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  1. Abstract

    Spacious M4L6tetrahedra can act as catalytic inhibitors for base‐mediated reactions. Upon adding only 5 % of a self‐assembled Fe4L6cage complex, the conversion of the conjugate addition between ethylcyanoacetate and β‐nitrostyrene catalyzed by proton sponge can be reduced from 83 % after 75 mins at ambient temperature to <1 % under identical conditions. The mechanism of the catalytic inhibition is unusual: the octacationic Fe4L6cage increases the acidity of exogenous water in the acetonitrile reaction solvent by favorably binding the conjugate acid of the basic catalyst. The inhibition only occurs for Fe4L6hosts with spacious internal cavities: minimal inhibition is seen with smaller tetrahedra or Fe2L3helicates. The surprising tendency of the cationic cage to preferentially bind protonated, cationic ammonium guests is quantified via the comprehensive modeling of spectrophotometric titration datasets.

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  2. Abstract

    Appending functional groups to the exterior of Zn4L4self‐assembled cages allows gated control of anion binding. While the unfunctionalized cages contain aryl groups in the ligand that can freely rotate, attaching inert functional groups creates a “doorstop”, preventing rotation and slowing the guest exchange rate, even though the interiors of the host cavities are identically structured. The effects on anion exchange are subtle and depend on multiple factors, including anion size, the nature of the leaving anion, and the electron‐withdrawing ability and steric bulk of the pendant groups. Multiple exchange mechanisms occur, and the nature of the external groups controls associative and dissociative exchange processes: these bulky groups affect both anion egress and ingress, introducing an extra layer of selectivity to the exchange. Small changes can have large effects: affinities for anions as similar as PF6and SbF6can vary by as much as 400‐fold between identically sized cavities.

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  3. Abstract

    A self‐assembled FeII4L6cage was synthesized with 12 internal amines in the cavity. The cage forms as the dodeca‐ammonium salt, despite the cage carrying an overall 8+ charge at the metal centers, extracting protons from displaced water in the reaction. Despite this, the basicity of the internal amines is lower than their counterparts in free solution. The 12 amines have a sliding scale of basicity, with a ≈6 pKaunit difference between the first and last protons to be removed. This moderation of side‐chain basicity in an active site is a hallmark of enzymatic catalysis.

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  4. Water-soluble deep cavitands with cationic functions at the lower rim can selectively bind iodide anions in purely aqueous solution. By pairing this lower rim recognition with an indicator dye that is bound in the host cavity, optical sensing of anions is possible. The selectivity for iodide is high enough that micromolar concentrations of iodide can be detected in the presence of molar chloride. Iodide binding at the “remote” lower rim causes a conformational change in the host, displacing the bound dye from the cavity and effecting a fluorescence response. The sensing is sensitive, selective, and works in complex environments, so will be important for optical anion detection in biorelevant media. 
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  5. Self-assembled Fe4 L 6 cage complexes with variable internal functions can be synthesized from a 2,7-dibromocarbazole ligand scaffold, which orients six functional groups to the cage interior. Both ethylthiomethylether and ethyldimethylamino groups can be incorporated. The cages show strong ligand-centered fluorescence emission and a broad range of guest binding properties. Coencapsulation of neutral organic guests is favored in the larger, unfunctionalized cage cavity, whereas the thioether cage has a more sterically hindered cavity that favors 1 : 1 guest binding. Binding affinities up to 10 6 M −1 in CH3 CN are seen. The dimethylamino cage is more complex, as the internal amines display partial protonation and can be deprotonated by amine bases. This amine cage displays affinity for a broad range of neutral organic substrates, with affinities and stoichiometries comparable to that of the similarly sized thioether cage. These species show that simple variations in ligand backbone allow variations in the number and type of functions that can be displayed towards the cavity of self-assembled hosts, which will have applications in biomimetic sensing, catalysis and molecular recognition. 
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  6. NMR-assisted crystallography—the integrated application of solid-state NMR, X-ray crystallography, and first-principles computational chemistry—holds significant promise for mechanistic enzymology: by providing atomic-resolution characterization of stable intermediates in enzyme active sites, including hydrogen atom locations and tautomeric equilibria, NMR crystallography offers insight into both structure and chemical dynamics. Here, this integrated approach is used to characterize the tryptophan synthase α-aminoacrylate intermediate, a defining species for pyridoxal-5′-phosphate–dependent enzymes that catalyze β-elimination and replacement reactions. For this intermediate, NMR-assisted crystallography is able to identify the protonation states of the ionizable sites on the cofactor, substrate, and catalytic side chains as well as the location and orientation of crystallographic waters within the active site. Most notable is the water molecule immediately adjacent to the substrate β-carbon, which serves as a hydrogen bond donor to the ε-amino group of the acid–base catalytic residue βLys87. From this analysis, a detailed three-dimensional picture of structure and reactivity emerges, highlighting the fate of the L-serine hydroxyl leaving group and the reaction pathway back to the preceding transition state. Reaction of the α-aminoacrylate intermediate with benzimidazole, an isostere of the natural substrate indole, shows benzimidazole bound in the active site and poised for, but unable to initiate, the subsequent bond formation step. When modeled into the benzimidazole position, indole is positioned with C3 in contact with the α-aminoacrylate C β and aligned for nucleophilic attack. Here, the chemically detailed, three-dimensional structure from NMR-assisted crystallography is key to understanding why benzimidazole does not react, while indole does. 
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  7. null (Ed.)
    A spacious Fe( ii )-iminopyridine self-assembled cage complex can catalyze the oxidative dimerization of alkanethiols, with air as stoichiometric oxidant. The reaction is aided by selective molecular recognition of the reactants, and the active catalyst is derived from the Fe( ii ) centers that provide the structural vertices of the host. The host is even capable of size-selective oxidation and can discriminate between alkanethiols of identical reactivity, based solely on size. 
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