Archive for the 'Molecules' Category

Gas phase structure of uridine

To advance our understanding of why ribose takes on the furanose form, rather than the pyranose form, in RNA, Alonso and co-workers have examined the structure of uridine 1 in the gas phase.1


Uridine is sensitive to temperature, and so the laser-ablation method long used by the Alonso group is ideal for examining uridine. The microwave spectrum is quite complicated due to the presence of many photofragments. Careful analysis lead to the identification of a number of lines and hyperfine structure that could be definitively assigned to uridine, leading to experimental values of the rotational constants and the diagonal elements of the 14N nuclear quadrupole coupling tensor for each nitrogen. These values are listed in Table 1.

Table 1. Experimental and calculated rotational constants (MHz), quadrupole coupling constants (MHz) and relative energy (kcal mol-1).
































14N1 χxx







14N1 χyy







14N1 χzz







14N3 χxx







14N3 χyy







14N3 χzz







Rel E







In order to assign a 3-D structure to these experimental values, they examined the PES of uridine with molecular mechanics and semi-empirical methods, before reoptimizing the structure of the lowest 5 energy structures at MP2/6-311++G(d,p). Then, comparison of the resulting rotational constants and 14N nuclear quadrupole coupling constants of these computed structures (see Table 1) led to identification of the lowest energy structure (anti/C2’-endo-g+, see Figure 1) in best agreement with the experiment. Once again, the Alonso group has demonstrated the value of the synergy between experiment and computation in structure identification.

Figure 1. MP2/6-311++G(d,p) optimized structure of 1 (anti/C2’-endo-g+).


(1) Peña, I.; Cabezas, C.; Alonso, J. L. "The Nucleoside Uridine Isolated in the Gas Phase," Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2015, 54, 2991-2994, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201412460.


1: Inchi=1S/C9H12N2O6/c12-3-4-6(14)7(15)8(17-4)11-2-1-5(13)10-9(11)16/h1-2,4,6-8,12,14-15H,3H2,(H,10,13,16)/t4-,6-,7-,8-/m1/s1

MP &nucleic acids Steven Bachrach 06 Apr 2015 No Comments

Structure of Histidine

The Alonso group has yet again (see these posts) determined the gas-phase structure of an important, biologically significant molecule using a combination of exquisite microwave spectroscopy and quantum computations. This time they examine the structure of histidine.1

They optimized four conformations of histidine, as its neutral tautomer, at MP2/6-311++G(d,p). These are schematically drawn in Figure 1. Conformer 1a is the lowest in free energy, likely due to the two internal hydrogen bonds. Its structure is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 1. The four conformers of histidine. The relative free energy (MP2/6-311++G(d,p)) in kcal mol-1 are also indicated.

Figure 2. MP2/6-311++G(d,p) optimized geometry of 1a.

The initial experimental rotation constants were only able to eliminate 1b from consideration. So they then determined the quadrupole coupling constants for the 14N nuclei. These values strongly implicated 1a as the only structure in the gas phase. The agreement between the experimental values and the computed values at MP2/6-311++G(d,p) was a concern, so they rotated the amine group to try to match the experimental values. This lead to a change in the NHCC dihedral value of -16° to -23° Reoptimization of the structure at MP2/cc-pVTZ led to a dihedral of -21° and overall excellent agreement between the experimental spectral parameters and the computed values.

It is somewhat disappointing the supporting materials does not include the structures of the other three isomers, nor the optimized geometry at MP2/cc-pVTZ.


1) Bermúdez, C.; Mata, S.; Cabezas, C.; Alonso, J. L. "Tautomerism in Neutral Histidine," Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2014, 53, 11015-11018, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201405347.


Histidine: InChI=1S/C6H9N3O2/c7-5(6(10)11)1-4-2-8-3-9-4/h2-3,5H,1,7H2,(H,8,9)(H,10,11)/t5-/m0/s1

amino acids Steven Bachrach 01 Dec 2014 No Comments

Computationally handling ion pairs

Comparing SN2 and SN1 reactions using computational methods is often quite difficult. The problem is that the heterolytic cleavage in the SN1 reaction leads to an ion pair, and in the gas phase this is a highly endothermic process. Optimization of the ion pair in the gas phase invariably leads to recombination. This is disturbingly the result even when one uses PCM to mimic the solvent, which one might have hoped would be sufficient to stabilize the ions.

