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1.  Differences and Comparisons of the Properties and Reactivities of Iron(III)–hydroperoxo Complexes with Saturated Coordination Sphere 
Heme and nonheme monoxygenases and dioxygenases catalyze important oxygen atom transfer reactions to substrates in the body. It is now well established that the cytochrome P450 enzymes react through the formation of a high-valent iron(IV)–oxo heme cation radical. Its precursor in the catalytic cycle, the iron(III)–hydroperoxo complex, was tested for catalytic activity and found to be a sluggish oxidant of hydroxylation, epoxidation and sulfoxidation reactions. In a recent twist of events, evidence has emerged of several nonheme iron(III)–hydroperoxo complexes that appear to react with substrates via oxygen atom transfer processes. Although it was not clear from these studies whether the iron(III)–hydroperoxo reacted directly with substrates or that an initial O–O bond cleavage preceded the reaction. Clearly, the catalytic activity of heme and nonheme iron(III)–hydroperoxo complexes is substantially different, but the origins of this are still poorly understood and warrant a detailed analysis. In this work, an extensive computational analysis of aromatic hydroxylation by biomimetic nonheme and heme iron systems is presented, starting from an iron(III)–hydroperoxo complex with pentadentate ligand system (L52). Direct C–O bond formation by an iron(III)–hydroperoxo complex is investigated, as well as the initial heterolytic and homolytic bond cleavage of the hydroperoxo group. The calculations show that [(L52)FeIII(OOH)]2+ should be able to initiate an aromatic hydroxylation process, although a low-energy homolytic cleavage pathway is only slightly higher in energy. A detailed valence bond and thermochemical analysis rationalizes the differences in chemical reactivity of heme and nonheme iron(III)–hydroperoxo and show that the main reason for this particular nonheme complex to be reactive comes from the fact that they homolytically split the O–O bond, whereas a heterolytic O–O bond breaking in heme iron(III)–hydroperoxo is found.
PMCID: PMC4316188  PMID: 25399782
cytochrome P450; density functional calculations; enzyme models; hydroxylation; iron
2.  Cyanobacterial alkane biosynthesis further expands the catalytic repertoire of the ferritin-like “di-iron-carboxylate” proteins 
Enzymes that activate dioxygen at carboxylate-bridged non-heme diiron clusters residing within ferritin-like, four-helix-bundle protein architectures have crucial roles in, among other processes, the global carbon cycle (e.g., soluble methane monooxygenase), fatty acid biosynthesis [plant fatty acyl-acyl carrier protein (ACP) desaturases], DNA biosynthesis [the R2 or β2 subunits of class Ia ribonucleotide reductases (RNRs)], and cellular iron trafficking (ferritins). Classic studies on class Ia RNRs showed long ago how this obligatorily oxidative di-iron/O2 chemistry can be used to activate an enzyme for even a reduction reaction, and more recent investigations of class Ib and Ic RNRs, coupled with earlier studies on dimanganese catalases, have shown that members of this protein family can also incorporate either one or two Mn ions and use them in place of iron for redox catalysis. These two strategies – oxidative activation for non-oxidative reactions and use of alternative metal ions – expand the catalytic repertoire of the family, probably to include activities that remain to be discovered. Indeed, a recent study has suggested that fatty aldehyde decarbonylases (ADs) from cyanobacteria, purported to catalyze a redox-neutral cleavage of a Cn aldehyde to the Cn−1 alkane (or alkene) and CO, also belong to this enzyme family and are most similar in structure to two other members with heterodinuclear (Mn-Fe) cofactors. Here, we first briefly review both the chemical principles underlying the O2-dependent oxidative chemistry of the “classical” di-iron-carboxylate proteins and the two aforementioned strategies that have expanded their functional range, and then consider what metal ion(s) and what chemical mechanism(s) might be employed by the newly discovered cyanobacterial ADs.
PMCID: PMC3113506  PMID: 21440485
3.  Scaleable catalytic asymmetric Strecker syntheses of unnatural α-amino acids 
Nature  2009;461(7266):968-970.
