Interaction of anions with the surface of a coordination cage in aqueous solution probed by their effect on a cage-catalysed Kemp elimination†
An octanuclear M8L12 coordination cage catalyses the Kemp elimination reaction of 5-nitro-1,2-benzisoxazole (NBI) with hydroxide to give 2-cyano-4-nitrophenolate (CNP) as the product. In contrast to the previously-reported very efficient catalysis of the Kemp elimination reaction of unsubstituted benzisoxazole, which involves the substrate binding inside the cage cavity, the catalysed reaction of NBI with hydroxide is slower and occurs at the external surface of the cage, even though NBI can bind inside the cage cavity. The rate of the catalysed reaction is sensitive to the presence of added anions, which bind to the 16+ cage surface, displacing the hydroxide ions from around the cage which are essential reaction partners in the Kemp elimination. Thus we can observe different binding affinities of anions to the surface of the cationic cage in aqueous solution by the extent to which they displace hydroxide and thereby inhibit the catalysed Kemp elimination and slow down the appearance of CNP. For anions with a −1 charge the observed affinity order for binding to the cage surface is consistent with their ease of desolvation and their ordering in the Hofmeister series. With anions that are significantly basic (fluoride, hydrogen carbonate, carboxylates) the accumulation of the anion around the cage surface accelerates the Kemp elimination compared to the background reaction with hydroxide, which we ascribe to the ability of these anions to participate directly in the Kemp elimination. This work provides valuable mechanistic insights into the role of the cage in co-locating the substrate and the anionic reaction partners in a cage-catalysed reaction.