Chemical Complexity--Supramolecular Self-Assembly of Synthetic and Biological Building Blocks in Water

Chem Soc Rev. 2010 Aug;39(8):2806-16. doi: 10.1039/b922348g. Epub 2010 Jun 29.


Aqueous supramolecular chemistry, the non-covalent assembly of simple building blocks into higher ordered architectures in water has received much focus recently. Biological systems are able to form complex, and well-defined microstructures essential to cellular function, and supramolecular chemistry has demonstrated its utility in assembling molecules to form increasingly complex assemblies. This tutorial review will summarise non-covalent building blocks based on both synthetic and biological systems in an aqueous environment, emphasising the complexity of the assemblies formed. Examples of higher ordered assemblies will be highlighted, from supramolecular plastics to spider silks, towards more compartmentalised protocell precursors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carbohydrate Metabolism
  • Hydrogen Bonding
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Peptides / chemistry
  • Peptides / metabolism
  • Polymers / chemistry
  • Water / chemistry*
  • Water / metabolism*


  • Peptides
  • Polymers
  • Water