Enantiodivergent Pd-catalyzed C–C bond formation enabled through ligand parameterization

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Science  09 Nov 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6415, pp. 670-674
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat2299

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The staying power of electron-poor ligands

The venerable Suzuki coupling reaction originally used palladium to pair up unsaturated carbon centers. The protocol has been widely extended to chiral saturated alkyl carbons, but control over product stereochemistry is a pressing challenge. Zhao et al. systematically studied how the properties of the phosphine ligands that are coordinated to the catalyst influence the stereochemical outcome. Certain electron-withdrawing phosphines favored retention of the initial configuration in chiral alkyltrifluoroborate reactants. Conversely, bulky electron-rich phosphines lead to inverted configurations in the products.

Science, this issue p. 670


Despite the enormous potential for the use of stereospecific cross-coupling reactions to rationally manipulate the three-dimensional structure of organic molecules, the factors that control the transfer of stereochemistry in these reactions remain poorly understood. Here we report a mechanistic and synthetic investigation into the use of enantioenriched alkylboron nucleophiles in stereospecific Pd-catalyzed Suzuki cross-coupling reactions. By developing a suite of molecular descriptors of phosphine ligands, we could apply predictive statistical models to select or design distinct ligands that respectively promoted stereoinvertive and stereoretentive cross-coupling reactions. Stereodefined branched structures were thereby accessed through the predictable manipulation of absolute stereochemistry, and a general model for the mechanism of alkylboron transmetallation was proposed.

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