Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Designing magnesium-selective ligands using coordination chemistry principles

Walter, Edward R.H.; Hogg, Christopher; Parker, David; Gareth Williams, J.A.

Designing magnesium-selective ligands using coordination chemistry principles Thumbnail


Edward R.H. Walter

Christopher Hogg

David Parker


Progress in the selective binding and detection of magnesium ions has been slower than other biologically important divalent metal ions like calcium and zinc. The most widely used ligands for Mg2+ are by no means optimal, as they are not selective for it. Nevertheless, Mg2+ is a major cation in all cells, with physiologically critical functions. There is a need for improved sensors for Mg2+. In this review, we consider how an appreciation of fundamental coordination chemistry principles may inform the development of new ligands for Mg2+. A number of representative examples of ligands of differing denticity are discussed in this context. Low-denticity ligands such as β-keto acids offer the best selectivities, but speciation is an issue as other polydentate ligands such as pyrophosphate may complete the coordination sphere. High-denticity ligands based on aminocarboxylates such as APTRA typically offer the highest stability constants, but they bind Ca2+ and Zn2+ more strongly than Mg2+. We highlight recent examples featuring related aminophosphinates, where the longer bonds and smaller bite angles favour selectivity towards Mg2+. Macrocyclic receptors for magnesium are not discussed explicitly.


Walter, E. R., Hogg, C., Parker, D., & Gareth Williams, J. (2021). Designing magnesium-selective ligands using coordination chemistry principles. Coordination Chemistry Reviews, 428, Article 213622.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 21, 2020
Online Publication Date Nov 17, 2020
Publication Date 2021-02
Deposit Date Nov 17, 2020
Publicly Available Date Nov 17, 2021
Journal Coordination Chemistry Reviews
Print ISSN 0010-8545
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 428
Article Number 213622
Public URL


You might also like

Downloadable Citations