Strategies and Tactics for the Metal-Directed Synthesis of Rotaxanes, Knots, Catenanes, and Higher Order Links



More than a quarter of a century after the first metal template synthesis of a [2]catenane in Strasbourg, there now exists a plethora of strategies available for the construction of mechanically bonded and entwined molecular level structures. Catenanes, rotaxanes, knots and Borromean rings have all been successfully accessed by methods in which metal ions play a pivotal role. Originally metal ions were used solely for their coordination chemistry; acting either to gather and position the building blocks such that subsequent reactions generated the interlocked products or by being an integral part of the rings or “stoppers” of the interlocked assembly. Recently the role of the metal has evolved to encompass catalysis: the metal ions not only organize the building blocks in an entwined or threaded arrangement but also actively promote the reaction that covalently captures the interlocked structure. This Review outlines the diverse strategies that currently exist for forming mechanically bonded molecular structures with metal ions and details the tactics that the chemist can utilize for creating cross-over points, maximizing the yield of interlocked over non-interlocked products, and the reactions-of-choice for the covalent capture of threaded and entwined intermediates.