Binding of Zn(II) by the ditopic ligands L1py, L2py and L1para, composed of a cyclam unit linked to the linear polyamines 1,4,8,11-tetraazaundecane (L1py and L2para) and 1,4,7-triazaheptane (L2py) via a 2,6-dimethylpyridinyl (L1py and L2py) or a 1,4-dimethylbenzyl spacer (L2para), has been analyzed by means of potentiometric and 1H and 13C NMR measurements. All ligands form stable mononuclear Zn(II) complexes in a wide pH range, featuring the metal ion bound to the macrocyclic unit. The open-chain polyamine unit can easily bind several protons in aqueous solution affording protonated metal complexes at neutral and acidic pH values. These complexes behave as bifunctional receptors for the anionic substrates N-(phosphonomethyl)glycine (glyphosate or PMG) and ATP. Potentiometric, 1H and 31P NMR measurements show that the Zn(II) complex with L1py is the better receptor for both substrates, thanks to the simultaneous presence of a pyridine linker functionalized at its 2,6 positions and of a flexible linear tetraamine chain. In fact, these structural features allow a stronger interaction of PMG and ATP with both the protonated tetraamine moiety and the Zn(II)–cyclam core.
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