Can we beat the biotin–avidin pair?: cucurbituril-based ultrahigh affinity host–guest complexes and their applications
The design of synthetic, monovalent host–guest molecular recognition pairs is still challenging and of particular interest to inquire into the limits of the affinity that can be achieved with designed systems. In this regard, cucurbituril (CB), an important member of the host family cucurbit[n]uril (CB[n], n = 5–8, 10, 14), has attracted much attention because of its ability to form ultra-stable complexes with multiple guests. The strong hydrophobic effect between the host cavity and guests, ion–dipole and dipole–dipole interactions of guests with CB portals helps in cooperative and multiple noncovalent interactions that are essential for realizing such strong complexations. These highly selective, strong yet dynamic interactions can be exploited in many applications including affinity chromatography, biomolecule immobilization, protein isolation, biological catalysis, and sensor technologies. In this review, we summarize the progress in the development of high affinity guests for CB, factors affecting the stability of complexes, theoretical insights, and the utility of these high affinity pairs in different challenging applications.