Control of porphyrin interactions via structural changes of a peptoid scaffold

Org Biomol Chem. 2017 Nov 22;15(45):9670-9679. doi: 10.1039/c7ob02398g.


Nature utilizes optimally organized pigments in light-harvesting complexes. To mimic the natural photosynthetic proteins, effective control over inter-pigment interactions is necessary to attain the desired photophysical properties. Previously, we developed porphyrin-peptoid conjugates (PPCamide) and displayed two porphyrins at defined positions on an α-helical peptoid using a flexible n-butyl linker. Herein, we synthesized new porphyrin-peptoid conjugates (PPCC-C), where porphyrins are conjugated through a rigid C-C linkage to the helical peptoid via the Suzuki-Miyaura cross-coupling reaction. With PPCC-C, we studied the effects of backbone conformation, inter-porphyrin distance, and the linker flexibility on porphyrin interactions. When the rigid C-C linkage was used, conformational homogeneity of the PPC increased, providing more effective intramolecular excitonic couplings between the porphyrins; however, the intermolecular porphyrin J-aggregation decreased. In PPCC-C with a nonameric peptoid backbone, the formation of a threaded loop conformation was observed, which could be switched back to a helical conformation by N-terminal acetylation or by the addition of a protic solvent. This threaded loop-to-helix conversion restored the intramolecular porphyrin interactions. Our results suggest that PPCs represent an excellent system for control over porphyrin interactions and therefore are useful as a model system to elucidate pigment interactions in nature or as a molecular construct with switchable photophysical properties.

MeSH terms

  • Molecular Dynamics Simulation
  • Molecular Structure
  • Peptoids / chemical synthesis
  • Peptoids / chemistry*
  • Peptoids / isolation & purification
  • Porphyrins / chemistry*


  • Peptoids
  • Porphyrins