Tuneable Control of Organocatalytic Activity through Host–Guest Chemistry

Guotai Li, Fanny Trausel, Michelle P. van der Helm, Benjamin Klemm, Tobias G. Brevé, Susan A.P. van Rossum, Muhamad Hartono, Harm H.P.J. Gerlings, Matija Lovrak, Jan H. van Esch, Rienk Eelkema*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
11 Downloads (Pure)


Dynamic regulation of chemical reactivity is important in many complex chemical reaction networks, such as cascade reactions and signal transduction processes. Signal responsive catalysts could play a crucial role in regulating these reaction pathways. Recently, supramolecular encapsulation was reported to regulate the activities of artificial catalysts. We present a host-guest chemistry strategy to modulate the activity of commercially available synthetic organocatalysts. The molecular container cucurbit[7]uril was successfully applied to change the activity of four different organocatalysts and one initiator, enabling up- or down-regulation of the reaction rates of four different classes of chemical reactions. In most cases CB[7] encapsulation results in catalyst inhibition, however in one case catalyst activation by binding to CB[7] was observed. The mechanism behind this unexpected behavior was explored by NMR binding studies and pKa measurements. The catalytic activity can be instantaneously switched during operation, by addition of either supramolecular host or competitive binding molecules, and the reaction rate can be predicted with a kinetic model. Overall, this signal responsive system proves a promising tool to control catalytic activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14022-14029
JournalAngewandte Chemie - International Edition
Issue number25
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • cucurbit[7]uril
  • host–guest systems
  • organocatalysis
  • responsive systems
  • supramolecular chemistry


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