The field of synthetic organic chemistry has reached such maturity that, with sufficient effort and resources, the synthesis of virtually any small molecule which exhibits reasonable stability at room temperature can be realized. While representing a monumental achievement for the field, the ability to exert precise control over molecular structure is just a means to an end, and it is frequently the responsibility of the synthetic chemist to determine which molecules should actually be synthesized. For better or worse, there exists no competitive free market in academia for new molecules, and as a result, the decision of which compounds should be synthesized is seldom driven by the forces of supply and demand; rather, it is guided by the synthetic chemist's interest in an anticipated structure-function relationship or in the properties of a previously unstudied class of molecules. As a consequence, there exists a pervasive need for chemists with synthetic expertise in fields (e.g., molecular imaging) and subdisciplines of chemistry (e.g., physical chemistry) in which the identification of promising synthetic targets dramatically outpaces the synthetic output in that field or subdiscipline, and ample opportunities are available for synthetic chemists who choose to pursue such cross-disciplinary research. This thesis describes synthetic efforts that leverage these opportunities to realize applications in biological imaging and in palladium catalysis.
In Part I, the synthesis and characterization of three novel luminophores and their imaging applications are discussed. The first is a molecular beacon that utilizes a fluorophorefluorophore pair which exhibits H-dimer quenching in the closed conformation. This probe offers several advantages over conventional fluorophore-quencher molecular beacons in the detection of oligonucleotides, both in bulk and at the single-molecule level. Secondly, a fluorescent, Cy3-Cy5 covalent heterodimer is reported, which on account of the proximity of the Cy3 and Cy5 fluorophores, behaves as an optical photoswitch in the presence of a thiol reagent. This unique property was employed to achieve sub-diffraction-limited imaging of the stalks of Caulobacter crescentus cells with 30-nm resolution using STORM (stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy). Lastly, the synthesis of the first selenium analogue of firefly luciferin is described, and this analogue is shown to be a competent substrate for firefly luciferase (fLuc). Remarkably, it exhibits red-shifted bioluminescence emission relative to the native sulfur analogue. The in vivo performance of the selenium and sulfur analogues in imaging are compared by tail-vein injection into nude mice bearing subcutaneous tumor xenografts of a human breast cancer cell line that was stably transduced to express fLuc.
Part II of this thesis begins by addressing design considerations in the development of palladium catalysts that effect oxidative transformations under mild conditions (i.e., 1 atm air, room temperature) using molecular oxygen as the terminal oxidant. A newly synthesized cationic palladium complex, [(2,9-dimethylphenanthroline)Pd(OAc)]2[OTf]2, is shown to catalyze aerobic alcohol oxidation under such conditions with an unprecedented initial turnover frequency, but the presence of partially reduced oxygen species results in competitive ligand oxidation with concomitant decrease in catalyst activity. To remedy this, oxidatively resistant ligands, which are essential for the development of next-generation, high-turnover-frequency palladium catalysts that utilize oxygen as a terminal oxidant, have been prepared and effectively employed. In addition, the first general palladium-catalyzed route to the carbonylation of diols is reported. In this system, carbon monoxide (1 atm) serves the carbonyl source, (2,9-dimethylphenanthroline)Pd(OAc) 2 acts as the catalyst, and N-chlorosuccinimide and iodosobenzene are the oxidants for 1,2- and 1,3-diols, respectively.
This thesis illustrates the power of synthetic organic chemistry to exert precise control over the structure of molecules, thereby enabling applications in single-molecule fluorescence imaging, bioluminescence imaging, and palladium catalysis.