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Concept: Intermolecular forces


Hydrophobic materials that are robust to harsh environments are needed in a broad range of applications. Although durable materials such as metals and ceramics, which are generally hydrophilic, can be rendered hydrophobic by polymeric modifiers, these deteriorate in harsh environments. Here we show that a class of ceramics comprising the entire lanthanide oxide series, ranging from ceria to lutecia, is intrinsically hydrophobic. We attribute their hydrophobicity to their unique electronic structure, which inhibits hydrogen bonding with interfacial water molecules. We also show with surface-energy measurements that polar interactions are minimized at these surfaces and with Fourier transform infrared/grazing-angle attenuated total reflection that interfacial water molecules are oriented in the hydrophobic hydration structure. Moreover, we demonstrate that these ceramic materials promote dropwise condensation, repel impinging water droplets, and sustain hydrophobicity even after exposure to harsh environments. Rare-earth oxide ceramics should find widespread applicability as robust hydrophobic surfaces.

Concepts: Oxygen, Water, Hydrogen, Chemical properties, Intermolecular forces, Atom, Fourier transform, Ceramic


Molecular knots remain difficult to produce using the current synthetic methods of chemistry because of their topological complexity. We report here the near-quantitative self-assembly of a trefoil knot from a naphthalenediimide-based aqueous disulfide dynamic combinatorial library. The formation of the knot appears to be driven by the hydrophobic effect and leads to a structure in which the aromatic components are buried while the hydrophilic carboxylate groups remain exposed to the solvent. Moreover, the building block chirality constrains the topological conformation of the knot and results in its stereoselective synthesis. This work demonstrates that the hydrophobic effect provides a powerful strategy to direct the synthesis of entwined architectures.

Concepts: Knot theory, Chemical properties, Knot, Stereochemistry, Intermolecular forces, Chemistry, Hydrophobe, Hydrophobic effect


The dissolution of cellulose in NaOH/urea aqueous solution at low temperature is a key finding in cellulose science and technology. In this paper, (15)N and (23)Na NMR experiments were carried out to clarify the intermolecular interactions in cellulose/NaOH/urea aqueous solution. It was found that there are direct interactions between OH(-) anions and amino groups of urea through hydrogen bonds and no direct interaction between urea and cellulose. Moreover, Na(+) ions can interact with both cellulose and urea in aqueous system. These interactions lead to the formation of cellulose-NaOH-urea-H2O inclusion complexes (ICs). (23)Na relaxation results confirmed that the formation of urea-OH(-) clusters can effectively enhance the stability of Na+ ions that attracted to cellulose chains. Low temperature can enhance the hydrogen bonding interaction between OH(-) ions and urea, and improve the binding ability of the NaOH/urea/H2O clusters that attached to cellulose chains. Cryo-TEM observation confirmed the formation of cellulose-NaOH-urea-H2O ICs, which is in extended conformation with mean diameter of about 3.6 nm and mean length of about 300 nm. Possible 3D structure of the ICs was proposed by the M062X/6-31+G(d) theoretical calculation, revealing the O3H···O5 intramolecular hydrogen bonds could remain in the ICs. This work clarified the interactions in cellulose/NaOH/urea aqueous solution and the 3D structure of the cellulose chain in dilute cellulose/NaOH/urea aqueous solution.

Concepts: Oxygen, Hydrogen, Intermolecular forces, Chemistry, Atom, Chemical bonding, Hydrogen bond, Ion