α-Amino acids are essential building blocks for protein synthesis, and are also widely useful as components of medicinally active molecules and chiral catalysts.1,2,3,4,5 Efficient chemo-enzymatic methods for the synthesis of enantioenriched α-amino acids have been devised, but the scope of these methods for the synthesis of unnatural amino acids is limited.6,7 Alkene hydrogenation is broadly useful for enantioselective catalytic synthesis of many classes of amino acids,8,9 but this approach is not applicable to the synthesis of α-amino acids bearing aryl or quaternary alkyl α-substituents. The Strecker synthesis—the reaction of an imine or imine equivalent with hydrogen cyanide, followed by nitrile hydrolysis—is an especially versatile chemical method for the synthesis of racemic α-amino acids (Fig. 1).10,11 Asymmetric Strecker syntheses using stoichiometric chiral reagents have been applied successfully on gram-to-multi-kilogram scales to the preparation of enantiomerically enriched α-amino acids.12,13,14 In principle, Strecker syntheses employing sub-stoichiometric quantities of a chiral reagent provide a practical alternative to these approaches, but the reported catalytic asymmetric methods have seen only limited use on preparative scales (e.g., > 1 gram).15,16 The limited use of existing catalytic methodologies may be ascribed to several important practical drawbacks, including the relatively complex and precious nature of the catalysts, and the requisite use of hazardous cyanide sources. Herein we report a new catalytic asymmetric method for the syntheses of highly enantiomerically enriched non-proteinogenic amino acids using a simple chiral amido-thiourea catalyst to control the key hydrocyanation step. Because this catalyst is robust and lacks sensitive functional groups, it is compatible with safely handled aqueous cyanide salts, and is thus adaptable to large-scale synthesis. This new methodology can be applied to the efficient syntheses of amino acids that are not readily prepared by enzymatic methods or by chemical hydrogenation.
PMCID: PMC2778849  PMID: 19829379
4.  Theoretical Study of the Mechanism of Oxoiron(IV) Formation from H2O2 and a Nonheme Iron(II) Complex: O–O Cleavage Involving Proton-Coupled Electron Transfer 
Inorganic chemistry  2011;50(14):6637-6648.
It has recently been shown that the nonheme oxoiron(IV) species supported by the 1,4,8,11-tetramethyl-1,4,8,11-tetraazacyclotetradecane ligand (TMC) can be generated in near-quantitative yield by reacting [FeII(TMC)(OTf)2] with a stoichiometric amount of H2O2 in CH3CN in the presence of 2,6-lutidine (Li, F.; England, J.; Que L., Jr. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2010, 132, 2134–2135). This finding has major implications for O–O bond cleavage events in both Fenton chemistry and nonheme iron enzymes. To understand the mechanism of this process, especially the intimate details of the O–O bond cleavage step, a series of density functional theory (DFT) calculations and analyses have been carried out. Two distinct reaction paths (A and B) were identified. Path A consists of two principal steps: (1) coordination of H2O2 to Fe(II) and (2) a combination of partial homolytic O–O bond cleavage and proton-coupled electron transfer (PCET). The latter combination renders the rate-limiting O–O cleavage effectively a heterolytic process. Path B proceeds via a simultaneous homolytic O–O bond cleavage of H2O2 and Fe–O bond formation. This is followed by H-abstraction from the resultant Fe(III)–OH species by an •OH radical. Calculations suggest that path B is plausible in the absence of base. However, once 2,6-lutidine is added to the reacting system, the reaction barrier is lowered and more importantly the mechanistic path switches to path A, where 2,6-lutidine plays an essential role as an acid-base catalyst in a manner similar to how the distal histidine or glutamate residue assists in Compound I formation in heme peroxidases. The reaction was found to proceed predominantly on the quintet spin state surface, and a transition to the triplet state, the experimentally known ground state for the TMC-oxoiron(IV) species, occurs in the last stage of the oxoiron(IV) formation process.
PMCID: PMC3136038  PMID: 21678930
5.  Glyceryl ether monooxygenase resembles aromatic amino acid hydroxylases in metal ion and tetrahydrobiopterin dependence 
Biological chemistry  2009;390(1):3-10.
