Activating molecules or functional groups with high chemoselectivity in complex environments is the central goal of transition-metal-based catalysis. Promoting strong interactions between a selected substrate and a catalytic system can also be used to create highly selective and customizable sensors, and these concepts are widely recognized for enzymatic processes. We demonstrate the successful translation of organometallic reactions to sensing capability. Specifically, we have developed single-walled carbon nanotube (SWCNT) chemiresistive sensors for the highly selective detection of acrylates using conditions for the aerobic oxidative Heck reaction. The sensors mirror the catalytic processes and selectively respond to electron-deficient alkenes by adapting a catalytic reaction system to modulate the doping levels in carbon nanotubes. The sensors readily detect acrylates at parts per million (ppm) levels in untreated air. The concepts presented here are generally applicable and can guide future sensor development based upon known catalytic processes.