Insane in the membrane!

Well, everyone, that wonderful time of the month has come again. Yes, the next issue of Nature Chemical Biology has gone live. The November issue is a spotlight on membranes, so for those of you who get your kicks by using the alkyl chain tool in Chemdraw, please check it out. It’s also our biggest issue so far, meaning that you may need to get an extra ream of paper before you hit the website.

For those of you physical chemists, Gerald Feigenson discusses a huge problem confronting the field of lipid dynamics: how can we make sense of the membrane in an atomistic way when there are so many things in there? Even excluding all the proteins, there are so different lipids that it seems impossible to develop any kind of detailed model that would include them all. Instead, he suggests that the use of only a few components as representative of larger classes will allow us to make phase diagrams of multi-component behavior. By learning about general principles in this way, we can hope to move towards more complex systems. Although he seems pretty positive about where we’re heading, it looks to me like the physical chemists of the world will be in business for a while yet…

Unrelated to the membrane focus, but of relevance to those of you working hard to make chemical libraries: Tarun Kapoor and coworkers investigate the chemical space around one privileged scaffold, and see (literally) amazing results. Starting with only 100 molecules, they identified 22 candidates that resulted in perturbed cell division phenotypes. This research, along with other recent reports, demonstrates that one good scaffold in the hand may be worth two (or many more) in a random microarray. And by the way, if you like the part of the story about Polo-like kinases, be sure to check out David Glover and team’s efforts in the previous article. In contrast to Kapoor and his colleagues, they use computational modeling to suggest good starting points for designing inhibitors of the kinase.

It’s an exciting time for the crossroads of membrane science and chemistry, as things are getting more molecular/atomistic as the years go by. We hope you like the issue!

Catherine Goodman (assistant editor, Nature Chemical Biology)