Lipophilic balance – a new design principle for transmembrane anion carriers

Hennie Valkenier, Cally J. E. Haynes, Julie Herniman, Philip A. Gale* and Anthony P. Davis*

Chem. Sci 2014, 5, 1128-1134


Despite extensive interest in transmembrane anion carriers (anionophores), the factors that govern activity are still only partly understood. Herein we report a study which identifies a new principle for anionophore design, that of “lipophilic balance”. A series of simple thioureas with identical molecular formulae has been prepared and assayed for chloride/nitrate transport activity in synthetic vesicles. The molecules differ only in the positioning of the phenylthiourea binding unit within an 11-carbon linear chain. They are shown to possess very similar lipophilicities and anion affinities, while a test for leaching establishes that they locate almost exclusively in the vesicle membranes. Notwithstanding their close similarities, activities across the series show >5-fold variation, peaking when the phenylthiourea group is centrally located. The results suggest that transport is favoured by a balanced array of lipophilic substituents, possibly because this arrangement facilitates transfer of the complexed anion into the apolar membrane interior.