Structural Implications on the Properties of Self-Assembling Supramolecular Hosts for Fluorescent Guests

Sicheng Tang, Bryan Donaphon, Marcia Levitus, Françisco M. Raymo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Nine amphiphilic macromolecules with decyl and oligo(ethylene glycol) side chains, randomly distributed along a common poly(methacrylate) backbone, were synthesized from the radical copolymerization of appropriate methacrylate monomers. The resulting amphiphilic constructs differ in (1) the ratio between their hydrophobic and hydrophilic components, (2) the length of their oligo(ethylene glycol) chains, and/or (3) the molecular weight. When the ratio between hydrophobic and hydrophilic segments is comprised between 6:1 and 1:2, the macromolecules assemble spontaneously into particles with nanoscaled dimensions in neutral buffer and capture hydrophobic borondipyrromethene chromophores in their interior. However, the critical concentration required for the assembly of these supramolecular hosts as well as their hydrodynamic diameter, supramolecular weight, and number of constituent macromolecular building blocks all vary monotonically with the ratio between hydrophobic and hydrophilic components. Specifically, the critical concentration decreases and the other three parameters increase as the relative hydrophobic content raises. Furthermore, an increase in the relative hydrophobic content also discourages interchromophoric interactions between entrapped guests in both ground and excited states as well as delays access of potential quenchers. In fact, these observations demonstrate that the hydrophobic components must be in excess over their hydrophilic counterparts for optimal supramolecular hosts to assemble. Indeed, a ratio of 6:1 between the numbers of decyl and oligo(ethylene glycol) side chains appears to be ideal for this particular structural design. Under these conditions, supramolecular hosts assemble spontaneously even at relatively low polymer concentrations and their fluorescent guests do not escape into the bulk aqueous solution, despite the reversibility of the noncovalent interactions holding the supramolecular container together. Thus, these systematic investigations provide invaluable structural guidelines to design self-assembling supramolecular hosts with optimal composition for the effective encapsulation of fluorescent guests and can lead to ideal delivery vehicles for the transport of imaging probes to target locations in biological samples.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8676-8687
Number of pages12
Issue number34
StatePublished - Aug 30 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Spectroscopy
  • Electrochemistry


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