Glyceryl ether monooxygenase is a tetrahydrobiopterin-dependent membrane-bound enzyme which catalyses the cleavage of lipid ethers into glycerol and the corresponding aldehyde. Despite many different characterisation and purification attempts, so far no gene and primary sequence have been assigned to this enzyme. The seven other tetrahydrobiopterin-dependent enzymes can be divided in the family of aromatic amino acid hydroxylases - comprising phenylalanine hydroxylase, tyrosine hydroxylase, and the two tryptophan hydroxylases - and into the three nitric oxide synthases.
We tested the influences of different metal ions and metal ion chelators on glyceryl ether monooxygenase, phenylalanine hydroxylase, and nitric oxide synthase activity to elucidate the relationship of glyceryl ether monooxygenase to these two families. 1,10-Phenanthroline, an inhibitor of non heme iron dependent enzymes, was able to potently block glyceryl ether monooxygenase as well as phenylalanine hydroxylase but had no effect on inducible nitric oxide synthase. Two tetrahydrobiopterin analogues, N5-methyltetrahydrobiopterin and 4-aminotetrahydrobiopterin, had a similar impact on glyceryl ether monooxygenase activity as has already been shown for phenylalanine hydroxylase. These observations point to a close analogy of the role of tetrahydrobiopterin in glyceryl ether monooxygenase and in aromatic amino acid hydroxylases and suggest that glyceryl ether monooxygenase may require a nonheme iron for catalysis.
PMCID: PMC2847825  PMID: 19007315
4-amino tetrahydrobiopterin; N5-methyltetrahydrobiopterin; nitric oxide synthase; phenylalanine hydroxylase
6.  Asymmetric synthesis from terminal alkenes by diboration/cross-coupling cascades 
Nature  2013;505(7483):386-390.
Amongst prospective starting materials for organic synthesis, terminal (monosubstituted) alkenes are ideal. In the form of α-olefins, they are manufactured on enormous scale and they are the core product features from many organic chemical reactions. While their latent reactivity can easily enable hydrocarbon chain extension, alkenes also have the attractive feature of being stable in the presence of many acids, bases, oxidants and reductants. In spite of these impressive attributes, relatively few catalytic enantioselective transformations have been developed that transform aliphatic α-olefins in >90% ee and, with the exception of site-controlled isotactic polymerization of α-olefins,1 none of these processes result in chain-extending C-C bond formation to the terminal carbon.2, 3, 4, 5, 6 Herein, we describe a strategy that directly addresses this gap in synthetic methodology and present a single-flask catalytic enantioselective conversion of terminal alkenes into a range of chiral products. These reactions are enabled by an unusual neighboring group participation effect that accelerates Pd-catalyzed cross-coupling of 1,2-bis(boronates) relative to nonfunctionalized alkyl boronate analogs. In tandem with enantioselective diboration, this reactivity feature connects abundant alkene starting materials to a diverse array of chiral products. Importantly with respect to synthesis utility, the tandem diboration/cross-coupling reaction (DCC reaction) generally provides products in high yield and high selectivity (>95:5 enantiomer ratio), employs low loadings (1–2 mol %) of commercially available catalysts and reagents, it offers an expansive substrate scope, and can address a broad range of alcohol and amine synthesis targets, many of which cannot be easily addressed with current technology.
PMCID: PMC3947102  PMID: 24352229
7.  Cometabolic degradation of chlorinated alkenes by alkene monooxygenase in a propylene-grown Xanthobacter strain. 
Propylene-grown Xanthobacter cells (strain Py2) degraded several chlorinated alkenes of environmental concern, including trichloroethylene, 1-chloroethylene (vinyl chloride), cis- and trans-1,2-dichloroethylene, 1,3-dichloropropylene, and 2,3-dichloropropylene. 1,1-Dichloroethylene was not degraded efficiently, while tetrachloroethylene was not degraded. The role of alkene monooxygenase in catalyzing chlorinated alkene degradations was established by demonstrating that glucose-grown cells which lack alkene monooxygenase and propylene-grown cells in which alkene monooxygenase was selectively inactivated by propyne were unable to degrade the compounds. C2 and C3 chlorinated alkanes were not oxidized by alkene monooxygenase, but a number of these compounds were inhibitors of propylene and ethylene oxidation, suggesting that they compete for binding to the enzyme. A number of metabolites enhanced the rate of degradation of chlorinated alkenes, including propylene oxide, propionaldehyde, and glucose. Propylene stimulated chlorinated alkene oxidation slightly when present at a low concentration but became inhibitory at higher concentrations. Toxic effects associated with chlorinated alkene oxidations were determined by measuring the propylene oxidation and propylene oxide-dependent O2 uptake rates of cells previously incubated with chlorinated alkenes. Compounds which were substrates for alkene monooxygenase exhibited various levels of toxicity, with 1,1-dichloroethylene and trichloroethylene being the most potent inactivators of propylene oxidation and 1,3- and 2,3-dichloropropylene being the most potent inactivators of propylene oxide-dependent O2 uptake. No toxic effects were seen when cells were incubated with chlorinated alkenes anaerobically, indicating that the product(s) of chlorinated alkene oxidation mediates toxicity.
