A rationally designed metal-binding helical peptoid for selective recognition processes†
Metal-binding biopolymers play a significant role in processes, such as regulation, recognition and catalysis, due to their high affinity towards specific metal ions, which they bind selectively from the cellular pool. Many enzymes can bind two or more metal ions, each at a specific binding site, to enable efficient cooperative function. Imitating these recognition abilities might lead to the production of biomimetic materials such as unique chelators and catalysts. Herein, we report a rationally designed helical peptoid bearing two distinct metal binding ligands at positions i and i + 3 (Helix HQT i + 3), which enables the selective recognition of one or two metal ions depending on its environment. Using various spectroscopic techniques, we describe (1) the selective intramolecular binding of Cu2+ and its extraction from a mixture of neighboring metal ions in high concentrations, and (2) the selective intermolecular binding of two different metal ions, including the pair Cu2+ and Zn2+, one at each binding site, for the generation of hetero-bimetallic peptoid duplexes. Thorough analysis and comparison between the spectroscopic data and association constants of the metal complexes formed by Helix HQT i + 3 and those formed by non-helical peptoids, or helical peptoids in which the two metal binding ligands are not pre-organized, revealed that the unique recognition processes performed by Helix HQT i + 3 are controlled by both the sequence and the structure of the peptoid.