Organic Chemistry

Measuring anion binding at biomembrane interfaces



Understanding non-covalent molecular recognition events at biomembrane interfaces is important in biological, medicinal, and materials chemistry research.1 Despite the crucial regulatory roles of anion binding/transport processes at biomembranes, no information is available regarding how strongly anions can bind to naturally occurring or synthetic receptors in lipid bilayer environments compared to their well-established behaviour in solutions.2 To bridge this knowledge gap, we synthesised a flat macrocycle that possesses a record aqueous SO42– affinity among neutral receptors and exploited its unique fluorescence response at interfaces. We show that the determinants of anion binding are extraordinarily different in organic solvents and in lipid bilayers. The high charge density of dihydrogen phosphate and chloride ions prevails in DMSO, however in lipids they fail to bind the macrocycle. Perchlorate and iodide hardly bind in DMSO but show significant affinities for the macrocycle in lipids. Our results demonstrate a surprisingly great advantage of large, charge-diffuse anions to bind to a lipid-embedded synthetic receptor mainly attributed to their higher polarisabilities and deeper penetration into the bilayer, beyond the common knowledge of dehydration energy-governed selectivity. The elucidation of these principles enhances our understanding of biological anion recognition functions in membranes and guides the design of ionophores and molecular machines operating at biomembrane interfaces.

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Electronic supplementary information
Electronic supplementary information