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Cell Mol Life Sci. 2005 Mar;62(5):520-34.

Catalysis in abiotic structured media: an approach to selective synthesis of biopolymers.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Wellman 9, 50 Blossom Street, Boston, Massachussetts, 02114-2696, USA.


Micro- and nanoenvironments formed by amphiphile self-assembled structures, water-ice lattices and minerals have well-defined, repeating, chemical and physical properties that can be used for selective synthesis of biopolymers, such as RNAs and proteins. The advances made in the development of polymerization supported by these micro- and nanosystems are reviewed here. In particular, it is shown that these systems promote non-enzymatic biopolymerization, yielding long polymers whose sequence composition is determined by the interactions between monomers and the supporting environment. When used to compartmentalize enzymatic biopolymerization, micro- and nanostructures allow the implementation of molecular selection and evolution schemes, which are difficult in homogeneous medium, yielding very active molecules. Thus, micro- and nanoenvironment approaches to the synthesis and selection of biopolymers could be developed into a new biotechnological tool for the production of biopolymers with novel functions.

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