Theoretical studies on the bifunctionality of chiral thiourea-based organocatalysts: competing routes to C-C bond formation.J Am Chem Soc. 2006 Oct 11; 128(40):13151-60.JA
The mechanism of enantioselective Michael addition of acetylacetone to a nitroolefin catalyzed by a thiourea-based chiral bifunctional organocatalyst is investigated using density functional theory calculations. A systematic conformational analysis is presented for the catalyst, and it is shown that both substrates coordinate preferentially via bidentate hydrogen bonds. The deprotonation of the enol form of acetylacetone by the amine of the catalyst is found to occur easily, leading to an ion pair characterized by multiple H-bonds involving the thiourea unit as well. Two distinct reaction pathways are explored toward the formation of the Michael product that differ in the mode of electrophile activation. Both reaction channels are shown to be consistent with the notion of noncovalent organocatalysis in that the transition states leading to the Michael adduct are stabilized by extensive H-bonded networks. The comparison of the obtained energetics for the two pathways allows us to propose an alternative mechanistic rationale for asymmetric C-C bond forming reactions catalyzed by bifunctional thiourea derivatives. The origin of enantioselectivity in the investigated reaction is also discussed.