The molecular interaction forces generated during the adsorption of proteins to surfaces were examined by the force-versus-distance (f-d) curve measurements of atomic force microscopy using probes modified with appropriate molecules. Various substrates with polymer brush layers bearing zwitterionic, cationic, anionic, and hydrophobic groups were systematically prepared by surface-initiated atom transfer radical polymerization. Surface interaction forces on these substrates were analyzed by the f-d curve measurements using probes with the same polymer brush layer as the substrate. Repulsive forces, which decreased depending on the ionic strength, were generated between cationic or anionic polyelectrolyte brush layers; these were considered as electrostatic interaction forces. Strong adhesive force was detected between hydrophobic polymer brush layers during retraction; this was corresponding hydrophobic interaction between two hydrophobic polymer layers. In contrast, no significant interaction forces were detected between zwitterionic polymer brush layers. Direct interaction forces between proteins and polymer brush layers were then quantitatively evaluated by the f-d curve measurements using protein-immobilized probes consisting of negatively charged albumin and positively charged lysozyme under physiological conditions. In addition, the amount of protein adsorbed on the polymer brush layer was quantified by surface plasmon resonance measurements. Relatively large amounts of protein adsorbed to the polyelectrolyte brush layers with opposite charges. It was considered that detachment of the protein after contact with the polymer brush layer hardly occurred due to salt formation at the interface. Both proteins adsorbed significantly on hydrophobic polymer brush layer, which was due to hydrophobic interactions at the interface. In contrast, the zwitterionic polymer brush layer exhibited no significant interaction force with proteins and suppressed protein adsorption. Taken together, our results suggest that to obtain the protein repellent surfaces, the surface should not induce the direct interaction forces with proteins after contact with them.

Concepts: Electromagnetism, Electric charge, Molecule, Chemical properties, Intermolecular forces, Atom, Force, Surface plasmon resonance


The incorporation of cholesterol into dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine (DPPC) membranes, even in small amounts, has been shown to significantly alter the properties of the membrane. In this work, force-distance interaction profiles of DPPC membranes containing 8 mole% cholesterol obtained using the surface force apparatus are analyzed in the context of high resolution structural characterization by atomic force microscopy and neutron reflectometry. The adhesion between the mixed membranes was greater than that for pure DPPC and was variable - depending on the number of defects in the outer membrane leaflets. These defects were only detectable by atomic force microscopy and had an average size of 230±30nm and 1-5% surface density in the outer leaflet. The adhesion between the membranes monotonically increased as the thickness of the membrane decreased - in direct correlation with the number of defects present (exposed hydrophobic groups) in the membrane contact region. Due to the low diffusion rate of gel phase membranes, the interaction force profiles were stable and no membrane restructuring was observed.

Concepts: Cell membrane, Intermolecular forces, Atom, Force, Correlation and dependence, Osmosis, Membrane, Neutron reflectometry


Subtle details about a polyelectrolyte’s surrounding environment can dictate its structural features and potential applications. Atomic force microscopy (AFM), surface forces apparatus (SFA) measurements, and coarse-grained molecular dynamics simulations are combined to study the structure of planar polyelectrolyte brushes [poly(styrenesulfonate), PSS] in a variety of solvent conditions. More specifically, AFM images provide a first direct visualization of lateral inhomogeneities on the surface of polyelectrolyte brushes collapsed in solutions containing trivalent counterions. These images are interpreted in the context of a coarse-grained molecular model and are corroborated by accompanying interaction force measurements with the SFA. Our findings indicate that lateral inhomogeneities are absent from PSS brush layers collapsed in a poor solvent without multivalent ions. Together, AFM, SFA, and our molecular model present a detailed picture in which solvophobic and multivalent ion-induced effects work in concert to drive strong phase separation, with electrostatic bridging of polyelectrolyte chains playing an essential role in the collapsed structure formation.

