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Self-Assembly of Functionalized Supramolecular Structures


Enzymes are capable of exquisite selectivity in catalysis chemical reactions because of a well-evolved mechanism that binds substrates in internal active sites based on size and shape complementarity. The cavities of these enzymes are decorated with organic or inorganic groups which can promote reactivity once the substrate is non-covalently bound. Synthetic molecular hosts to date have been able to bind to substrates in a similar, biomimetic fashion, but functionalized molecular hosts are still virtually unknown. One convenient way to prepare molecular hosts is by the self-assembly of organic coordinating ligands with suitable metal salts. The reversible dative bonds holding these cage structures together allow incorrect products to break apart and reform, favoring creation of the most thermodynamically stable product. This leads to discrete, solution phase cages that can function as cavity-containing hosts. Some of these hosts have shown efficacy as catalysts for pericyclic reactions due to favorable transition states of the bound substrates. These cages, however, fail to orient reactive functional groups into their interiors. Truly biomimetic cages will require modifying traditional self-assembled targets to incorporate these reactive functionalities. This work explores the self-assembly of metal-organic cages displaying covalent modifications on their interior. Incorporation of unreactive and poorly reactive groups was found to have a significant impact on the outcome of the self-assembly process. Cages with endohedral alcoholic functionality were found to have different binding properties than unfunctionalized analogs. Cages with introverted alcohol groups were also exploited for their ability to self-catalyze reactions on the interior of the hosts. The metal vertices themselves could also be used as functional groups, and showed the ability to sense neutral analytes in hybrid dative/hydrogen bonded self-assemblies.

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