Molecular recognition via noncovalent interactions plays a key role in many biological processes such as antigen-antibody interactions, protein folding, the bonding and catalytic transformation of substrates by enzymes, etc. Amongst these noncovalent interactions, electrostatic interactions, hydrogen bonding, π-π interactions, and metal-to-ligand bonding are the most prominent. Exploring noncovalent interactions in host-guest systems that range from small hydrocarbon systems to more complex systems is the main motivation of this thesis. The present study involves the design, synthesis and characterization of clip-shaped molecules as host structures, and an examination of their binding properties with a variety of guests using NMR spectroscopy.
Several clips with a hydrocarbon or glycoluril backbone were synthesized. The binding of cations to small, hydrocarbon-based clips suggests that binding is enhanced by the rigidity and cooperativity between the two sidewalls of the clip. Binding is also very much dependant on the solvent properties.
Glycoluril-based clips built with aromatic sidewalls provide a deep cavity for binding guest molecules. The binding properties of these hosts were studied with several guests such as cations, Lewis acids and Lewis bases. Lewis basic binding sites in the acenaphthene-terminated clip were dominating in guest binding. Complexation-induced conformational changes in the wall-to-wall distance were observed for this clip.
In contrast, for a porphyrin-terminated clip with metal centers, very strong binding to a series of Lewis basic guests of various sizes into the clip cavity was observed. Conformational locking of guests with long alkyl chains was achieved, suggesting that, this clip could be useful as a potential molecular tool for the structural characterization of acyclic molecules with several stereogenic centers. This porphyrin clip was also shown to bind substituted fullerenes in the cavity.