Concepts: Electron, Electric charge, Intermolecular forces, Atom, Force, Computer graphics, Classical mechanics, Contact force


Nonpolar derivatives of heterocyclic aromatic screening hits like the non-selective sirtuin inhibitor splitomicin tend to be poorly soluble in biological fluids. Unlike sp(3) -rich natural products, flat aromatic compounds are prone to stacking and often difficult to optimize into leads with activity in cellular systems. The aim of this work was to identify anchor points for the introduction of sp(3) -rich fragments with polar functional groups into the newly discovered active (IC50  = 5 μM) but nonpolar scaffold 1,2-dihydro-3H-naphth[1,2-e][1,3]oxazine-3-thione by a molecular modeling approach. Docking studies were conducted with structural data from crystallized human SIRT2 enzyme. Subsequent evaluation of the in silico hypotheses through synthesis and biological evaluation of the designed structures was accomplished with the aim to discover new SIRT2 inhibitors with improved aqueous solubility. Derivatives of 8-bromo-1,2-dihydro-3H-naphth[1,2-e][1,3]oxazine-3-thione N-alkylated with a hydrophilic morpholino-alkyl chain at the thiocarbamate group intended for binding in the acetyl-lysine pocket of the enzyme appeared to be promising. Both the sulfur of the thiocarbamate and the bromo substituent were assumed to result in favorable hydrophobic interactions and the basic morpholino-nitrogen was predicted to build a hydrogen bond with the backbone Ile196. While the brominated scaffold showed moderately improved activity (IC50  = 1.8 μM), none of the new compounds displayed submicromolar activity. Synthesis and characterization of the new compounds are reported and the possible reasons for the outcome are discussed.

Concepts: DNA, Molecular biology, Chemical properties, Intermolecular forces, Solubility, Benzene, Enzyme inhibitor, Chemical polarity


The structure of the primary amino acid L-leucine has been determined for the first time by neutron diffraction. This was made possible by the use of modern neutron Laue diffraction to overcome the previously prohibitive effects of crystal size and quality. The packing of the structure into hydrophobic and hydrophilic layers is explained by the intermolecular interaction energies calculated using the PIXEL method. Variable-temperature data collections confirmed the absence of phase transitions between 120 and 300 K in the single-crystal form.

Concepts: Amino acid, Acid, Amine, Ammonia, Crystallography, Fundamental physics concepts, Intermolecular forces, Powder diffraction


We report a real-space visualization of the formation of hydrogen bonding in 8-hydroxyquiline (8-hq) molecular assemblies on a Cu(111) substrate using noncontact atomic force microscopy (NC-AFM). The atomically resolved molecular structures enable a precise determination of the characteristics of hydrogen bonding networks, including the bonding sites, orientations, and lengths. The observation of bond contrast was interpreted by ab initio density functional calculations, which indicated the electron density contribution from the hybridized electronic state of the hydrogen bond. Intermolecular coordination between the dehydrogenated 8-hq and Cu adatoms was also revealed by the submolecular resolution AFM characterization. The direct identification of local bonding configurations by NC-AFM would facilitate detailed investigations of intermolecular interactions in complex molecules with multiple active sites.

Concepts: Electron, Oxygen, Hydrogen, Molecule, Intermolecular forces, Atom, Chemical bonding, Covalent bond


The hydrophobic interaction drives nonpolar solutes to aggregate in aqueous solution, and hence plays a critical role in many fundamental processes in nature. An important property intrinsic to hydrophobic interaction is its cooperative nature, which is originated from the collective motions of water hydrogen bond networks surrounding hydrophobic solutes. This property is widely believed to enhance the formation of hydrophobic core in proteins. However, cooperativity in hydrophobic interactions has not been successfully characterized by experiments. Here, we quantify cooperativity in hydrophobic interactions by real-time monitoring the aggregation of hydrophobic solute (hexaphenylsilole, HPS) in a microfluidic mixer. We show that association of a HPS molecule to its aggregate in water occurs at sub-microsecond, and the free energy change is -5.8 to -13.6 kcal mol(-1). Most strikingly, we discover that cooperativity constitutes up to 40% of this free energy. Our results provide quantitative evidence for the critical role of cooperativity in hydrophobic interactions.

Concepts: Chemical properties, Intermolecular forces, Chemistry, Hydrophobe, Hydrophobic effect, Sociology, Solutions, Hydrophobicity scales