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Acc Chem Res. 2008 Dec;41(12):1641-52. doi: 10.1021/ar800086w.

Induced helical backbone conformations of self-organizable dendronized polymers.

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  • 1Roy & Diana Vagelos Laboratories, Department of Chemistry, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-6323, USA.


Control of function through the primary structure of a molecule presents a significant challenge with valuable rewards for nanoscience. Dendritic building blocks encoded with information that defines their three-dimensional shape (e.g., flat-tapered or conical) and how they associate with each other are referred to as self-assembling dendrons. Self-organizable dendronized polymers possess a flat-tapered or conical self-assembling dendritic side chain on each repeat unit of a linear polymer backbone. When appended to a covalent polymer, the self-assembling dendrons direct a folding process (i.e., intramolecular self-assembly). Alternatively, intermolecular self-assembly of dendrons mediated by noncovalent interactions between apex groups can generate a supramolecular polymer backbone. Self-organization, as we refer to it, is the spontaneous formation of periodic and quasiperiodic arrays from supramolecular elements. Covalent and supramolecular polymers jacketed with self-assembling dendrons self-organize. The arrays are most often comprised of cylindrical or spherical objects. The shape of the object is determined by the primary structure of the dendronized polymer: the structure of the self-assembling dendron and the length of the polymer backbone. It is therefore possible to predictably generate building blocks for single-molecule nanotechnologies or arrays of supramolecules for bottom-up self-assembly. We exploit the self-organization of polymers jacketed with self-assembling dendrons to elucidate how primary structure determines the adopted conformation and fold (i.e., secondary and tertiary structure), how the supramolecules associate (i.e., quaternary structure), and their resulting functions. A combination of experimental techniques is employed to interrogate the primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary structure of the self-organizable dendronized polymers. We refer to the process by which we interpolate between the various levels of structural information to rationalize function as retrostructural analysis. Retrostructural analysis validates our hypothesis that the self-assembling dendrons induce a helical backbone conformation in cylindrical self-organizable dendronized polymers. This helical conformation mediates unprecedented functions. Self-organizable dendronized polymers have emerged as powerful building blocks for nanoscience by virtue of their dimensions and ability to self-organize. Discrete cylindrical and spherical structures with well-defined dimensions can be visualized and manipulated individually. More importantly, they provide a robust framework for elucidating functions available only at the nanoscale. This Account will highlight structures and functions generated from self-organizable dendronized polymers that enable integration of the nanoworld with its macroscopic universe. Emphasis is placed on those structures and functions derived from the induced helical backbone conformation of cylindrical self-organizable dendronized polymers.

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