The computational study of the glycoside cleavage by Hosoya and colleagues offers some guidance towards dealing with this problem.1 They examined the cleavage of triflate from 2,3,4,6-tetra-O-methyl-α-D-glucopyranosyl triflate 1.

Benchmarking the dissociation energy for the cleavage of 1 and considering computational performance, they settled on M06-2X/BS-III//M06-2X/BS-I, where BS-III is aug-cc-pVTZ basis set for O, F, and Cl and cc-pVTZ for H, C, and S and BS-I is 6-31G(d,p) basis sets were employed for H, C, and S, and 6-31+G(d) for O, F, and Cl. Solvent (dichloromethane) was included through PCM.

Attempted optimization of the contact ion pair formed from cleavage of 1 invariably led back to the covalent bound 1. PCM is not capable of properly stabilizing these types of ions in proximity. To solve this problem, they incorporated four explicit dichloromethane molecules. A minor drawback to their approach is that they did not sample much of configuration space and so their best geometries may not be the lowest energy configurations. Nonetheless, with four solvent molecules, they were able to locate contact ion pairs and solvent-separated ion pairs. Representative examples are shown in Figure 1. This method of explicit incorporation of a few solvent molecules seems to be the direction we must take to treat ions or even highly polar molecules in solution.





Figure 1. Representative examples of microsolvated 1, its contact ion pair (CIP) and solvent separated ion pair (SSIP) computed at M06-2X/BS-III//M06-2X/BS-I, and relative energies (kcal mol-1)


(1) Hosoya, T.; Takano, T.; Kosma, P.; Rosenau, T. "Theoretical Foundation for the Presence of Oxacarbenium Ions in Chemical Glycoside Synthesis," J. Org. Chem. 2014, 79, 7889-7894, DOI: 10.1021/jo501012s.


1: InChI=1S/C11H19F3O8S/c1-17-5-6-7(18-2)8(19-3)9(20-4)10(21-6)22-23(15,16)11(12,13)14/h6-10H,5H2,1-4H3/t6-,7-,8+,9-,10-/m1/s1

Ion Pairs &Solvation &sugars Steven Bachrach 04 Nov 2014 5 Comments

Diels-Alder reactions of Fullerene

Diels-Alder reaction involving fullerenes have been known for some time. They occur across the [6,6] double bond of C60, the one between two fused 6-member rings. Houk and Briseno report on the Diels-Alder reaction of C60 with pentacene 1 and bistetracene 2 and compare their computations with experiments.1

Pentacene and bistetracene ring numbering convention

Computations were performed for the reaction of 1 and 2 with C60 at M06-2x/6-31G(d)//M062x-3-21G*. The reaction can occur with the dienophile being either ring 1, 2, or 3 of pentacene and ring 1, 2, 3, or 4 of bistetracene. They located TSs and products for all of these possibilities. Select TSs and products are shown in Figure 1.

For the reaction of 1a, the lowest energy TS is for the reaction at the central ring (ring 3), and the resulting product is the lowest energy product. The transition state (PT_TS3) is shown in Figure 1. This TS has the least distortion energy of the three possibilities, because reacting at this central ring destroys the least amount of aromaticity of pentacene. For the reaction of 1b, the lowest barrier is again for reaction of ring 3 (through TMSPT_TS3). However, the product from the reaction with ring 2 (TMSPT_P2) is lower in free energy than TMSPT­_P3, likely caused by steric interactions with the silyl substituents. This actually matches up with experiments which indicate that an analogue of TMSPT_P2 is the kinetic product but TMSPT_P3 is the thermodynamic product.







Figure 1. M06-2x/3-21G* optimized geometries.
(Once again a reminder that clicking on any of these structures will launch JMol and you’ll be able to visualize and manipulate this structure in 3-D.)

The computations involving the Diels-Alder reaction of C60 with either 2a or 2b come to the same conclusion. In both cases, the lowest barrier is for the reaction at ring 2, and the product of the reaction at this same ring is the only one that is endoergonic. The geometries of BT_TS2 and BT_P2 are shown in Figure 1. More importantly, the barrier for the Diels-Alder reaction involving 2a and 2b are at least 6 kcal mol-1 higher than the barriers for the reaction of 1a and 1b, in complete agreement with experiments that show little reaction involving analogues of 2b with C60, while analogues of 1b are reasonably rapid.


(1) Cao, Y.; Liang, Y.; Zhang, L.; Osuna, S.; Hoyt, A.-L. M.; Briseno, A. L.; Houk, K. N. "Why Bistetracenes Are Much Less Reactive Than Pentacenes in Diels–Alder Reactions with Fullerenes," J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2014, 136, 10743-10751, DOI: 10.1021/ja505240e.

