Organocatalytic Control over a Fuel-Driven Transient-Esterification Network

Michelle P. van der Helm, Chang Lin Wang, Bowen Fan, Mariano Macchione, Eduardo Mendes, Rienk Eelkema*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)
38 Downloads (Pure)


Signal transduction in living systems is the conversion of information into a chemical change, and is the principal process by which cells communicate. In nature, these functions are encoded in non-equilibrium (bio)chemical reaction networks (CRNs) controlled by enzymes. However, man-made catalytically controlled networks are rare. We incorporated catalysis into an artificial fuel-driven out-of-equilibrium CRN, where the forward (ester formation) and backward (ester hydrolysis) reactions are controlled by varying the ratio of two organocatalysts: pyridine and imidazole. This catalytic regulation enables full control over ester yield and lifetime. This fuel-driven strategy was expanded to a responsive polymer system, where transient polymer conformation and aggregation are controlled through fuel and catalyst levels. Altogether, we show that organocatalysis can be used to control a man-made fuel-driven system and induce a change in a macromolecular superstructure, as in natural non-equilibrium systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20604-20611
Number of pages8
JournalAngewandte Chemie - International Edition
Issue number46
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • acetylation
  • chemical reaction networks
  • organocatalysis
  • out-of-equilibrium systems
  • polymers


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