Supramolecular Polymer/Surfactant Complexes as Catalysts for Phosphate Transfer Reactions

Designing artificial enzymes with tailored molecular interactions between the substrate and active site is of major intellectual and practical significance. We report the improved catalytic efficiency of a supramolecular polymer/surfactant complex comprised of PAIM<sup>–</sup>, a poly­(acrylic acid) derivative with imidazole groups attached to the polymer by amide bonds, and the cationic surfactant cetyltrimethylammonium bromide (CTAB). Supramolecular complex formation, at concentrations below the respective CMC values, provides convenient hydrophobic pockets for the reactants close to the multiple catalytic centers, where imidazole and carboxylate groups act as nucleophiles for the degradation of a model phosphate triester, delivering the highly efficient performance of the supramolecular catalysts. Catalytic effects are on the order of thousands for nucleophilic catalysis and are higher by 2 orders of magnitude for the supramolecular polymer/surfactant complex at pH 9. The reported supramolecular catalytic complexes allow important changes in polarity and, given the presence of functional groups common to a variety of hydrolytic enzymes, could be of general applicability in such reactions.