Self-Assembling Organic Nanopores as Synthetic Transmembrane Channels with Tunable Functions
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A long-standing goal in the area of supramolecular self-assembly involves the development of synthetic ion/water channels capable of mimicking the mass-transport characteristics of biological channels and pores. Few examples of artificial transmembrane channels with large lumen, high conductivity and selectivity are known. A review of pronounced biological transmembrane protein channels and some representative synthetic models have been provided in Chapter 1, followed by our discovery and initial investigation of shape-persistent oligoamide and phenylene ethynylene macrocycles as synthetic ion/water channels. In Chapter 2, the systematic structural modification of oligoamide macrocycles 1 , the so-called first-generation of these shape-persistent macrocycles, has led to third-generation macrocycles 3 . The third generation was found to exhibit unprecedented, strong intermolecular association in both the solid state and solution via multiple techniques including X-ray diffraction (XRD), SEM, and 1 H NMR. Fluorescence spectroscopy paired with dynamic light scattering (DLS) revealed that macrocycles 3 can assemble into a singly dispersed nanotubular structure in solution. The resultant self-assembling pores consisting of 3 were examined by HPTS-LUVs assays and BLM studies (Chapter 3) and found to form cation-selective (P K+ /P Cl- = 69:1) transmembrane ion channels with large conductance (200 ∼ 2000 pS for alkali cations) and high stability with open times reaching to 103 seconds. Tuning the aggregation state of macrocycles by choosing an appropriate polar solvent mixture (i.e., 3:1, THF:DMF, v/v) and concentration led to the formation of ion channels with well-defined square top behavior. A parallel study using DLS to examine the size of aggregates was used in conjunction with channel activity assays (LUVs/BLM) to reveal the effects of the aggregation state on channel activity. Empirical evidence now clearly indicates that a preassembled state, perhaps that of a nanotubular assembly, rather than the individual molecules of 3 , is required to partition into the lipid bilayer in order for these macrocycles to act as channels. Further structural modification has led to fourth-generation macrocycles 4 having readily-tunable cavities (Chapter 4). Macrocycles 4 , with a hybrid backbone composed half of the oligoamide and half of the phenylene ethynylene moieties, exhibits similar self-assembling behavior by forming nanotubular stacks. The results of a preliminary study based on LUVs-assays and BLM single channel recording experiments are summarized and clearly indicate that ion channels formed by this fourth-generation exhibit high stability and differing ion selectivity largely consistent with the corresponding structural modification of the interior cavity. Especially, the increased anion conductance observed for 4d indicates that our strategy of tuning supramolecular function based on synthetic modification of the backbone and pore is effective. In Chapter 5, our four-residue tetraurea macrocycles 5 have shown significant potency to selectively interact with the G-quadruplex, leading to a strong stabilization effect for G-quadruplex without binding to duplex DNA as observed by UV-melt assays. The ready synthetic availability of these macrocycles makes them amenable to future chemical modification, which allows systematic improvement of binding affinity and specificity. Moreover, it has been discovered that these macrocycles can partition into lipid bilayers and form very stable transmembrane ion channels with a pore size of ∼5 Å. Preliminary data shows that this smaller ion channel may lead to exceptional ion conducting selectivity, which is rarely seen in the field of synthetic ion pores. These molecules may serve as a unique platform for the rational development of potent and versatile therapeutic agents. The exceptional ion conducting properties of these channels place aromatic oligoamide macrocycles 3 and 4 at a unique position with both high conductance and long channel-opening duration. These results demonstrate that oligoamide macrocycles provide us a reliable platform based on which further development of highly conducting and selective synthetic mass-transporting channels, with functions that are comparable to or even rival those of natural channels and pores, may be developed. Further improvement of these synthetic channels could lead to numerous applications, such as those for complementing ion channel deficiency in clinical medicine, designing biosensors, and the development of new materials, as well as their use in separation and purifications.