The Journal of organic chemistry

Refined transition-state models for proline-catalyzed asymmetric Michael reactions under basic and base-free conditions.

PMID 23186327


The stereocontrolling transition state (TS) models for C-C bond formation relying on hydrogen bonding have generally been successful in proline-catalyzed aldol, Mannich, α-amination, and α-aminoxylation reactions. However, the suitability of the hydrogen-bonding model in protic and aprotic conditions as well as under basic and base-free conditions has not been well established for Michael reactions. Through a comprehensive density functional theory investigation, we herein analyze different TS models for the stereocontrolling C-C bond formation, both in the presence and absence of a base in an aprotic solvent (THF). A refined stereocontrolling TS for the Michael reaction between cyclohexanone and nitrostyrene is proposed. The new TS devoid of hydrogen bonding between the nitro group of nitrostyrene and carboxylic acid of proline, under base-free conditions, is found to be more preferred over the conventional hydrogen-bonding model besides being able to reproduce the experimentally observed stereochemical outcome. A DBU-bound TS is identified as more suitable for rationalizing the origin of asymmetric induction under basic reaction conditions. In both cases, the most preferred approach of nitrostyrene is identified as occurring from the face anti to the carboxylic acid of proline-enamine. The predicted enantio- and diastereoselectivities are in very good agreement with the experimental observations.