Here Prof. Ferenc Fülöp, University of Szeged, gives a brief introduction to Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry’s Foldamer Chemistry web themed issue:
The syntheses and structural and functional investigations of peptide oligomers that adopt designed compact conformations have become challenging tasks in recent decades. β-Amino acids, among them cyclic β-amino acids, find a broad range of use as building blocks for the preparation of modified analogues of biologically active peptides. The peptidomimetic approach in drug research is of significant potential. Since their discovery, the field of foldamers has come of age as a branch of chemistry, and synthetic self-organizing polymers have infiltrated almost all chemical disciplines, either as tools or as topics of fundamental science.
The interest in foldamers originated in the challenge to mimic the structural behaviour of biomolecules with synthetic sequences. This challenge was quickly answered: beautiful structures and programmable self-organization can be achieved with non-natural molecules. Various synthetic methodologies have led to novel building blocks becoming accessible, and a further source of diversity is the combination of different monomer types within a single sequence. Different amino acid homologues can be coupled in specific patterns (α,β-peptides, β,γ-peptides, etc.), all resulting in novel secondary structure patterns. Moreover, the coupling of aromatic building blocks with aliphatic monomers has been achieved, and short βαγ- and βαδ-peptide sequences have recently been described, which points to the practically limitless number of possible combinations. The building-up of higher-order structures from foldamers is a further great challenge and an important trend in the field. The diversity of peptidic foldamers is currently passing through a ramping-up process at all levels.
The present web themed issue covers the syntheses of β-amino acid monomers, and discusses the syntheses, structural investigations and applications of foldamers.