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Chemistry. 2011 Dec 23;17(52):14974-86. doi: 10.1002/chem.201101490. Epub 2011 Nov 25.

Does a concerted non-insertive mechanism prevail over a σ-insertive mechanism in catalytic cyclohydroamination by magnesium tris(oxazolinyl)phenylborate compounds? A computational study.

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University of St Andrews, School of Chemistry, Purdie Building, North Haugh, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9ST, UK.


The present study comprehensively explores alternative mechanistic pathways for intramolecular hydroamination of 2,2-dimethyl-4-penten-1-amine (1) by [{To(M)}MgMe] (To(M)=tris(4,4-dimethyl-2-oxazolinyl)phenylborate) (2) with the aid of density functional theory (DFT) calculations. A single-step amidoalkene → cycloamine conversion through a concerted proton transfer associated with N-C ring closure has been explored as one possible mechanism; its key features have been described. This non-insertive pathway evolves via a six-centre TS structure featuring activation of the olefin unit towards nucleophilic amido attack outside the immediate vicinity of the metal centre by amino proton delivery and describes a viable mechanistic variant for alkaline-earth metal-mediated aminoalkene hydroamination. However, herein is presented sound evidence for the operation of the Mg-N amido σ-bond insertive mechanism, its turnover-limiting activation barrier is found to be 5.0 kcal mol(-1) lower than for the non-insertive mechanism, for the cyclohydroamination of 2,2-disubstituted 4-aminoalkenes by a [{To(M)}Mg-NHR] catalyst. The operative mechanism involves rapid equilibria of the {To(M)}Mg-amidoalkene resting state 3 with its amine adduct, easily accessible and thermodynamically disfavoured, hence reversible, 1,2-olefin insertion into the Mg-N amido σ-bond with ring closure at 3, linked to turnover-limiting Mg-C azacycle tether aminolysis by an adduct substrate molecule, followed by facile cycloamine liberation to regenerate the active catalyst species 3. The following aspects are in support of this scenario: 1) the derived rate law is consistent with the experimentally obtained empirical rate law; 2) the reasonable agreement between the computationally estimated and the observed value of the primary KIE; 3) the assessed effective activation barrier for turnover-limiting aminolysis matches empirically determined Eyring parameters remarkably well; and 4) the observed resistance of isolated 3 to undergo amidoalkene cycloamine/cycloamido transformation until further quantities of substrate is added is consistently explained. The herein unveiled insights into the structure-reactivity relationships will undoubtedly govern the rational design of alkaline-earth metal-based catalysts and likely facilitate further advances in the area.


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