Sustainable fertilisers derived from canola oil and elemental sulfur

Developing efficient crop fertilisation has become an ever-growing concern given the increasing demand for global food production. Slow-release fertilisers have been developed as a strategy to increase the efficiency of crop production while minimizing nutrient waste, reducing negative environmental impacts and enhancing crop yield. Mechanisms for controlled nutrient diffusion include semi-soluble or complex forms of the nutrient, slow hydrolysis of water-soluble compounds, and encapsulation of the nutrient within semipermeable or permeable coatings for controlled solubility/release (among many others). While slow-release strategies are promising, technical limitations such as the brittle nature of inorganic coatings and composites or the imperishable nature of synthetic polymer coatings hinder their industrial utility.

In a collaborative study published by Professor Justin Chalker of Flinders University, the group sought to develop an efficient and durable slow-release fertiliser derived from canola oil and elemental sulfur. Sulfur is highly appealing given its low cost, abundance, and that it is a secondary plant nutrient and fungicide. Numerous studies and years of research, however, have demonstrated that a persistent limitation of sulfur-coated fertilizers is their brittle nature. The present study, therefore, focused on converting sulfur to a more durable polymer form to be used as a composite with or encapsulate NPK (nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium) nutrients.

Inverse vulcanisation was used to prepare the sulfur polymer. In this process, elemental sulfur is heated to promote the production of thiyl radicals which can react with an unsaturated small-molecule cross-linker. In this case, canola oil was used as the cross-linker to form a polysulfide polymer capable of encapsulating NPK nutrients.

Elution studies in which fertiliser is placed in a soil column and conductivity of the outflow is measured demonstrated the superior capabilities of the sulfur-encapsulated NPK fertiliser in controlling NPK nutrient release relative to free NPK. A small-scale plant growth study also found that plants treated with the composites were significantly healthier and produced more fruit relative to other groups. What’s even more exciting is the fact that the canola oil polysulfide can be made from recycled cooking oil, converting food waste into valuable fertilisers.

With the rising challenge of feeding a rapidly growing population while also mitigating damaging environmental impacts, studies such as this that make significant strides toward efficient and sustainable agricultural practices are more important than ever.

To find out more see:

Sulfur polymer composites as controlled-release fertilisers 
Maximilian Mann, 
DOI:10.1039/C8OB02130A


Victoria Corless has recently completed her Ph.D. in organic chemistry with Prof. Andrei Yudin at the University of Toronto. Her research is centered on the synthesis of kinetically amphoteric building blocks which offer a versatile platform for the development of chemoselective transformations with particular emphasis on creating novel biologically active molecules. She is passionate about communicating new discoveries to enhance science literacy.

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Peptide anchors for water-resistant sunscreen

The risks associated with excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation are well studied and many national healthcare initiatives have been pushing for large-scale sun protection programs. Despite this drive for a broader public awareness, recent studies have disclosed that skin cancers, such as melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma, have become the most common form of cancer worldwide, with more new cases of skin cancer diagnosed in the U.S. than breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer combined.

In a recent OBC study by Professor Ronald Raines of MIT, the researchers identify that although the risk of skin cancer and visible signs of aging can be minimized by using sunscreen, there is still a need to develop more durable, non-greasy sunscreens that are not readily washed away with water or sweat.

Sunscreens typically form a protective barrier on the skin and protect against various types of UV radiation by either absorbing or reflecting UV light before it can reach DNA. Typical absorbing filters are small aromatic compounds, such as salicylates, cinnamates, benzophenones, or derivatives of p-aminobenzoic acid.

Previous studies have been carried out wherein small molecule UV filters have been attached to lipophilic moieties to minimize the amount of sunscreen washed away during physical activity. However, such compounds have not been shown to effectively withstand ‘washing’ and are often undesirably greasy, which according to the authors diminishes public compliance to use them.

