Size and shape criteria for guest binding inside the cavity of an octanuclear cubic coordination cage in water have been established using a new fluorescence displacement assay to quantify guest binding. For aliphatic cyclic ketones of increasing size (from C5 to C11), there is a linear relationship between ΔG for guest binding and the guest’s surface area: the change in ΔG for binding is 0.3 kJ mol–1 Å–2, corresponding to 5 kJ mol–1 for each additional CH2 group in the guest, in good agreement with expectations based on hydrophobic desolvation. The highest association constant is K = 1.2 × 106 M–1 for cycloundecanone, whose volume is approximately 50% of the cavity volume; for larger C12 and C13 cyclic ketones, the association constant progressively decreases as the guests become too large. For a series of C10 aliphatic ketones differing in shape but not size, ΔG for guest binding showed no correlation with surface area. These guests are close to the volume limit of the cavity (cf. Rebek’s 55% rule), so the association constant is sensitive to shape complementarity, with small changes in guest structure resulting in large changes in binding affinity. The most flexible members of this series (linear aliphatic ketones) did not bind, whereas the more preorganized cyclic ketones all have association constants of 104–105 M–1. A crystal structure of the cage·cycloundecanone complex shows that the guest carbonyl oxygen is directed into a binding pocket defined by a convergent set of CH groups, which act as weak hydrogen-bond donors, and also shows close contacts between the exterior surface of the disc-shaped guest and the interior surface of the pseudospherical cage cavity despite the slight mismatch in shape.
Turega, S., Cullen, W., Whitehead, M., Hunter, C. A., & Ward, M. D. (2014). Mapping the Internal Recognition Surface of an Octanuclear Coordination Cage Using Guest Libraries. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 136(23), 8475-8483. https://doi.org/10.1021/ja504269m