Electronic Effects of Ligand Substitution in a Family of CoII 2 PARACEST pH Probes

Agnes E. Thorarinsdottir, Scott M. Tatro, T. David Harris*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


We report three new Co2-based paramagnetic chemical exchange saturation transfer (PARACEST) probes with the ability to ratiometrically quantitate pH. A CoII 2 complex, [LCo2(etidronate)]-, featuring tetra(carboxamide) and OH-substituted etidronate ligands with opposing pH-dependent CEST peak intensities, was previously shown to exhibit a linear correlation between log(CESTOH/CESTNH) and pH in the pH range 6.5-7.6 that provided a sensitivity of 0.99(7) pH unit-1 at 37 °C. Here, we demonstrate through a series of CF3-functionalized CoII 2 complexes [(XL′)Co2(etidronate)]- (X = NO2, F, Me), that modest changes in the electronic structure of CoII centers through remote ligand substitution can significantly affect the NMR and CEST properties of Co2-based PARACEST probes. Variable-pH NMR and CEST analyses reveal that the chemical shifts of the ligand protons are highly affected by the nature of the X substituent. The ratios of OH and NH CEST peak intensities at 115 and 88, 93 and 79, and 88 and 76 ppm for X = NO2, F, and Me, respectively, afford pH calibration curves with remarkably high sensitivities of 1.49(9), 1.48(7), and 2.04(5) pH unit-1 across the series. The 1.5-2-fold enhancement in pH sensitivity for the CF3-functionalized Co2 probes stems from the complete separation of the OH and NH CEST peaks. Furthermore, incorporation of electron-withdrawing CF3 groups shifts the detection window to a more acidic range of pH 6.2-7.4. Finally, the CoII 2 complexes are found to be extremely robust toward substitution and oxidation in aqueous solutions. Taken together, these results highlight the unique ability of transition metal-based PARACEST probes to provide a highly sensitive concentration-independent measure of pH and demonstrate that modest ligand modifications can be a powerful tool for optimizing the pH sensing performance of these probes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11252-11263
Number of pages12
JournalInorganic chemistry
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 4 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Electronic Effects of Ligand Substitution in a Family of CoII 2 PARACEST pH Probes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this