Raines and coworkers propose that collagen mimic peptides (CMPs) could be used to effectively anchor pendent UV-filters to the skin. Natural collagen contains loops and interruptions in its overall 3D structure which provide numerous binding sites for CMPs (as demonstrated in the Raines group’s previous work). Since collagen is the primary component of skin, this would provide a means for efficiently tethering UV filters to the skin in order to create an effective, water-resistant sunscreen. Raines and coworkers showed the successful anchoring of a salicylic acid bound CMP and its retention on collagen-containing skin surrogates after repeated water washes. This strategy is highly modular and provides an excellent proof-of-concept for the development of more effective and durable sunscreens to address a worldwide concern.

To find out more see:

A pendant peptide endows a sunscreen with water-resistance
Aubrey J. Ellison and 
DOI:10.1039/C8OB01773E


Victoria Corless has recently completed her Ph.D. in organic chemistry with Prof. Andrei Yudin at the University of Toronto. Her research is centered on the synthesis of kinetically amphoteric building blocks which offer a versatile platform for the development of chemoselective transformations with particular emphasis on creating novel biologically active molecules. She is passionate about communicating new discoveries to enhance science literacy.

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OBC welcomes new Editorial Board member Corinna S. Schindler

We are delighted to introduce Assistant Professor Corinna S. Schindler as the newest member of our Editorial Board.

Originally from Schwaebisch Hall, Germany, Corinna carried out her undergraduate studies at the Technical University of Munich, completing her Diploma Thesis under the supervision of K. C. Nicolaou at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla. She then joined the Carreira group at ETH Zurich for her Ph.D., before accepting a postdoctoral position with Eric N. Jacobsen at Harvard University. In 2013 she moved to her current faculty as an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan.

Over the course of her career, Corinna has worked in various areas of organometallic and organic synthetic chemistry. Currently, her research lab in Michigan focuses primarily on developing new synthetic methodologies to access biologically active structures, and you can find out more by visiting the group webpage.

Corinna has been recognized by numerous awards including the NSF Career Award, c&en’s Talented Twelve Award, the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute GreenX: Rising Star Award and an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship.

 

Read her publications, including:

Synthesis and biological evaluation of pharbinilic acid and derivatives as NF-κB pathway inhibitors

Chem. Commun., 2015, 51, 8990-8993, DOI: 10.1039/C5CC02918J

Photoredox activation and anion binding catalysis in the dual catalytic enantioselective synthesis of β-amino esters

Chem. Sci., 2014, 5, 112-116, DOI: 10.1039/C3SC52265B

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Harnessing ring strain to drive the classically forbidden thermal [2+2] addition of cycloalkenes

The cyclobutane ring is a unique structural element found in a wide variety of biologically active natural products and synthetic molecules. Although cyclobutanes have been known for centuries, as a result of inherent ring strain, their application in synthesis has only become more popular in the last 40-50 years.

The photochemical [2+2] cycloaddition of alkenes represents a powerful strategy for the synthesis of cyclobutane rings. However, direct irradiation of cycloalkenes with UV light often leads to unwanted and difficult to control rearrangement pathways.

Professor Jimmie Weaver of Oklahoma State University proposes an alternative to direct irradiation of cycloalkenes by instead capturing energy in the form of ring strain. The Weaver group has applied their mild and efficient methodology toward the synthesis of cyclobutane rings imbedded within a C2-symmetric tricyclic framework.

It is well known that thermal [2+2] cycloadditions are ‘forbidden’ processes due to unfavourable orbital overlap of the reaction partners during the transition state. However, a common exception to this is the [π2s+π2a] addition of alkenes and ketenes. The Weaver group proposes that a thermal [π2s+π2a] cycloaddition could take place for ground state alkenes by generating a high energy intermediate, which would result in a decreased relative energy barrier for the thermal cycloaddition.

This method uses an iridium-based photocatalyst to generate the highly strained trans-cycloheptene intermediate—which possesses 27-36 kcal/mol of ring strain—in order to drive the thermal [2+2] cycloaddition of cycloheptenes and various cycloalkene substrates. Interestingly, the reaction results in four new stereocenters which are generated with excellent stereoselectivity and regioselectivity. An added advantage of using light within the visible spectrum to activate the photocatalyst minimizes competitive photochemical [2+2] addition pathways.

