molecular recognition (rus. молекулярное распознавание) — specific interaction between two or more molecules through noncovalent bonds.


Molecular recognition is one of the key concepts of supramolecular chemistry [1]. It is distinguished from nonspecific molecular interaction by its selective nature. Molecular recognition is based on the presence in a molecule (receptor, or “host”) of a selective binding site to another molecule (ligand, or “guest”). Molecular recognition is based on molecular complementary between receptor and ligand, i.e. structure and energy matching.

Molecular recognition implies the storage (on molecular level) and readout (on supramolecular level) of information, so it plays an important role in biological systems. The selective nature of binding for antibodies and enzymes is defined by the specific amino acid sequence and spatial arrangement of amino-acid residues in the active centre of a protein, and for DNA and RNA — by the specific nucleotide sequence. Modern chemistry and molecular biology methods make it possible to create oligopeptide and oligonucleotide sequences (aptamers) capable of highly selective binding to certain substances.

Molecular recognition underlies the capability of certain nanostructures to self-assemble. For instance, the pairing of complementary nucleotide bases is exploited to build nanostructures based on DNA fragments [3].


  • Shirinsky Vladimir P.


  1. J-M Lehn. Supramolecular Chemistry. Concepts and Perspectives. — Wiley-VCH, 1995. - 271 p.
  2. J. W. Steed and J. L. Atwood, "Supramolecular Chemistry", 2nd Ed, J. Wiley & Sons: Chichester, 2009. - 990 p.
  3. Li H. et al. Nanofabrication by DNA self-assembly // Mater. Today. 2009. V. 12. P. 24–32.
  4. He Y. et al. Hierarchical Self-Assembly of Symmetric Supramolecular Polyhedra // Nature. 2008. V. 452, №7184. P. 198–201.

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