Iterative design of a helically folded aromatic oligoamide sequence for the selective encapsulation of fructose

The ab initio design of synthetic molecular receptors for a specific biomolecular guest remains an elusive objective, particularly for targets such as monosaccharides, which have very close structural analogues.
The article reports a powerful approach to produce receptors with very high selectivity for specific monosaccharides. and is illustrated with the conception and production of a foldamer that selectively encapsulates fructose.

The approach uses an iterative design process that exploits the modular structure of folded synthetic oligomer sequences in conjunction with molecular modelling and structural characterization to inform subsequent refinements. Starting from a first-principles design taking size, shape and hydrogen-bonding ability into account and using the high predictability of aromatic oligoamide foldamer conformations and their propensity to crystallize, a sequence that binds to β-D-fructopyranose in organic solvents with atomic-scale complementarity was obtained in just a few iterative modifications. This scheme, which mimics the adaptable construction of biopolymers from a limited number of monomer units, provides a general protocol for the development of selective receptors.