PMCID: PMC183045  PMID: 1444418
8.  Anaerobic 1-Alkene Metabolism by the Alkane- and Alkene-Degrading Sulfate Reducer Desulfatibacillum aliphaticivorans Strain CV2803T▿  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2007;73(24):7882-7890.
The alkane- and alkene-degrading, marine sulfate-reducing bacterium Desulfatibacillum aliphaticivorans strain CV2803T, known to oxidize n-alkanes anaerobically by fumarate addition at C-2, was investigated for its 1-alkene metabolism. The total cellular fatty acids of this strain were predominantly C-(even number) (C-even) when it was grown on C-even 1-alkenes and predominantly C-(odd number) (C-odd) when it was grown on C-odd 1-alkenes. Detailed analyses of those fatty acids by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry after 6- to 10-week incubations allowed the identification of saturated 2- and 4-ethyl-, 2- and 4-methyl-, and monounsaturated 4-methyl-branched fatty acids with chain lengths that correlated with those of the 1-alkene. The growth of D. aliphaticivorans on (per)deuterated 1-alkenes provided direct evidence of the anaerobic transformation of these alkenes into the corresponding 1-alcohols and into linear as well as 10- and 4-methyl-branched fatty acids. Experiments performed with [13C]bicarbonate indicated that the initial activation of 1-alkene by the addition of inorganic carbon does not occur. These results demonstrate that D. aliphaticivorans metabolizes 1-alkene by the oxidation of the double bond at C-1 and by the subterminal addition of organic carbon at both ends of the molecule [C-2 and C-(ω-1)]. The detection of ethyl-branched fatty acids from unlabeled 1-alkenes further suggests that carbon addition also occurs at C-3. Alkylsuccinates were not observed as potential initial intermediates in alkene metabolism. Based on our observations, the first pathways for anaerobic 1-alkene metabolism in an anaerobic bacterium are proposed. Those pathways indicate that diverse initial reactions of 1-alkene activation can occur simultaneously in the same strain of sulfate-reducing bacterium.
PMCID: PMC2168147  PMID: 17965214
9.  Catalyst-Controlled Regioselectivity in the Synthesis of Branched Conjugated Dienes via Aerobic Oxidative Heck Reactions 
Journal of the American Chemical Society  2012;134(40):16496-16499.
Pd-catalyzed aerobic oxidative coupling of vinylboronic acids and electronically unbiased alkyl olefins provides regioselective access to 1,3-disubstituted conjugated dienes. Catalyst-controlled regioselectivity is achieved by using 2,9-dimethylphenanthroline as a ligand. The observed regioselectivity is opposite to that observed from a traditional (non-oxidative) Heck reaction between a vinyl bromide and an alkene. DFT computational studies reveal that steric effects of the 2,9-dimethylphenanthroline ligand promote C–C bond-formation at the internal position of the alkene.
PMCID: PMC3495987  PMID: 22998540
10.  Asymmetric Reduction of Activated Alkenes by Pentaerythritol Tetranitrate Reductase: Specificity and Control of Stereochemical Outcome by Reaction Optimisation 
Advanced synthesis & catalysis  2009;351(17):2976-2990.
