PerspectiveOrganic Chemistry

Harnessing weak interactions for enantioselective catalysis

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Science  13 Feb 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6223, pp. 719-720
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa5624

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Elucidating catalytic reaction mechanisms is often a challenge, and these difficulties are compounded in the case of enantioselective catalysts. The ability of a catalyst to preferentially form one enantiomer over the other often hinges on the balance of many attractive and repulsive nonbonded interactions that occur in competing transition states. On page 737 of this issue, Milo et al. (1) combine physical organic and computational quantum chemistry with modern data analysis techniques to identify these interactions. Their predictive mathematical models elucidate the underlying reaction mechanism and the role of nonbonded interactions in these enantioselective reactions, facilitating the rational design of more effective catalysts.