Ex2box: Interdependent modes of binding in a two-nanometer-long synthetic receptor

Michal Juríček, Jonathan C. Barnes, Edward J. Dale, Wei Guang Liu, Nathan L. Strutt, Carson J. Bruns, Nicolaas A. Vermeulen, Kala C. Ghooray, Amy A. Sarjeant, Charlotte L. Stern, Youssry Y. Botros, William A. Goddard, J. Fraser Stoddart*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Incorporation of two biphenylene-bridged 4,4′-bipyridinium extended viologen units into a para-phenylene-based cyclophane results in a synthetic receptor that is ∼2 nm long and adopts a box-like geometry. This cyclophane, Ex2Box4+, possesses the ability to form binary and ternary complexes with a myriad of guest molecules ranging from long π-electron-rich polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, such as tetracene, tetraphene, and chrysene, to π-electron-poor 2,6-dinitrotoluene, 1,2,4-trichlorobenzene, and both the 9,10- and 1,4-anthraquinone molecules. Moreover, Ex2Box4+ is capable of forming one-to-one complexes with polyether macrocycles that consist of two π-electron-rich dioxynaphthalene units, namely, 1,5-dinaphtho[38]crown-10. This type of broad molecular recognition is possible because the electronic constitution of Ex 2Box4+ is such that the pyridinium rings located at the "ends" of the cyclophane are electron-poor and prefer to enter into donor-acceptor interactions with π-electron-rich guests, while the "middle" of the cyclophane, consisting of the biphenylene spacer, is more electron-rich and can interact with π-electron-poor guests. In some cases, these different modes of binding can act in concert to generate one-to-one complexes which possess high stability constants in organic media. The binding affinity of Ex2Box4+ was investigated in the solid state by way of single-crystal X-ray diffraction and in solution by using UV-vis and NMR spectroscopy for 12 inclusion complexes consisting of the tetracationic cyclophane and the corresponding guests of different sizes, shapes, and electronic compositions. Additionally, density functional theory was carried out to elucidate the relative energetic differences between the different modes of binding of Ex2Box4+ with anthracene, 9,10-anthraquinone, and 1,4-anthraquinone in order to understand the degree with which each mode of binding contributes to the overall encapsulation of each guest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12736-12746
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number34
StatePublished - Aug 28 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Catalysis
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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