We show that pentaerythritol tetranitrate reductase (PETNR), a member of the ‘ene’ reductase old yellow enzyme family, catalyses the asymmetric reduction of a variety of industrially relevant activated α,β-unsaturated alkenes including enones, enals, maleimides and nitroalkenes. We have rationalised the broad substrate specificity and stereochemical outcome of these reductions by reference to molecular models of enzyme-substrate complexes based on the crystal complex of the PETNR with 2-cyclohexenone 4a. The optical purity of products is variable (49–99% ee), depending on the substrate type and nature of substituents. Generally, high enantioselectivity was observed for reaction products with stereogenic centres at Cβ (>99% ee). However, for the substrates existing in two isomeric forms (e.g., citral 11a or nitroalkenes 18–19a), an enantiodivergent course of the reduction of E/Z-forms may lead to lower enantiopurities of the products. We also demonstrate that the poor optical purity obtained for products with stereogenic centres at Cα is due to non-enzymatic racemisation. In reactions with ketoisophorone 3a we show that product racemisation is prevented through reaction optimisation, specifically by shortening reaction time and through control of solution pH. We suggest this as a general strategy for improved recovery of optically pure products with other biocatalytic conversions where there is potential for product racemisation.
PMCID: PMC2854813  PMID: 20396613
asymmetric synthesis; biocatalysis; ene reductase; old yellow enzyme; pentaerythritol tetranitrate reductase; stereochemistry
11.  Mechanistic Studies of Wacker-Type Intramolecular Aerobic Oxidative Amination of Alkenes Catalyzed by Pd(OAc)2/Pyridine 
The Journal of Organic Chemistry  2011;76(4):1031-1044.
Wacker-type oxidative cyclization reactions have been the subject of extensive research for several decades, but few systematic mechanistic studies of these reactions have been reported. The present study features experimental and DFT computational studies of Pd(OAc)2/pyridine-catalyzed intramolecular aerobic oxidative amination of alkenes. The data support a stepwise catalytic mechanism that consists of (1) steady-state formation of a PdII-amidate-alkene chelate with release of one equivalent of pyridine and AcOH from the catalyst center, (2) alkene insertion into a Pd–N bond, (3) reversible β-hydride elimination, (4) irreversible reductive elimination of AcOH, and (5) aerobic oxidation of palladium(0) to regenerate the active trans-Pd(OAc)2(py)2 catalyst. Evidence is obtained for two energetically viable pathways for the key C–N bond-forming step, featuring a pyridine-ligated and a pyridine-dissociated PdII species. Analysis of natural charges and bond lengths of the alkene-insertion transition state suggest that this reaction is best described as an intramolecular nucleophilic attack of the amidate ligand on the coordinated alkene.
PMCID: PMC3087841  PMID: 21250706
12.  Formation of Alkenes via Degradation of tert-Alkyl Ethers and Alcohols by Aquincola tertiaricarbonis L108 and Methylibium spp. ▿† 
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2011;77(17):5981-5987.
Bacterial degradation pathways of fuel oxygenates such as methyl tert-butyl and tert-amyl methyl ether (MTBE and TAME, respectively) have already been studied in some detail. However, many of the involved enzymes are still unknown, and possible side reactions have not yet been considered. In Aquincola tertiaricarbonis L108, Methylibium petroleiphilum PM1, and Methylibium sp. strain R8, we have now detected volatile hydrocarbons as by-products of the degradation of the tert-alkyl ether metabolites tert-butyl and tert-amyl alcohol (TBA and TAA, respectively). The alkene isobutene was formed only during TBA catabolism, while the beta and gamma isomers of isoamylene were produced only during TAA conversion. Both tert-alkyl alcohol degradation and alkene production were strictly oxygen dependent. However, the relative contribution of the dehydration reaction to total alcohol conversion increased with decreasing oxygen concentrations. In resting-cell experiments where the headspace oxygen content was adjusted to less than 2%, more than 50% of the TAA was converted to isoamylene. Isobutene formation from TBA was about 20-fold lower, reaching up to 4% alcohol turnover at low oxygen concentrations. It is likely that the putative tert-alkyl alcohol monooxygenase MdpJ, belonging to the Rieske nonheme mononuclear iron enzymes and found in all three strains tested, or an associated enzymatic step catalyzed the unusual elimination reaction. This was also supported by the detection of mdpJK genes in MTBE-degrading and isobutene-emitting enrichment cultures obtained from two treatment ponds operating at Leuna, Germany. The possible use of alkene formation as an easy-to-measure indicator of aerobic fuel oxygenate biodegradation in contaminated aquifers is discussed.