This study is an excellent example of the application of basic principles to drive previously inaccessible mechanistic pathways. The authors hope that their study will encourage other applications of visible light energy to drive unfavourable endergonic reactions.

To find out more see:

An elusive thermal [2+2] cycloaddition driven by visible light photocatalysis: tapping into strain to access C2-symmetric tricyclic rings
Kamaljeet Singh, 


Victoria Corless has recently completed her Ph.D. in organic chemistry with Prof. Andrei Yudin at the University of Toronto. Her research is centred on the synthesis of kinetically amphoteric building blocks which offer a versatile platform for the development of chemoselective transformations with particular emphasis on creating novel biologically active molecules. She is passionate about communicating new discoveries to enhance science literacy.

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Creating a platform for the development of photoswitchable ligand libraries

Photoswitchable small molecules have become important tools for analyzing biological systems. The discovery of light-tuneable molecules has enabled the study of intricate physiological responses within cells through precise spatial and temporal control to modulate their function. Although powerful tools, de novo design is often challenging as it requires detailed information about the structure of both the ligand and the receptor.

In a recent OBC publication, the group of Professor Ratmir Derda of the University of Alberta discusses a strategy to develop libraries of light-responsive (LR) ligands, which can be produced by grafting known LR structures, such as azobenzene, onto molecules with established biological activity. In this way, the challenges of identifying novel LR ligands can be addressed by selecting from a library of tagged LR-compounds that are already known to possess desired biological function.

Their study outlines a proof-of-concept for such a library using the synthesis of LR-bicyclic peptides, which contain a hydroxyl amine and di-chlorobenzene containing azobenzene (HADCAz) linker.

HADCAz behaves as a 3-point linchpin and can be used in the bicyclization of peptides through its orthogonally reactive ‘thiol-reactive’ and ‘aldehyde-reactive’ attachment points. The authors successfully demonstrated the synthesis of a small library of bicyclic peptides from linear, unprotected peptides (~20 amino acids in length) in a one-pot, two step reaction involving double intramolecular nucleophilic addition and oxime formation to form the two loops. The peptide-bound HADCAz linkers were shown to reversibly switch to their cis-conformers after irradiation with 365 nm light and molecular dynamic (MD) simulation was used to assess conformational changes, the properties of which were seemingly dependent on the peptide’s length.

While optimizations are still required for broad application, this work provides a versatile platform from which numerous avenues within the realms of optochemical genetics and photo-pharmacology can be explored.

To find out more see:

Light-responsive bicyclic peptides
Mohammad R. Jafari, 
DOI:10.1039/C7OB03178E


Victoria Corless is currently completing her Ph.D. in organic chemistry with Prof. Andrei Yudin at the University of Toronto. Her research is centred on the synthesis of kinetically amphoteric building blocks which offer a versatile platform for the development of chemoselective transformations with particular emphasis on creating novel biologically active molecules.

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Novel route to the [7-5-5] tricyclic core of Daphniphyllum alkaloids

To date, more than 320 new alkaloids have been isolated from the evergreen plants of the Daphniphyllum genus. In ancient times, extracts of the bark and leaves of Daphniphyllum plants were used in Chinese herbal medicines to cure minor ailments and treat pain. Recent studies have discerned that the Daphniphyllum class of alkaloid displays significant and varying biological activity, including anticancer, antioxidant and vasorelaxant activities. However, their unique polycyclic architectures containing multiple quaternary stereocenters render these alkaloids synthetically challenging.

A recent OBC publication by Tohru Fukuyama and Satoshi Yokoshima of Nagoya University reports on the synthesis of a common structural core prevalent among the Daphniphyllum alkaloids. The common [7-5-5] tricyclic core features a quaternary carbon centre, two contiguous stereogenic centres and a tetrasubstituted C-C double bond.

The study began with the synthesis of the adjacent stereogenic centres, which was ultimately achieved through a Claisen-Ireland rearrangement with a 73% isolated yield (1 step) and dr = 6.3:1.

