Friday, 15 November 2013

Arrr! A treasure map in Chem. Eur. J.!

Avast, me hearties! If there be one thing true 'bout academic journals, it is that there be not enough pirates involved. But lucky for us landlubbers, Chem. Eur. J. has put that to right with their latest cover. A treasure map! Aye and what a beauty she be.

This here map plots us a route well travelled by many. From the heart of that great land Europe, out to the wilds of the new colonies in the USA. I don't recommend using this depiction for your explorations though, the USA seems to have moved to where Africa traditionally lies. Nevertheless a great adventure it must be and anyway the map was charted by chemists not sailors.

The real excitement, as any good buccaneer knows, is of course in the hunt for treasure. This map takes us from a bislactim-ether, across the daring seas towards the final goal of tRNA. Along the way an unusual array of sea monsters present themselves, no sharks, krakens or even an octacoss, but instead those pesky amino acid intermediates and tRNA precursors. A healthy display of obstacles to overcome that only the bravest should attempt and which make any great journey even more rewarding. I can only hope that this discovery opened up chests full of funding for these fortune hunters...

But whatever happened to those great experimentalists of the seven seas, why are they all confined to landlocked labs nowadays? How do you think Blackbeard kept away all the grey hairs for so long? He was one of the first eminent colour chemists. Why do you think pirates were so obsessed with gold? They were all seafaring alchemists. What about the wooden legs and fondness for parrots? Well, some of them liked to branch out into prosthetics and zoology of course.

The Paper: The synthesis of Methylated, Phosphorylated, and Phosphonated 3'-Aminoacyl-tRNAsec Mimics
Found at: Chem. Eur. J. 2013, 19, 15872-15878

A new synthetic route is mapped out by this transatlantic team. The group wished to probe the enzymatic mechanism for the biosynthesis of selenocysteine (sec), which is the only amino acid to be synthesized on its related transfer RNA (tRNA). They prepared complex tRNAsec mimics that were methylated, phosphorylated and phosphonated, with an important amide bond from the ribose moiety that is crucially hydrolysis-resistant. The team wanted to develop these stable structures to gain more insight into the catalytic mechanism for the formation of selenocysteine by methods such as X-ray crystallography.

I'm sure much rum was consumed on the way to creating this little gem but the actual paper has absolutely no mention of buried treasure or pirates at all. The only map they use is 4-dimethylaminopyridine (DMAP), very disappointing indeed. Arr!

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