Macromolecular semi-rigid nanocavities for cooperative recognition of specific large molecular shapes

T. Imaoka, Y. Kawana, T. Kurokawa, K. Yamamoto
Nature Commun. 2013, 4, 2581.


Molecular shape recognition for larger guest molecules (typically over 1 nm) is a difficult task because it requires cooperativity within a wide three-dimensional nanospace coincidentally probing every molecular aspect (size, outline shape, flexibility and specific groups). Although the intelligent functions of proteins have fascinated many researchers, the reproduction by artificial molecules remains a significant challenge. Here we report the construction of large, well-defined cavities in macromolecular hosts. Through the use of semi-rigid dendritic phenylazomethine backbones, even subtle differences in the shapes of large guest molecules (up to ~2 nm) may be discriminated by the cooperative mechanism. A conformationally fixed complex with the best-fitting guest is supported by a three-dimensional model based on a molecular simulation. Interestingly, the simulated cavity structure also predicts catalytic selectivity by a ruthenium porphyrin centre, demonstrating the high shape persistence and wide applicability of the cavity.