The challenging tetrasubstituted C-C double bond was tackled next. Limited procedures for the installation of the tetrasubstituted C-C alkene have been reported for the [7-5-5] tricyclic core. The highly congested nature of such substituted double bonds results in destabilizing eclipsing interactions, which are mirrored in the transition states leading to them. The tetrasubstituted C-C double bond of the [7-5-5] tricyclic core was therefore carried out using an E1cB-elimination of intermediate 28 to generate the a,b-unsaturated ketone 29 with a 78% isolated yield.
Extensive investigations revealed that the quaternary carbon centre could be accessed through a 2,3-Wittig rearrangement, which occurred stereoselectively on the less hindered face of the bicyclic intermediate. Quite efficiently, this transformation yielded intermediate 36 which contained a vinyl group that was to be used in the construction of the 7-membered ring. Final steps included a ring-closing metathesis and an intramolecular carbonyl ene reaction to complete the [7-5-5] ring system.

This creative study provides an excellent platform for the total synthesis of Daphniphyllum alkaloids that have the [7-5-5] tricyclic core.

To find out more see:

Synthesis of the [7-5-5] tricyclic core of Daphniphyllum alkaloids
Yusuke Kitabayashi, Tohru Fukuyama and Satoshi Yokoshima
DOI: 10.1039/C8OB00859K


Victoria Corless is currently completing her Ph.D. in organic chemistry with Prof. Andrei Yudin at the University of Toronto. Her research is centred on the synthesis of kinetically amphoteric building blocks which offer a versatile platform for the development of chemoselective transformations with particular emphasis on creating novel biologically active molecules.

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Poster prize winner at the 16th Symposium for Host-Guest and Supramolecular Chemistry

The 16th Symposium for Host-Guest and Supramolecular Chemistry is an annual symposium that covers all aspects of the chemical sciences related to molecular recognition and supramolecular chemistry.

This year the symposium was held on 2 – 3 June 2018 at the Tokyo University of Science, Japan. The event included a special lecture by Dr Shigeki Sasaki and invited lectures by Dr Takashi Hayashi and Dr Katsuhiko Ariga.

We are delighted to announce that the Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry poster prize was awarded to: Zhan Yiyang (The University of Tokyo) – Effect of Guest Encapsulation on the Kinetic Stability of a Hydrophobic Assembly

Congratulations Zhan and to all the poster prize winners at the symposium!

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New class of synthetic antibody mimics for improved therapeutics

Molecules capable of mimicking the binding and/or functional sites of proteins represent a promising avenue for the development of potential drug candidates. This strategy allows for the incorporation of key structural features into simpler scaffolds and opens a wide range of opportunities for developing molecules with enhanced and modular biological activities.

A recent OBC publication by Professor Rob Liskamp of Glasgow University addresses a current challenge in the development and application of complementarity determining region (CDR) mimics, which have recently been shown to successfully behave as synthetic antibody mimics.

 

The concept of simplifying large proteins into simpler structures requires the synthesis of preorganized molecular scaffolds, which function as the core structural unit for attaching the biologically active CDR component. Such analogues have been shown to possess increased bioavailability, proteolytic stability and exhibit reduced immunogenic responses.

The group had previously reported the synthesis of a CTV-derived scaffold (Figure, compound 2), onto which different peptide segments could be incorporated, essentially generating synthetic CDRs with novel and tuneable physico-chemical properties. Poor solubulity however, has limited the progress of this class of compound in the drug discovery process.

Their current study focuses on the development of a scalable, one-pot synthesis of water soluble CTV-derived scaffolds (Figure, compounds 3, 4), which incorporate mono or diethylene glycol spacers. Late-stage diversification of the CTV-derived scaffolds is ammenable through Cu(I)-catalyzed azide-alkyne cycloaddition. This allows for the generation of a diverse series of synthetic antibodies, which were shown to mimic the antigen binding site of monoclonal antibody (mAb) infliximab (Remicade)—used for the treatment of human tumour necrosis factor alpha (hTNFa) mediated autoimmune diseases. SPR binding studies against the hTNFa receptor identified 5 leads with KD’s measured between 11 and 66 mM. While further modifications are required to improve solubility for evaluation in vitro, this study demonstrates the potential of this work to extend beyond antibody mimics. As any azide handle can be linked to the CTV-derived scaffold, one can envision the application of this methodology toward alternative protein mimics.

