The Recognition and Sensing of Anions through “Positive Allosteric Effects” Using Simple Urea−Amide Receptors

The design, synthesis, and X-ray crystallographic analysis of three simple diaryl-urea based anion receptors possessing an amide moiety on one of the aryl groups, and an electron withdrawing CF3 group on the other, is described. The three receptors differ only in the position of the amide functionality relative to the hydrogen bonding urea moiety (being para, meta, and ortho for 1, 2, and 3, respectively). This simple modification was shown to have a significant effect on the anion recognition ability, the strength of the recognition process, and the stoichiometry (host/guest) for these sensors. We demonstrate, by using both UV−vis absorption and 1H NMR spectroscopy, that these factors are caused by the ability of the amide moiety to both modulate the anion binding selectivity and the sensitivity of the urea moiety. We also demonstrate that, in the case of 1 and 2, this anion recognition at the urea moiety leads to concomitant activation (through enhanced inductive effect) in the amide functionality toward anions, which leads to the formation of an overall 1:2 (sensor/anion) binding stoichiometry for these receptors. This “activation” we describe as being an example of a “positive allosteric activation” by the urea site, caused directly by the first anion binding interaction, which to the best of our knowledge, has not been previously demonstrated for anion recognition and sensing.