Archive for July, 2012

Aromatic TS for a non-pericyclic reaction

The activation energy for the 5-endo-dig reaction of the anion 1 is anomalously low compared to its 4-endo-dig and 6-endo-dig analogues. Furthermore, the TS is quite early, earlier than might be expected based on the Hammond Postulate. Alabugin and Schleyer have examined this reaction and found some interesting results.1

First, NICS(0) values for a series of related intermolecular anionic attack at alkynes show some interesting trends (Table 1). Two of the transition states look like they might be aromatic: the TSs for the 3-exo-dig and the 5-endo-dig reaction have NICS(0) values that are quite negative. However, given the geometry of these TSs, particularly the close proximity of the σ bonds to the ring center, one might be concerned about contamination of these orbitals. So, NICS(0)MOzz computations, which look at the tensor component perpendicular to the ring using just the π-MOs, shows that the 3-exo-dig is likely non-aromatic (NICS(0)MOzz is near zero), the TS for the 4-endo-dig reaction is antiaromatic (NICS(0)MOzz very positive) and the TS for the 5-endo-dig reaction is aromatic (NICS(0)MOzz is very negative. So this last reaction is the first example of an aromatic transition that is not for a pericyclic reaction!

Table 1. NICS(0) and NICS(0)MOzz for the TS of some anionic alkyne cyclizations.










5-endo-dig (1)



These authors argue that the reaction of 1 is an “aborted” sigmatropic shift. A normal pericyclic reaction is a single step with a single (concerted) transition state. An interrupted sigmatropic shift has an intermediate that lies higher in energy than the reactants, such as in the Bergman cyclization of an enediyne. The aborted sigmatropic shift has an intermediate that lies lower in energy than the reactants, such as in the cyclization of 1.


(1) Gilmore, K.; Manoharan, M.; Wu, J. I. C.; Schleyer, P. v. R.; Alabugin, I. V. "Aromatic Transition States in Nonpericyclic Reactions: Anionic 5-Endo Cyclizations Are Aborted Sigmatropic Shifts," J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2012, 134, 10584–10594, DOI: 10.1021/ja303341b

Aromaticity &Schleyer Steven Bachrach 24 Jul 2012 5 Comments

Dynamic effects in nucleophilic substitution

I think most organic chemists hold dear to their hearts the notion that selectivity is due to crossing over different transition states. Readers of my book and this blog know of the many examples where this notion simply is not true (see here). This post discusses yet another example taking place in a seemingly simple reaction.

Singleton has examined the nucleophilic substitution reaction of 1 with sodium tolylsulfide.1 The mono substitution gives potentially two different stereoproducts 2 and 3. The experimental ratio of these products 2:3 is 81:19. (Note that things are a bit more complicated because disubstitution can also occur, but this has been factored into the product ratio.)

Based on previous literature, this reaction is likely to proceed in a concerted fashion, and so one might anticipate running computations to locate a transition state leading to 2 and a transition state leading to 3. In fact, Singleton finds six different TSs (the lowest energy TS 4 is shown in Figure 1), all within 2 kcal mol-1 of each other at PCM(ethanol)/B3LYP/6-31+G**. However, the intrinsic reaction coordinate going forward from each of these six TSs leads solely to 2; no TS could be located that connects to 3! (Computations were also performed at PCM(ethanol)/M06-2x/6-31+G** which give very similar results.) Classical transition state theory would lead
one to conclude that only 2 should be formed, inconsistent with experiment.



Figure 1. PCM/B3LYP/6-31+G** optimized structures of TSs 4 and 5.

Furthermore, no intermediate could be located. This is consistent with a concerted mechanism. A second transition state was located which interconverts 2 and 3 with the involvement of a chloride – a sort of addition/rotation/elimination process. This TS 5 is also shown in Figure 1.

A direct dynamics study was performed, and 197 trajectories were computed. Of these, 185 trajectories went to product: 156 to 2 and 29 to 3, for a ratio of 84:16 – in amazing agreement with experiment! The product selectivity is due entirely to dynamic effects. In fact, it is one vibrational mode that dictates the product distribution. Essentially, the nature of the rotation about the C=C bond differentiates the eventual route, with a clockwise rotation leading always to 2 and a counterclockwise rotation leading about a third of the time to 3.


(1) Bogle, X. S.; Singleton, D. A. "Dynamic Origin of the Stereoselectivity of a Nucleophilic Substitution Reaction," Org. Lett., 2012, 14, 2528-2531, DOI: 10.1021/ol300817a.


1: InChI=1S/C4H4Cl2O/c1-3(7)2-4(5)6/h2H,1H3

2: InChI=1S/C11H11ClOS/c1-8-3-5-10(6-4-8)14-11(12)7-9(2)13/h3-7H,1-2H3/b11-7-

3: InChI=1S/C11H11ClOS/c1-8-3-5-10(6-4-8)14-11(12)7-9(2)13/h3-7H,1-2H3/b11-7+

Dynamics &Singleton &Substitution Steven Bachrach 03 Jul 2012 12 Comments