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Acc Chem Res. 2009 Aug 18;42(8):1026-36. doi: 10.1021/ar800200m.

Mechanistic insights on the cycloisomerization of polyunsaturated precursors catalyzed by platinum and gold complexes.

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Laboratorio de Radicales Libres y Quimica Computacional, IQOG (CSIC), Juan de la Cierva 3; 28006 Madrid, Spain.


Organometallic chemistry provides powerful tools for the stereocontrolled synthesis of heterocycles and carbocycles. The electrophilic transition metals Pt(II) and Au(I, III) are efficient catalysts in these transitions and promote a variety of organic transformations of unsaturated precursors. These reactions produce functionalized cyclic and acyclic scaffolds for the synthesis of natural and non-natural products efficiently, under mild conditions, and with excellent chemoselectivity. Because these transformations are strongly substrate-dependent, they are versatile and may yield diverse molecular scaffolds. Therefore, synthetic chemists need a mechanistic interpretation to optimize this reaction process and design a new generation of catalysts. However, so far, no intermediate species has been isolated or characterized, so the formulated mechanistic hypotheses have been primarily based on labeling studies or trapping reactions. Recently, theoretical DFT studies have become a useful tool in our research, giving us insights into the key intermediates and into a variety of plausible reaction pathways. In this Account, we present a comprehensive mechanistic overview of transformations promoted by Pt and Au in a non-nucleophilic medium based on quantum-mechanical studies. The calculations are consistent with the experimental observations and provide fundamental insights into the versatility of these reaction processes. The reactivity of these metals results from their peculiar Lewis acid properties: the alkynophilic character of these soft metals and the pi-acid activation of unsaturated groups promotes the intra- or intermolecular attack of a nucleophile. 1,n-Enynes (n = 3-8) are particularly important precursors, and their transformation may yield a variety of cycloadducts depending on the molecular structure. However, the calculations suggest that these different cyclizations would have closely related reaction mechanisms, and we propose a unified mechanistic picture. The intramolecular nucleophilic attack of the double bond on the activated alkyne takes place by an endo-dig or exo-dig pathway to afford a cyclopropyl-metallocarbenoid. Through divergent routes, the cyclopropyl intermediate formed by exo-cyclopropanation could yield the metathesis adduct or bicyclic compounds. The endo-cyclization may be followed by a [1,2]-migration of the propargyl moiety to the internal acetylenic position to afford bicyclic [n.1.0] derivatives. This reaction mechanism is applicable for functional groups ranging from H to carboxylate propargyl substituents (Rautenstrauch reaction). In intramolecular reactions in which a shorter enyne bears a propargyl ester or in intermolecular reactions of an ester with an alkene, the ester preferentially attacks the activated alkyne because of enthalpic (ring strain) and entropic effects. Our calculations can predict the correct stereochemical outcome, which may aid the rational design of further stereoselective syntheses. The alkynes activated by electrophilic species can also react with other nucleophiles, such as aromatic rings. The calculations account for the high endo-selectivity observed and suggest that this transformation takes place through a Friedel-Crafts-type alkenylation mechanism, where the endo-dig cyclization promoted by PtCl(2) may involve a cyclopropylmetallacarbene as intermediate before the formation of the expected Wheland-type intermediate. These comparisons of the computational approach with experiment demonstrate the value of theory in the development of a solid mechanistic understanding of these reaction processes.

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