The focus of this research project will be on halogen bonding, namely any noncovalent interactions involving halogen atoms as electrophilic species (electron density acceptor sites, Lewis acids, halogen bonding-donors). In particular, the overall goal of the project will be to fully elucidate the capabilities and properties of halogen atoms as recognition sticky sites in the context of biomolecules.
The general objective of this research project will be achieved through the application of a multi-dimensional approach to the understanding of the intermolecular interactions involving halogenated molecules in chemistry and biology. The programme of work will centre around three closely integrated and synergistic strands. The common theme is to exploit halogen bonding for the design of smart peptides and foldamers (Strand 1), the obtainment of complexes of polyhalogenated organic pollutants with serum proteins (Strand 2), and to assemble biomimetic sensors for polyhalogenated organic pollutants (Strand 3).
For the first time a multidisciplinary team composed by synthetic chemists, small molecule crystallographers, biologists, physicists, and protein crystallographers will join forces around the fundamental issues of: a) contributing to the establishment of the nature and properties of halogen bonding in ligand/biomolecule systems; b) improving our understanding of long-distance intermolecular interactions and their role on the energy profiles of biochemical transformations; c) facilitating preparation of more rationally designed new halogenated drugs; d) allowing for the mechanistic understanding of reactivity of halogen-containing molecules for the development of efficient and "green" synthetic and bioremediation methods.
The overall aim of this project is, therefore, to enlighten to the scientific community the potential that halogen bonding has to become a very powerful tool in the manipulation of molecular recognition phenomena in chemistry and biology.