- Fujisawa, K.; Humbert-Droz, M.; Letrun, R.; Vauthey, E.; Wesolowski, T. A.; Sakai, N.; Matile, S. “Ion Pair-π Interactions” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2015, 137, 11047-11056
We report that anion−π and cation−π interactions can occur on the same aromatic surface. Interactions of this type are referred to as ion pair−π interactions. Their existence, nature, and significance are elaborated in the context of spectral tuning, ion binding in solution, and activation of cell-penetrating peptides. The origin of spectral tuning by ion pair−π interactions is unraveled with energy-minimized excited-state structures: The solvent- and pH-independent red shift of absorption and emission of push–pull fluorophores originates from antiparallel ion pair−π attraction to their polarized excited state. In contrast, the complementary parallel ion pair−π repulsion is spectroscopically irrelevant, in part because of charge neutralization by intriguing proton and electron transfers on excited push–pull surfaces. With time-resolved fluorescence measurements, very important differences between antiparallel and parallel ion pair−π interactions are identified and quantitatively dissected from interference by aggregation and ion pair dissociation. Contributions from hydrogen bonding, proton transfer, π–π interactions, chromophore twisting, ion pairing, and self-assembly are systematically addressed and eliminated by concise structural modifications. Ion-exchange studies in solution, activation of cell-penetrating peptides in vesicles, and computational analysis all imply that the situation in the ground state is complementary to spectral tuning in the excited state; i.e., parallel rather than antiparallel ion pair−π interactions are preferred, despite repulsion from the push–pull dipole. The overall quite complete picture of ion pair−π interactions provided by these remarkably coherent yet complex results is expected to attract attention throughout the multiple disciplines of chemistry involved.