Diels-Alder &fullerene &Houk Steven Bachrach 29 Sep 2014 No Comments

Fullerene oligomers as electron traps

Clark and co-workers have examined small fullerene clusters for their ability to capture electrons.1 They first looked at the fullerene dimer, comparing the electron affinity of the dimer having a C-C bond between the two cages (about 1.6-1.7 Å between the two cages) 1 and where the two cages are interacting only through van der Waals attractions (around 2.6 Å) 2. The structures and their radical anions were computed at RI-BP86/TZV. The structures of the two radical anions are shown in Figure 1. Interestingly, the radical anion of 2 is actually lower in energy that the radical anion of 1. Comparisons with some other methods are discussed, including a CASSPT2(5,4)/ANO-L-VDZ, computation, that support this result.





Figure 1. RI-BP86/TZV optimized geometries of the radical anions of 1-4.
(Be sure to click on these images to be able to manipulate these structures in 3-D!)

This suggests that the added electron is being held between the cages, in an interstitial region. That suggested looking at the trimer and tetramer structures 3 and 4. The radical anions of these two oligomers are also shown in Figure 1. These oligomers show electron affinities of 1 eV greater than for fullerene itself, along with the ability to stabilize the dianion and even the trianion, what the authors call “deep electron traps”.


(1) Shubina, T. E.; Sharapa, D. I.; Schubert, C.; Zahn, D.; Halik, M.; Keller, P. A.; Pyne, S. G.; Jennepalli, S.; Guldi, D. M.; Clark, T. "Fullerene Van der Waals Oligomers as Electron Traps," J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2014, 136, 10890-10893, DOI: 10.1021/ja505949m.

fullerene Steven Bachrach 15 Sep 2014 No Comments

Solvent effect on carbene spin state

Carbenes remain an active area of interest for computational chemists, as seen in Chapter 5 of my book. For many carbenes, the triplet is the ground state, and that is true of diphenylcarbene 1. Can solvent play a role in the stability of carbene spin states? Surprisingly, the answer, provided in a recent paper by Sander,1 is yes!

In the gas phase, the singlet-triplet gap of 1 is computed to be 5.62 kcal mol-1 at (U)B3LYP/6-311++G(d,p) (and this reduces to 5.06 at (U)B3LYP+D3/6-311++G(d,p)) with the ground state as a triplet. If a single methanol molecules is allowed to approach 1, then the complex involving the singlet has a short hydrogen bond distance of 1.97 Å but the triplet has a much longer distance of 2.33 Å. These structures are shown in Figure 1. This manifests in a dramatic change in the relative stability, with the singlet complex now 0.26 kcal mol-1 (0.44 with the D3 correction) lower in energy than the triplet.



Figure 1. (U)B3LYP/6-311++G(d,p) optimized geometries of the compelxes of methanol with singlet or triplet 1.

IR spectroscopy of 1 in an argon matrix doped with a small amount of methanol confirms the presence of the singlet carbene, and detailed description of the difference in the reactivities of the singlet and triplet are provided.


(1) Costa, P.; Sander, W. "Hydrogen Bonding Switches the Spin State of Diphenylcarbene from Triplet to Singlet," Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2014, 53, 5122-5125, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201400176.


1: InChI=1S/C13H10/c1-3-7-12(8-4-1)11-13-9-5-2-6-10-13/h1-10H

carbenes Steven Bachrach 18 Jun 2014 No Comments

Structure of dihydroxycarbene

Dihdroxycarbene was the subject of a post a few years ago relating to how this carbene does not undergo tunneling,1 while related hydroxycarbene do undergo a tunneling rearrangement.

Now we have a gas-phase microwave determination of the trans,cis isomer of dihydroxycarbene.2 The computed CCSD(T)/cc-pCVQZ structure is shown in Figure 1. What is truly remarkable here is the amazing agreement between the experimental and computed structure – as seen in Table 1.The bond distance are in agreement within 0.001 Å and the bond angles agree within 0.3°! Just further evidence of the quality one can expect from high-level computations. And computing this structure was certainly far easier than the experiments!

Figure 1. CCSD(T)/cc-pCVQZ optimized geometry of dihydroxycarbene.

Table 1. Experimental and computed (CCSD(T)/cc-pCVQZ) geometric parameters of dihydroxycarbene.a

























aDistances in Å and angles in deg.