PMCID: PMC3165420  PMID: 21742915
13.  Imparting Catalyst-Control upon Classical Palladium-Catalyzed Alkenyl C–H Bond Functionalization Reactions 
Accounts of Chemical Research  2011;45(6):874-884.
The functional group transformations carried out by the palladium-catalyzed Wacker and Heck reactions are radically different, but they are both alkenyl C-H bond functionalization reactions that have found extensive use in organic synthesis. The synthetic community depends heavily on these important reactions, but selectivity issues arising from control by the substrate, rather than control by the catalyst, have prevented the realization of their full potential. Because of important similarities in the respective selectivity-determining nucleopalladation and β-hydride elimination steps of these processes, we posit that the mechanistic insight garnered through the development of one of these catalytic reactions may be applied to the other. In this Account, we detail our efforts to develop catalyst-controlled variants of both the Wacker oxidation and the Heck reaction to address synthetic limitations and provide mechanistic insight into the underlying organometallic processes of these reactions.
In contrast to previous reports, we discovered that electrophilic palladium catalysts with non-coordinating counterions allowed for the use of a Lewis basic ligand to efficiently promote TBHP-mediated Wacker oxidation reactions of styrenes. This discovery led to the mechanistically guided development of a Wacker reaction catalyzed by a palladium complex with a bidentate ligand. This ligation may prohibit coordination of allylic heteroatoms, thereby allowing for the application of the Wacker oxidation to substrates that were poorly behaved under classical conditions.
Likewise, we unexpectedly discovered that electrophilic Pd-σ-alkyl intermediates are capable of distinguishing between electronically inequivalent C–H bonds during β-hydride elimination. As a result, we have developed E-styrenyl selective oxidative Heck reactions of previously unsuccessful electronically non-biased alkene substrates using arylboronic acid derivatives. The mechanistic insight gained from the development of this chemistry allowed for the rational design of a similarly E-styrenyl selective classical Heck reaction using aryldiazonium salts and a broad range of alkene substrates. The key mechanistic findings from the development of these reactions provide new insight into how to predictably impart catalyst control in organometallic processes that would otherwise afford complex product mixtures. Given our new understanding, we are optimistic that reactions that introduce increased complexity relative to simple classical processes may now be developed based on our ability to predict the selectivity-determining nucleopalladation and β-hydride elimination steps through catalyst design.
PMCID: PMC3324651  PMID: 22111756
14.  Bioelectronic Delivery of Electrons to Cytochrome P450 Enzymes 
The journal of physical chemistry. B  2011;115(26):8371-8380.
Cytochrome P450s (cyt P450s) are the major oxidative enzymes in human oxidative metabolism of drugs and xenobiotic chemicals. In nature, the iron heme cyt P450s utilize oxygen and electrons delivered from NADPH by a reductase enzyme to oxidize substrates stereo- and regioselectively. Significant research has been directed toward achieving these events electrochemically. This feature article discusses the direct electrochemistry of cyt P450s in thin films, and the utilization of such films for electrochemically-driven biocatalysis. Maintaining and confirming structural integrity and catalytic activity of cyt P450s in films is an essential feature of these efforts. We highlight here our efforts to elucidate the influence of iron heme spin state and secondary structure of human cyt P450s on voltammetric and biocatalytic properties, using methodologies to quantitatively describe the dynamics of these processes in thin films. We also describe the first cyt P450/reductase films that accurately mimic the natural biocatalytic pathway, and show how they can be used with voltammetry to elucidate key mechanistic features. Such bioelectronic cyt P450 systems have high value for future drug development, toxicity screening, fundamental investigations, and chemical synthesis systems.
PMCID: PMC3128182  PMID: 21591685
15.  Regioselectivity and Enantioselectivity in Nickel-Catalysed Reductive Coupling Reactions of Alkynes 
Nickel-catalysed reductive coupling reactions of alkynes have emerged as powerful synthetic tools for the selective preparation of functionalized alkenes. One of the greatest challenges associated with these transformations is control of regioselectivity. Recent work from our laboratory has provided an improved understanding of several of the factors governing regioselectivity in these reactions, and related studies have revealed that the reaction mechanism can differ substantially depending on the ligand employed. A discussion of stereoselective transformations and novel applications of nickel catalysis in coupling reactions of alkynes is also included.
