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J Am Chem Soc. 2011 Sep 7;133(35):13984-4001. doi: 10.1021/ja203733q. Epub 2011 Aug 16.

Experimental investigation on the mechanism of chelation-assisted, copper(II) acetate-accelerated azide-alkyne cycloaddition.

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Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Florida State University, Tallahassee, 32306-4390, United States.


A mechanistic model is formulated to account for the high reactivity of chelating azides (organic azides capable of chelation-assisted metal coordination at the alkylated azido nitrogen position) and copper(II) acetate (Cu(OAc)(2)) in copper(II)-mediated azide-alkyne cycloaddition (AAC) reactions. Fluorescence and (1)H NMR assays are developed for monitoring the reaction progress in two different solvents, methanol and acetonitrile. Solvent kinetic isotopic effect and premixing experiments give credence to the proposed different induction reactions for converting copper(II) to catalytic copper(I) species in methanol (methanol oxidation) and acetonitrile (alkyne oxidative homocoupling), respectively. The kinetic orders of individual components in a chelation-assisted, copper(II)-accelerated AAC reaction are determined in both methanol and acetonitrile. Key conclusions resulting from the kinetic studies include (1) the interaction between copper ion (either in +1 or +2 oxidation state) and a chelating azide occurs in a fast, pre-equilibrium step prior to the formation of the in-cycle copper(I)-acetylide, (2) alkyne deprotonation is involved in several kinetically significant steps, and (3) consistent with prior experimental and computational results by other groups, two copper centers are involved in the catalysis. The X-ray crystal structures of chelating azides with Cu(OAc)(2) suggest a mechanistic synergy between alkyne oxidative homocoupling and copper(II)-accelerated AAC reactions, in which both a bimetallic catalytic pathway and a base are involved. The different roles of the two copper centers (a Lewis acid to enhance the electrophilicity of the azido group and a two-electron reducing agent in oxidative metallacycle formation, respectively) in the proposed catalytic cycle suggest that a mixed valency (+2 and +1) dinuclear copper species be a highly efficient catalyst. This proposition is supported by the higher activity of the partially reduced Cu(OAc)(2) in mediating a 2-picolylazide-involved AAC reaction than the fully reduced Cu(OAc)(2). Finally, the discontinuous kinetic behavior that has been observed by us and others in copper(I/II)-mediated AAC reactions is explained by the likely catalyst disintegration during the course of a relatively slow reaction. Complementing the prior mechanistic conclusions drawn by other investigators, which primarily focus on the copper(I)/alkyne interactions, we emphasize the kinetic significance of copper(I/II)/azide interaction. This work not only provides a mechanism accounting for the fast Cu(OAc)(2)-mediated AAC reactions involving chelating azides, which has apparent practical implications, but suggests the significance of mixed-valency dinuclear copper species in catalytic reactions where two copper centers carry different functions.

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