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While the development of highly efficient reactions to make new covalent bonds is critical for chemistry, the discovery of complementary molecules that bind together with high affinity is of extreme importance for supramolecular science.


Nuno Basílio and A. Jorge Parola, researchers at LAQV in Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, Portugal, discovered that a hollow pumpkin-shaped molecule (cucurbit[8]uril) forms a high-affinity complex with a photochromic diarylethene guest in aqueous solution. The structure and stability of the complex were characterized using NMR and optical spectroscopies. This work was developed in collaboration with researchers from ISOF-CNT, Italy and the University of Algarve, Portugal.


In addition to the remarkable affinity of this binding pair, the responsive properties of the diarylethene, which undergo a reversible photo-isomerization reaction, allows control over the association and dissociation of the complex in a remote manner using visible and infrared light.


These relevant properties are difficult to be found together in a supramolecular binding pair. We believe these results pave the way towards new biological applications and light-responsive green materials constructed using self-assembled building blocks.


The study is published as a Hot Paper in Chemistry - A European Journal. Hot Papers are chosen by the Editors for their importance in a rapidly evolving field of high current interest.




A Visible–Near-Infrared Light-Responsive Host–Guest Pair with Nanomolar Affinity in Water

Pedro Ferreira, Barbara Ventura, Andrea Barbieri, José P. Da Silva, César A. T. Laia, A. Jorge Parola,* and Nuno Basílio*

Chem. Eur. J. 2019.

DOI: 10.1002/chem.201806105