Benzobis(imidazolium)–Cucurbit[8]uril Complexes for Binding and Sensing Aromatic Compounds in Aqueous Solution

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The utilities of benzobis(imidazolium) salts (BBIs) as stable and fluorescent components of supramolecular assemblies involving the macrocyclic host, cucurbit[8]uril (CB[8]), are described. CB[8] has the unusual ability to bind tightly and selectively to two different guests in aqueous media, typically methyl viologen (MV) as the first guest, followed by an indole, naphthalene, or catechol-containing second guest. Based on similar size, shape, and charge, tetramethyl benzobis(imidazolium) (MBBI) was identified as a potential alternative to MV that would increase the repertoire of guests for cucurbit[8]uril. Isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC) studies showed that MBBI binds to CB[8] in a 1:1 ratio with an equilibrium association constant (Ka) value of 5.7×105 M−1, and that the resulting MBBI⋅CB[8] complex binds to a series of aromatic second guests with Ka values ranging from 103 to 105 M−1. These complexation phenomena were supported by mass spectrometry, which confirmed complex formation, and a series of NMR studies that showed the expected upfield perturbation of aromatic peaks and of the MBBI methyl peaks. Surprisingly, the binding behavior of MBBI is strikingly similar to that of MV, and yet MBBI offers a number of substantial advantages for many applications, including intrinsic fluorescence, high chemical stability, and broad synthetic tunability. Indeed, the intense fluorescence emission of the MBBI⋅CB[8] complex was quenched upon binding to the second guests, thus demonstrating the utility of MBBI as a component for optical sensing. Building on these favorable properties, the MBBI⋅CB[8] system was successfully applied to the sequence-selective recognition of peptides as well as the controlled disassembly of polymer aggregates in water. These results broaden the available guests for the cucurbit[n]uril family and demonstrate potentially new applications.





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Chemistry - A European Journal