Caffeine and Sugars Interact in Aqueous Solutions: A Simulation and NMR Study

Letizia Tavagnacco, Olof Engström, Udo Schnupf, Marie Louise Saboungi, Michael Himmel, Göran Widmalm, Attilio Cesàro, John W. Brady

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44 Scopus Citations


Molecular dynamics simulations were carried out on several systems of caffeine interacting with simple sugars. These included a single caffeine molecule in a 3 m solution of α-d-glucopyranose, at a caffeine concentration of 0.083 m, a single caffeine in a 3 m solution of β-d-glucopyranose, and a single caffeine molecule in a 1.08 m solution of sucrose (table sugar). Parallel nuclear magnetic resonance titration experiments were carried out on the same solutions under similar conditions. Consistent with previous thermodynamic experiments, the sugars were found to have an affinity for the caffeine molecules in both the simulations and experiments, and the binding in these complexes occurs by face-to-face stacking of the hydrophobic triad of protons of the pyranose rings against the caffeine face, rather than by hydrogen bonding. For the disaccharide, the binding occurs via stacking of the glucose ring against the caffeine, with a lesser affinity for the fructose observed. These findings are consistent with the association being driven by hydrophobic hydration and are similar to the previously observed binding of glucose rings to various other planar molecules, including indole, serotonin, and phenol.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)11701-11711
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number38
StatePublished - 2012

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2700-56829


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