Designing bioresponsive nanomaterials for intracellular self-assembly

In this review, our group critically discuss chemical concepts to build synthetic architectures in cells and also present strategies that exploit various complex cellular environments to alter biological functions. Unlike conventional biological tools, the development of chemistry-based platform is in its infancy as we have only begun to understand few key processes involved in structural dynamics and equilibrium. Hence, there is a huge gap in elucidating molecular and macromolecular mechanisms that explains the impact these structures have on biological systems. As such, this review seeks to inspire the community and rally efforts to explore the uncharted grounds of structural based functions.

This review first describes a chemical perspective of a living mammalian cell, where its compartmentalized organelles act as reaction vessels that promote specific types of chemistry. In addition, an understanding of cellular transport pathways is also discussed as reagents have to traverse these barriers to reach their targeted location. Concentration effects and limitations depending on chemical structure and molecular design are examined to categorize different functional group families. The first chapters provide an easy-to-understand background to achieve an understanding towards basic properties of the cell and various scaffolds.

The next chapters are arranged based on various stimulus responsive chemistry that works under physiological conditions which are used to control the location and specificity to assemble the designated architecture. Since every organelle possess a unique environment, each responsive chemistry will consequently be specific to each organelle location. Using the different categories of chemical tools as a basis, we discuss their mechanisms of operation and also briefly look into the biological consequences of the eventual structure formation.

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