Signal transduction in a covalent post-assembly modification cascade

02 Oct 2017

Natural reaction cascades control the movement of biomolecules between cellular compartments. Inspired by these systems, we report a synthetic reaction cascade employing post-assembly modification reactions to direct the partitioning of supramolecular complexes between phases. The system is composed of a self-assembled tetrazine-edged FeII8L12 cube and a maleimide-functionalized FeII4L6 tetrahedron. Norbornadiene (NBD) functions as the stimulus that triggers the cascade, beginning with the inverse-electron-demand Diels–Alder reaction of NBD with the tetrazine moieties of the cube. This reaction generates cyclopentadiene as a transient by-product, acting as a relay signal that subsequently undergoes a Diels–Alder reaction with the maleimide-functionalized tetrahedron. Cyclooctyne can selectively inhibit the cascade by outcompeting NBD as the initial trigger. Initiating the cascade with 2-octadecyl NBD leads to selective alkylation of the tetrahedron upon cascade completion. The increased lipophilicity of the C18-tagged tetrahedron drives this complex into a non-polar phase, allowing its isolation from the initially inseparable mixture of complexes.