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Bifunctional catalyst systems for the direct addition of ­ketones to unactivated alkenes/alkynes were designed and modeled by density functional theory (DFT). The designed catalysts possess bidentate ligands suitable for binding of pi-acidic group 10 metals capable of activating alkenes/alkynes, and a tethered organocatalyst amine to ­activate the ketone via formation of a nucleophilic enamine intermediate. The structures of the designed catalysts before and after C–C bond formation were optimized using DFT, and reaction steps involving group 10 metals were predicted to be significantly exergonic. A novel oxazoline precatalyst with a tethered amine separated by a meta-substituted benzene spacer was synthesized via a 10-step sequence that ­includes a key regioselective epoxide ring-opening step. It was combined with group 10 metal salts, including cationic Pd(II) and Pt(II), and screened for the direct addition of ketones to several alkenes and an ­internal alkyne. 1H NMR studies suggest that catalyst-catalyst inter­actions with this system via amine–metal coordination may preclude the desired addition reactions. The catalyst design approach disclosed here, and the promising calculations obtained with square planar group 10 metals, light a path for the discovery of novel bifunctional catalysts for C–C bond formation.


Accepted version. Synthesis, Vol. 51, No. 2 (2019): 450-462. DOI. © 2019 Georg Thieme Verlag. Used with permission.

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