achieve advanced static molecular recognition, it is necessary to make recognition sites that are specific for guest molecules.

In the case of dynamic molecular recognition the binding of the first guest to the first binding site of a host affects the association constant of a second guest with a second binding site. In the case of positive allosteric systems the binding of the first guest increases the association constant of the second guest. While for negative allosteric systems the binding of the first guest decreases the association constant with the second. The dynamic nature of this type of molecular recognition is particularly important since it provides a mechanism to regulate binding in biological systems.
Dynamic molecular recognition may enhance the ability to discriminate between several competing targets via the conformational proofreading
Conformational proofreading
Conformational proofreading is a general mechanism of molecular recognition systems, in which introducing a structural mismatch between a molecular recognizer and its target enhances the recognition specificity and quality....

 mechanism. Dynamic molecular recognition is also being studied for application in highly functional chemical sensors and molecular devices
Molecular Devices
Molecular Devices Corporation is a supplier of high-performance bioanalytical measurement systems that accelerate and improve drug discovery and other life sciences research.-Company history:...


External links

  • Special Issue on Molecular Recognition in the Int. J. Mol. Sci.