Self-immolative chemistry has undergone rapid development in the past decades and led to molecular systems that possesses stimuli-responsive releasing properties. The unique self-immolative spacers serve as the fundamental component at these systems. They covalently link reagent-responsive group and a reporter moiety and can structurally “sacrifice” themselves in order to implement their designated function. The first self-immolative spacer was developed by the Katzenellenbogen group in 1981, which contained a 4-aminobenyl alcohol moiety that linked an enzyme substrate to a target reporter. Over more than 30 years, a variety of self-immolative spacers based on quionoe methide eliminations, azaquinone methide eliminations and cyclization reactions have been developed and shown promising applications in sensors, molecular amplifiers and stimuli-responsive materials. The design strategy of self-immolative chemosensors is modular which enables the self-immolative spacers to be applied to any sensor system. And self-immolative spacer could serve other functions in addition to just being a linker by providing incorporation between functional molecules and chemosensors. Continuing studies in this area will lead to the development in the design of functional molecular systems.
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