Molecular Machines and Motors

Volume 354 of the series Topics in Current Chemistry pp 111-138


Synthetic Molecular Walkers

  • David A. LeighAffiliated withSchool of Chemistry, University of Manchester Email author 
  • , Urszula LewandowskaAffiliated withSchool of Chemistry, University of Manchester
  • , Bartosz LewandowskiAffiliated withSchool of Chemistry, University of Manchester
  • , Miriam R. WilsonAffiliated withSchool of Chemistry, University of Manchester

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In biological systems, molecular motors have been developed to harness Brownian motion and perform specific tasks. Among the cytoskeletal motor proteins, kinesins ensure directional transport of cargoes to the periphery of the cell by taking discrete steps along microtubular tracks. In the past decade there has been an increasing interest in the development of molecules that mimic aspects of the dynamics of biological systems and can became a starting point for the creation of artificial transport systems.

To date, both DNA-based and small-molecule walkers have been developed, each taking advantage of the different chemistries available to them. DNA strollers exploit orthogonal base pairing and utilize strand-displacement reactions to control the relative association of the component parts. Small-molecule walkers take advantage of the reversibility of weak noncovalent interactions as well as the robustness of dynamic covalent bonds in order to transport molecular fragments along surfaces and molecular tracks using both diffusional processes and ratchet mechanisms. Here we review both types of synthetic systems, including their designs, dynamics, and how they are being used to perform functions by controlled mechanical motion at the molecular level.


Diffusion processes DNA machines DNA motors DNA walkers Dynamic covalent chemistry Michael addition Molecular machines Molecular motors Molecular walkers One-dimensional random walk