Photoactive assemblies of organic compounds and biomolecules: drug–protein supramolecular systems
The properties of singlet and triplet excited states are strongly medium-dependent. Hence, these species constitute valuable tools as reporters to probe compartmentalised microenvironments, including drug@protein supramolecular systems. In the present review, the attention is focused on the photophysical properties of the probe drugs (rather than those of the protein chromophores) using transport proteins (serum albumins and α1-acid glycoproteins) as hosts. Specifically, fluorescence measurements allow investigation of the structural and dynamic properties of biomolecules or their complexes. Thus, the emission quantum yields and the decay kinetics of the drug singlet excited states provide key information to determine important parameters such as the stoichiometry of the complex, the binding constant, the relative degrees of occupancy of the different compartments, etc. Application of the FRET concept allows determination of donor–acceptor interchromophoric distances. In addition, anisotropy measurements can be related to the orientation of the drug within the binding sites, where the degrees of freedom for conformational relaxation are restricted. Transient absorption spectroscopy is also a potentially powerful tool to investigate the binding of drugs to proteins, where formation of encapsulated triplet excited states is favoured over other possible processes leading to ionic species (i.e. radical ions), and their photophysical properties are markedly sensitive to the microenvironment experienced within the protein binding sites. Even under aerobic conditions, the triplet lifetimes of protein-complexed drugs are remarkably long, which provides a broad dynamic range for identification of distinct triplet populations or for chiral discrimination. Specific applications of the laser flash photolysis technique include the determination of drug distribution among the bulk solution and the protein binding sites, competition of two types of proteins to bind a drug, occurrence of drug–drug interactions within protein binding sites, enzymatic-like activity of the protein or determination of enantiomeric compositions. The use of proteins as supramolecular hosts modifies the photoreactivity of encapsulated substrates by providing protection against oxygen or other external reagents, by imposing conformational restrictions in the binding pockets, or by influencing the stereochemical outcome. In this review, a selected group of examples is presented including decarboxylation, dehalogenation, nucleophilic addition, dimerisation, oxidation, Norrish type II reaction, photo-Fries rearrangement and 6π electrocyclisation.