Two-dimensional (2D) materials are among the most promising candidates for next-generation electronics due to their atomic thinness, allowing for flexible transparent electronics and ultimate length scaling1. Thus far, atomically thin p–n junctions2,3,4,5,6,7,8, metal–semiconductor contacts9,10,11, and metal–insulator barriers12,13,14 have been demonstrated. Although 2D materials achieve the thinnest possible devices, precise nanoscale control over the lateral dimensions is also necessary. Here, we report the direct synthesis of sub-nanometre-wide one-dimensional (1D) MoS2 channels embedded within WSe2 monolayers, using a dislocation-catalysed approach. The 1D channels have edges free of misfit dislocations and dangling bonds, forming a coherent interface with the embedding 2D matrix. Periodic dislocation arrays produce 2D superlattices of coherent MoS2 1D channels in WSe2. Using molecular dynamics simulations, we have identified other combinations of 2D materials where 1D channels can also be formed. The electronic band structure of these 1D channels offers the promise of carrier confinement in a direct-gap material and the charge separation needed to access the ultimate length scales necessary for future electronic applications.