Supramolecular control of transition metal complexes in water by a hydrophobic cavity: a bio-inspired strategy
Supramolecular chemistry in water is a very challenging research area. In biology, water is the universal solvent where transition metal ions play major roles in molecular recognition and catalysis. In enzymes, it participates in substrate binding and/or activation in the heart of a pocket defined by the folded protein. The association of a hydrophobic cavity with a transition metal ion is thus a very appealing strategy for controlling the metal ion properties in the very competitive water solvent. Various systems based on intrinsically water-soluble macrocyclic structures such as cyclodextrins, cucurbituryls, and metallo-cages have been reported. Others use calixarenes and resorcinarenes functionalized with hydrophilic substituents. One approach for connecting a metal complex to these cavities is to graft a ligand for metal ion binding at their edge. Early work with cyclodextrins has shown Michaelis-Menten like catalysis displaying enhanced kinetics and substrate-selectivity. Remarkable examples of regio- and stereo-selective transformation of substrates have been reported as well. Dynamic two-phase systems for transition metal catalysis have also been developed. They rely on either water-transfer of the metal complex through ligand embedment or synergistic coordination of a metal ion and substrate hosting. Another strategy consists in using metallo-cages, which provide a well-defined hydrophobic space, to stabilize metal complexes in water. When the cages can host simultaneously a substrate and a reactive metal complex, size- and regio-selective catalysis was obtained. Finally, construction of a polydentate coordination site closely interlocked with a calixarene or resorcinarene macrocycle has been shown to be a very fruitful strategy for obtaining metal complexes with remarkable hosting properties. For each of these systems, the synergism resulting from the biomimetic association of a hydrophobic cavity and a metal ion is discussed within the objective of developing new tools for either selective molecular recognition (with analytical perspectives) or performant catalysis, in water.
- This article is part of the themed collections: Catalysis, 2015 Hot Articles in Organic and Biomolecular Chemistry and Supramolecular Chemistry in Water