(1) Schreiner, P. R.; Reisenauer, H. P. "Spectroscopic Identification of Dihydroxycarbene," Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2008, 47, 7071-7074, DOI: 10.1002/anie.200802105.

(2) Womack, C. C.; Crabtree, K. N.; McCaslin, L.; Martinez, O.; Field, R. W.; Stanton, J. F.; McCarthy, M. C. "Gas-Phase Structure Determination of Dihydroxycarbene, One of the Smallest Stable Singlet Carbenes," Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2014, 53, 4089-4092, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201311082.


Dihydroxycarbene: InChI=1S/CH2O2/c2-1-3/h2-3H

carbenes Steven Bachrach 09 Jun 2014 No Comments


Twistane 1 is a more strained isomer of adamantane 2. The structure of 1 is shown in Figure 1.


Figure 1. B3LYP/6-31G(d) optimized structure of 1.

Adamantane is the core structure of diamond, which can be made by appending isobutene groups onto adamantane. In an analogous fashion, twistane can be extended in a linear way by appending ethano groups in a 1,4-bridge. Allen, Schreiner, Trauner and co-workers have examined this “polytwistane” using computational techniques.1 They examined a (CH)236 core fragment of polytwistane, with the dangling valences at the edges filled by appending hydrogens, giving a C236H242 compound. This compound was optimized at B3LYP/6-31G(d) and shown in Figure 2a. (Note that I have zoomed in on the structure, but by activating Jmol – click on the figure – you can view the entire compound.) A fascinating feature of polytwistane is its helical structure, which can be readily seen in Figure 2b. A view down the length of this compound, Figure 2c, displays the opening of this helical cylinder; this is a carbon nanotube with an inner diameter of 2.6 Å.




Figure 2. B3LYP/6-31G(d) structure of the C236H242 twistane. (a) A zoomed in look at the structure. This structure links to the Jmol applet allowing interactive viewing of the molecule – you should try this! (b) a side view clearly showing its helical nature. (c) A view down the twistane showing the nanotube structure.

Though the molecule looks quite symmetric, each carbon is involved in three C-C bonds, and each is of slightly different length. The authors go through considerable detail about addressing the symmetry and proper helical coordinates of polytwistane. They also estimate a strain energy of about 1.6 kcal mol-1 per CH unit. This modest strain, they believe, suggests that polytwistanes might be reasonable synthetic targets.


(1) Barua, S. R.; Quanz, H.; Olbrich, M.; Schreiner, P. R.; Trauner, D.; Allen, W. D. "Polytwistane," Chem. Eur. J. 2014, 20, 1638-1645, DOI: 10.1002/chem.201303081.


1: InChI=1S/C10H16/c1-2-8-6-9-3-4-10(8)5-7(1)9/h7-10H,1-6H2

2: InChI=1S/C10H16/c1-7-2-9-4-8(1)5-10(3-7)6-9/h7-10H,1-6H2

Schreiner &twistane Steven Bachrach 20 May 2014 3 Comments

Corannulene bowl inversion inside a host

The concept of complementarity between enzyme and substrate, especially the transition state for reactions at the substrate, is a key element of Pauling’s model for enzymatic activity. Koshland’s “induced fit” modification suggests that the enzyme might change its structure during the binding process to either destabilize the reactant or help stabilize the TS. These concepts are now tested in a very nice model by Stoddart, Siegel and coworkers.1

Stoddart recently reported the host compound ExBox4+ 1 and demonstrated that it binds planar polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.2 (I subsequently reported DFT computations on this binding.) The twist in this new paper is the binding of corranulene 2 inside ExBox4+ 1. Corranulene is bowl-shaped, with a bowl inversion barrier of 11.5 kcal mol-1 (10.92 kcal mol-1 at B97D/Def2-TZVPP).

The corranulene bowl is too big to fit directly into 1 without some distortions. The x-ray structure of the complex of 1 with 2 inside shows the width of 1 expanding by 0.87 Å and the bowl depth of 2 decreasing by 0.03 Å. The B97D/Def2-TZVPP optimized geometry of this complex (shown in Figure 1) shows similar distortions – the width of 1 increases by 0.37 Å (gas) or 0.29 Å (acetone solution), while the bowl depth of 2 decreases by 0.03 Å (gas) or 0.02 Å (solution).

ground state

transition state

Figure 1. B97D/Def2-TZVPP optimized geometries of the complex of 2 inside 1 (a) ground state and (b) transition state.