PMCID: PMC3130994  PMID: 17971951
16.  Ozonolysis of Unsaturated Organotrifluoroborates 
The Journal of organic chemistry  2007;72(9):3558-3560.
Organotrifluoroborates are robust reagents capable of withstanding ozonolysis of remote alkenes, thus providing a new route to oxo-substituted organotrifluoroborates. The primary ozonides initially generated upon ozonolysis can be reduced with Zn/AcOH to afford the carbonyl compounds. Alternatively, capture of the carbonyl oxides with either an appropriate N-oxide or H2O easily gives the desired oxo-substituted organotrifluoroborates. Both unsaturated alkyltrifluoroborates and -aryltrifluoroborates effectively participate in the reaction. The process provides oxo-functionalized organotrifluoroborates that cannot be prepared directly via either transmetalation or hydroboration protocols.
PMCID: PMC2504467  PMID: 17408287
17.  Rhodium catalyzed chelation-assisted C-H bond functionalization reactions 
Accounts of Chemical Research  2011;45(6):814-825.
Over the last several decades, researchers have achieved remarkable progress in the field of organometallic chemistry. The development of metal-catalyzed cross-coupling reactions represents a paradigm shift in chemical synthesis, and today synthetic chemists can readily access carbon-carbon and carbon-heteroatom bonds from a vast array of starting compounds. Although we cannot understate the importance of these methods, the required pre-functionalization to carry out these reactions adds cost and reduces the availability of the starting reagents.
The use of C-H bond activation in lieu of pre-functionalization has presented a tantalizing alternative to classical cross-coupling reactions. Researchers have met the challenges of selectivity and reactivity associated with the development of C-H bond functionalization reactions with an explosion of creative advances in substrate and catalyst design. Literature reports on selectivity based on steric effects, acidity, and electronic and directing group effects are now numerous.
Our group has developed an array of C-H bond functionalization reactions that take advantage of a chelating directing group, and this Account surveys our progress in this area. The use of chelation control in C-H bond functionalization offers several advantages with respect to substrate scope and application to total synthesis. The predictability and decreased dependence on the inherent stereoelectronics of the substrate generally result in selective and high yielding transformations with broad applicability. The nature of the chelating moiety can be chosen to serve as a functional handle in subsequent elaborations.
Our work began with the use of Rh(I) catalysts in intramolecular aromatic C-H annulations, which we further developed to include enantioselective transformations. The application of this chemistry to the simple olefinic C-H bonds found in α,β-unsaturated imines allowed access to highly substituted olefins, pyridines, and piperidines. We observed complementary reactivity with Rh(III) catalysts and developed an oxidative coupling with unactivated alkenes. Further studies on the Rh(III) catalysts led us to develop methods for the coupling of C-H bonds to polarized π bonds such as those in imines and isocyanates. In several cases the methods that we have developed for chelation-controlled C-H bond functionalization have been applied to the total synthesis of complex molecules such as natural products, highlighting the utility of these methods in organic synthesis.
PMCID: PMC3307943  PMID: 22148885
C-H activation; rhodium; catalysis; total synthesis; transition metal
18.  Tandem application of C-C bond-forming reactions with reductive ozonolysis 
Several variants of reductive ozonolysis, defined here as the in situ generation of aldehydes or ketones during ozonolytic cleavage of alkenes, are demonstrated to work effectively in tandem with a number of C-C bond-forming reactions. For reactions involving basic nucleophiles (1,2-addition of Grignard reagents, Wittig or Horner-Emmons olefinations, and directed Aldol reactions of lithium enolates) the one-pot process offers a rapid and high-yielding alternative to traditional two-step protocols.
PMCID: PMC3537893  PMID: 22994627
19.  Chemoenzymatic Epoxidation of Alkenes and Reusability Study of the Phenylacetic Acid 
The Scientific World Journal  2014;2014:756418.
