Cyclodextrins are cyclic oligosaccharides consisting of 6, 7, or 8 glucopyranose units, usually referred to as α-, β-, or γ-cyclodextrins, respectively. These compounds have rigid doughnut-shaped structures making them natural complexing agents.
The unique structures of these compounds owe their stability to intramolecular hydrogen bonding between the C2- and C3-hydroxyl groups of neighboring glucopyranose units. The molecule takes on the shape of a torus with the C2- and C3-hydroxyls located around the larger opening and the more reactive C6-hydroxyl aligned around the smaller opening.
The arrangement of C6-hydroxyls opposite the hydrogen bonded C2- and C3-hydroxyls forces the oxygen bonds into close proximity within the cavity, leading to an electron rich, hydrophobic interior. The size of this hydrophobic cavity is a function of the number of glucopyranose units forming the cyclodextrin.