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Chemistry. 2005 Apr 22;11(9):2651-9.

Aspects of glycosidic bond formation in aqueous solution: chemical bonding and the role of water.

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Theoretische Chemie, Ruhr-Universit├Ąt Bochum, 44780 Bochum, Germany.


A model of the specific acid-catalyzed glycosidic bond formation in liquid water at ambient conditions is studied based on constrained Car-Parrinello ab initio molecular dynamics. Specifically the reaction of alpha-D-glucopyranose and methanol is found to proceed by a D(N)A(N) mechanism. The D(N) step consists of a concerted protonation of the O(1) hydroxyl leaving group; this process results in the breaking of the C(1)-O(1) bond, and oxocarbenium ion formation involving C(1)=O(5). The second step, A(N), is the formation of the C(1)-O(m) glycosidic bond, deprotonation of the methanol hydroxyl group O(m)H(m), and re-formation of the C(1)-O(5) single bond. A focus of this study is the analysis of the electronic structure during this condensed phase reaction relying on both Boys/Wannier localized orbitals and the electron localization function ELF. This analysis allows the clear elucidation of the chemical bonding features of the intermediate bracketed by the D(N) and A(N) steps, which is a non-solvent equilibrated oxocarbenium cation. Most interestingly, it is found that the oxygen in the pyranose ring becomes "desolvated" upon double bond/oxocarbenium formation, whereas it is engaged in the hydrogen-bonded water network before and after this period. This demonstrates that hydrogen bonding and thus the aqueous solvent play an active role in this reaction implying that microsolvation studies in the gas phase, both theoretical and experimental, might lead to qualitatively different reaction mechanisms compared to solution.

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