The continuous recognition and transmission of chemical information between components is the hallmark of biological systems. The binding of substrates to enzymes, the folding of proteins and DNA, and even entire biochemical networks such as photosynthesis all rely on cascades of intermolecular interactions working in concert. However, translating these principles into generalizable synthetic rules is not trivial: so how do we encourage cooperation between molecules within synthetic systems?
In this talk I will discuss a series of design strategies that enable us to construct, deform and hierarchically organize chemical structures using cooperative interactions. Hollow cages constructed using metal-organic assembly alter their morphology in response to binding multiple guests. The motifs explored sort reaction mixtures, break cage symmetry, stabilize labile coordination complexes, slow the rotation of molecular gyroscopes, and promote tunable modes of intermolecular cooperativity. Using lessons learned from these synthetic systems, I will detail rules that enable the reprogramming of native DNA assembly using small molecules, diversifying the toolbox of DNA nanotechnology. In all cases, systems that respond to multiple stimuli simultaneously will be explored, and new applications for bringing multiple species into proximity will be detailed. At the intersection of organic, inorganic and physical chemistry lies the potential to engineer cooperation using non-covalent interactions; we can harness this cooperation to generate in- and out-of-equilibrium dynamic systems.