Shape-persistent macrocycles are attractive functional targets for synthesis, molecular recognition, and hierarchical self-assembly. Such macrocycles are noncollapsible and geometrically well-defined, and they are traditionally characterized by having repeat units and low conformational flexibility. Here, we find it necessary to refine these ideas in the face of highly flexible yet shape-persistent macrocycles. A molecule is shape-persistent if it has a small change in shape when perturbed by external stimuli (e.g., heat, light, and redox chemistry). In support of this idea, we provide the first examination of the relationships between a macrocycle's shape persistence, its conformational space, and the resulting functions. We do this with a star-shaped macrocycle called cyanostar that is flexible as well as being shape-persistent. We employed molecular dynamics (MD), density functional theory (DFT), and NMR experiments. Considering a thermal bath as a stimulus, we found a single macrocycle has 332 accessible conformers with olefins undergoing rapid interconversion by up-down and in-out motions on short time scales (0.2 ns). These many interconverting conformations classify single cyanostars as flexible. To determine and confirm that cyanostars are shape-persistent, we show that they have a high 87% shape similarity across these conformations. To further test the idea, we use the binding of diglyme to the single macrocycle as guest-induced stimulation. This guest has almost no effect on the conformational space. However, formation of a 2:1 sandwich complex involving two macrocycles enhances rigidity and dramatically shifts the conformer distribution toward perfect bowls. Overall, the present study expands the scope of shape-persistent macrocycles to include flexible macrocycles if, and only if, their conformers have similar shapes.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Colloid and Surface Chemistry