The synthesis of a novel donor-acceptor system comprising a ruthenium polypyridyl unit covalently linked to the secondary face of P-cyclodextrin which has a hydroxy bridged dinuclear copper(II) moiety on its primary face is described and the spectroscopic, electrochemical and photophysical properties of this complex are outlined. Photophysical studies demonstrate evidence for photoinduced electron transfer from the excited ruthenium to the copper centre. The rate of electron transfer, was estimated from luminescence lifetime studies to be 1.86 x 10(-6) s(-1). The parent ruthenium polypyridyl functionalized P-cyclodextrin complex binds to both Cu(II) and Zn(II) in alkaline aqueous solution and the affects of these cations on the luminescence intensity of this complex is explored and compared with the photophysics of the isolated supramolecular complex. Whereas Cu(II) statically quenches the ruthenium centre, Zn(II) has little effect. This work suggests luminescent CD complexes, with long-lived luminophores may have value in metal ion sensing. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.