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Taken to the molecular level, the concept of "tweezers" opens a rich and fascinating field at the convergence of molecular recognition, biomimetic chemistry and nanomachines. Composed of a spacer bridging two interaction sites, the behaviour of molecular tweezers is strongly influenced by the flexibility of their spacer. Operating through an "induced-fit" recognition mechanism, flexible molecular tweezers select the conformation(s) most appropriate for substrate binding. Their adaptability allows them to be used in a variety of binding modes and they have found applications in chirality signalling. Rigid spacers, on the contrary, display a limited number of binding states, which lead to selective and strong substrate binding following a "lock and key" model. Exquisite selectivity may be expressed with substrates as varied as C(60) , nanotubes and natural cofactors, and applications to molecular electronics and enzyme inhibition are emerging. At the crossroad between flexible and rigid spacers, stimulus-responsive molecular tweezers controlled by ionic, redox or light triggers belong to the realm of molecular machines, and, applied to molecular tweezing, open doors to the selective binding, transport and release of their cargo. Applications to controlled drug delivery are already appearing. The past 30 years have seen the birth of molecular tweezers; the next many years to come will surely see them blooming in exciting applications.
Faculté de Pharmacie, Université de Montréal, PO Box 6128 Downtown Station, Montréal, QC, H3C 3J7 (Canada).
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Chemphyschem : a European journal of chemical physics and physical chemistry
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