To find out more see:

Synthetic antibody protein mimics of infliximab by molecular scaffolding on novel CycloTriVeratrilene (CTV) derivatives
Ondřej Longin, 
DOI:10.1039/C8OB01104D


Victoria Corless is currently completing her Ph.D. in organic chemistry with Prof. Andrei Yudin at the University of Toronto. Her research is centred on the synthesis of kinetically amphoteric building blocks which offer a versatile platform for the development of chemoselective transformations with particular emphasis on creating novel biologically active molecules.

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Reactivity Caging Strategy for Controlling Bioorthogonal Reactivity

Bioorthogonal reactions offer a unique and highly effective means of studying biological molecules in their native environment. Classical examples include native chemical ligations, Staudinger ligation, and click chemistry though numerous examples have been reported in the literature over the past several decades.

The majority of studies centred around the development of bioorthogonal reagents have focused on improving kinetics and selectivity in vivo. However, less explored are reagents in which their reactivity in biological settings is modulated through controlled activation by light or a specific enzyme.

In their recent OBC publication, Professor Scott Laughlin and coworkers describe the modular control of novel cyclopropane-tetrazine ligation. Previous reports have demonstrated the poor reactivity of C3 disubstituted cyclopropene in these types of reactions due to unfavourable steric interactions between the C3 substituents and the tetrazine during the transition state (Figure A). To this end, 3-N-substituted spirocyclopropenes were designed to control ligation through a “reactivity caging strategy” in which the introduction of a removable bulky N-protecting group sterically inhibits premature reaction with the tetrazine partner (Figure B and C).

The novel cyclopropene scaffold was synthesized from commercially available starting materials in good overall yields and applied successfully to the labelling of a tetrazine-modified protein. Given the widespread use of light-removable nitrogen protecting groups, the group predicts their activatable cyclopropene scaffold will be amenable to control at multiple wavelengths. While optimization of reaction kinetics is still required, this study provides interesting opportunities for the application of diverse caging groups in modulating reactivity for specific biological systems and applications.

To find out more see:

Caged cyclopropenes for controlling bioorthogonal reactivity
Pratik Kumar, 
DOI:10.1039/C8OB01076E


Victoria Corless is currently completing her Ph.D. in organic chemistry with Prof. Andrei Yudin at the University of Toronto. Her research is centred on the synthesis of kinetically amphoteric building blocks which offer a versatile platform for the development of chemoselective transformations with particular emphasis on creating novel biologically active molecules.

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Outstanding Reviewers for Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry in 2017

Outstanding Reviewers for Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry in 2017

We would like to highlight the Outstanding Reviewers for Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry in 2017, as selected by the editorial team, for their significant contribution to the journal. The reviewers have been chosen based on the number, timeliness and quality of the reports completed over the last 12 months.

We would like to say a big thank you to those individuals listed here as well as to all of the reviewers that have supported the journal. Each Outstanding Reviewer will receive a certificate to give recognition for their significant contribution.

Professor Kyo Han Ahn, Pohang University of Science and Technology, South Korea, ORCID: 0000-0001-7192-7215
Dr Yumin Dai, Virginia Tech, USA
Dr Stephen Hashmi, Universität Heidelberg, Germany, ORCID: 0000-0002-6720-8602
Dr Shih-Yuan Liu, Boston College, Merkert Chemistry Centre, USA, ORCID: 0000-0003-3148-9147
Dr Luis Simón, University of Salamanca, Spain, ORCID: 0000-0002-3781-0803
Professor Colin Suckling, University of Strathclyde, UK
Dr Mark Taylor, University of Toronto, Canada, ORCID: 0000-0003-3424-4380
Dr Mario Waser, Johannes Kepler Universität Linz, Austria, ORCID: 0000-0002-8421-8642
Professor Shuli You, Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry, China, ORCID: 0000-0003-4586-8359 
Dr Jian Zhou, East China Normal University, China

We would also like to thank the Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry board and the wider community for their continued support of the journal, as authors, reviewers and readers.

If you would like to become a reviewer for our journal you can find more details in our author and reviewer resource centre.

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