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J Am Chem Soc. 2007 Dec 5;129(48):15054-9. Epub 2007 Nov 10.

Self-assembly of fluorescent inclusion complexes in competitive media including the interior of living cells.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Walther Cancer Research Center, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana 46556, USA.


Anthracene-containing tetralactam macrocycles are prepared and found to have an extremely high affinity for squaraine dyes in chloroform (log Ka = 5.2). Simply mixing the two components produces highly fluorescent, near-infrared inclusion complexes in quantitative yield. An X-ray crystal structure shows the expected hydrogen bonding between the squaraine oxygens and the macrocycle amide NH residues, and a high degree of cofacial aromatic stacking. The kinetics and thermodynamics of the assembly process are very sensitive to small structural changes in the binding partners. For example, a macrocycle containing two isophthalamide units associates with the squaraine dye in chloroform 400,000 times faster than an analogous macrocycle containing two 2,6-dicarboxamidopyridine units. Squaraine encapsulation also occurs in highly competitive media such as mixed aqueous/organic solutions, vesicle membranes, and the organelles within living cells. The highly fluorescent inclusion complexes possess emergent properties; that is, as compared to the building blocks, the complexes have improved chemical stabilities, red-shifted absorption/emission maxima, and different cell localization propensities. These are useful properties for new classes of near-infrared fluorescent imaging probes.

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