The calculated structure of the bowl inversion transition state of 2 inside of 1 is shown in Figure 1. 2 is planar at the TS. The experimental inversion barrier (determined by variable temperature NMR line shift analysis) is 7.88 kcal mol-1, while the calculated barrier is 8.77 kcal mol-1. The reduction in the bowl inversion barrier of 2 inside of 1 is therefore about 2.5 kcal mol-1. The authors argue that this barrier reduction can be attributed to about 0.5 kcal mol-1 of destabilization of the ground state of 2 along with 2 kcal mol-1 of stabilization of the transition state afforded by the host. This study thus confirms the notions of a host reducing a barrier (through both transition state stabilization and ground state destabilization) and induced fit.


(1) Juríček, M.; Strutt, N. L.; Barnes, J. C.; Butterfield, A. M.; Dale, E. J.; Baldridge, K. K.; Stoddart, J. F.; Siegel, J. S. "Induced-fit catalysis of corannulene bowl-to-bowl inversion," Nat. Chem. 2014, 6, 222-228, DOI: 10.1038/nchem.1842.

(2) Barnes, J. C.; Juríček, M.; Strutt, N. L.; Frasconi, M.; Sampath, S.; Giesener, M. A.; McGrier, P. L.; Bruns, C. J.; Stern, C. L.; Sarjeant, A. A.; Stoddart, J. F. "ExBox: A Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Scavenger," J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2012, 135, 183-192, DOI: 10.1021/ja307360n.

(3) Bachrach, S. M. "DFT Study of the ExBox·Aromatic Hydrocarbon Host–Guest Complex," J. Phys. Chem. A 2013, 117, 8484-8491, DOI: 10.1021/jp406823t.


1: InChI=1S/C48H40N4/c1-2-38-4-3-37(1)33-49-25-17-45(18-26-49)41-9-11-43(12-10-41)47-21-29-51(30-22-47)35-39-5-7-40(8-6-39)36-52-31-23-48(24-32-52)44-15-13-42(14-16-44)46-19-27-50(34-38)28-20-46/h1-32H,33-36H2/q+4

2: InChI=1S/C20H10/c1-2-12-5-6-14-9-10-15-8-7-13-4-3-11(1)16-17(12)19(14)20(15)18(13)16/h1-10H

annulenes &host-guest Steven Bachrach 20 Mar 2014 No Comments

The complex PES for sesquiterpene formation

Hong and Tantillo1 report a real tour de force computational study of multiple pathways along the routes towards synthesis of a variety of sesquiterpenes. The starting point is the bisabolyl cation 1, and a variety of rearrangements, cyclizations, proton and hydride transfers are examined to convert it into such disparate products as barbatene 2, widdradiene 3, and champinene 4. The pathways are explored at mPW1PW91/6-31+G(d,p)//B3LYP/6-31+G(d,p). Some new pathways are proposed but the main points are the sheer complexity of the C15H25+ potential energy surface and the interconnections between potential intermediates.


(1) Hong, Y. J.; Tantillo, D. J. "Branching Out from the Bisabolyl Cation. Unifying Mechanistic Pathways to Barbatene, Bazzanene, Chamigrene, Chamipinene, Cumacrene, Cuprenene, Dunniene, Isobazzanene, Iso-γ-bisabolene, Isochamigrene, Laurene, Microbiotene, Sesquithujene, Sesquisabinene, Thujopsene, Trichodiene, and Widdradiene Sesquiterpenes," J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2014, 136, 2450-2463, DOI: 10.1021/ja4106489.


1: InChI=1S/C15H25/c1-12(2)6-5-7-14(4)15-10-8-13(3)9-11-15/h6,8,15H,5,7,9-11H2,1-4H3/q+1

2: InChI=1S/C15H24/c1-11-6-9-13(2)10-12(11)14(3)7-5-8-15(13,14)4/h6,12H,5,7-10H2,1-4H3/t12-,13-,14+,15-/m0/s1

3: InChI=1S/C15H24/c1-12-6-7-13-14(2,3)9-5-10-15(13,4)11-8-12/h6-7H,5,8-11H2,1-4H3/t15-/m0/s1

4: InChI=1S/C15H24/c1-11-6-9-15-10-12(11)14(15,4)8-5-7-13(15,2)3/h6,12H,5,7-10H2,1-4H3/t12-,14-,15-/m1/s1

non-classical &terpenes Steven Bachrach 13 Mar 2014 2 Comments

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