Here, we focused on a simple enzymatic epoxidation of alkenes using lipase and phenylacetic acid. The immobilised Candida antarctica lipase B, Novozym 435 was used to catalyse the formation of peroxy acid instantly from hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and phenylacetic acid. The peroxy phenylacetic acid generated was then utilised directly for in situ oxidation of alkenes. A variety of alkenes were oxidised with this system, resulting in 75–99% yield of the respective epoxides. On the other hand, the phenylacetic acid was recovered from the reaction media and reused for more epoxidation. Interestingly, the waste phenylacetic acid had the ability to be reused for epoxidation of the 1-nonene to 1-nonene oxide, giving an excellent yield of 90%.
PMCID: PMC3921943  PMID: 24587751
20.  Recent advances in the synthetic and mechanistic aspects of the ruthenium-catalyzed carbon-heteroatom bond forming reactions of alkenes and alkynes* 
The group’s recent advances in catalytic carbon-to-heteroatom bond forming reactions of alkenes and alkynes are described. For the C–O bond formation reaction, a well-defined bifunctional ruthenium-amido catalyst has been successfully employed for the conjugate addition of alcohols to acrylic compounds. The ruthenium-hydride complex (PCy3)2(CO)RuHCl was found to be a highly effective catalyst for the regioselective alkyne-to-carboxylic acid coupling reaction in yielding synthetically useful enol ester products. Cationic ruthenium-hydride catalyst generated in-situ from (PCy3)2(CO)RuHCl/HBF4·OEt2 was successfully utilized for both the hydroamination and related C–N bond forming reactions of alkenes. For the C–Si bond formation reaction, regio- and stereoselective dehydrosilylation of alkenes and hydrosilylation of alkynes have been developed by using a well-defined ruthenium-hydride catalyst. Scope and mechanistic aspects of these carbon-to-heteroatom bond-forming reactions are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3026479  PMID: 21278832
ruthenium catalyst; alkene; alkyne; carbon-heteroatom bond
21.  Stereoselective Catalytic Synthesis of Tetrasubstituted Olefins from the Intermolecular Conjugate Addition of Simple Alkenes to α,β-Unsaturated Carbonyl Compounds** 
Angewandte Chemie (International ed. in English)  2011;50(7):10.1002/anie.201006411.
Recent efforts in designing expeditious catalytic synthesis of tetrasubstituted olefins have in part been stimulated by growing needs for developing generally applicable methods for tamoxifen analogs (anti-breast cancer drug) as well as for photo-responsive organic materials and molecular devices.[1] A number of different catalytic methods have been developed to synthesize tetrasubstituted olefins, including: Suzuki-type Pd-catalyzed coupling reactions,[2] Ni- and Rh-catalyzed exocyclization methods,[3] Ni- and Pd-catalyzed nucleophilic coupling reactions of alkynes[4] and of alkyne-to-arylboronic acids,[5] Ti-catalyzed tandem alkyne-epoxide-ethyl acetate coupling,[6] and the ring-closing olefin metathesis by using Grubbs catalyst.[7] Though catalytic conjugate addition of alkenes has been recognized as a potentially powerful synthetic methodology in forming tetrasubstituted olefins, generally applicable conjugate addition of simple olefins to α,β-unsaturated carbonyl compounds has been hampered by lack of reactivity of the olefin substrates and due to the formation of homocoupling and other byproducts. Chelate-assisted C–H insertion[8] and cross coupling methods[9] are among the most notable advances in catalytic coupling reaction of enones with simple alkenes. Ni-catalyzed conjugate addition and allylic substitution reactions of simple alkenes have also been reported recently.[10] We recently discovered that the cationic complex [(C6H6)(CO)(PCy3)RuH]+BF4− (1) is a highly effective catalyst precursor for the coupling reactions of arylketones and alkenes involving C–H activation.[11] Herein we report a novel catalytic synthesis of tetrasubstituted olefins from the intermolecular conjugate addition reaction of simple olefins to α,β-unsaturated carbonyl compounds.
PMCID: PMC3869203  PMID: 21308934
22.  Tuning the Specificity of the Recombinant Multicomponent Toluene o-Xylene Monooxygenase from Pseudomonas sp. Strain OX1 for the Biosynthesis of Tyrosol from 2-Phenylethanol ▿ †  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2011;77(15):5428-5437.
Biocatalysis is today a standard technology for the industrial production of several chemicals, and the number of biotransformation processes running on a commercial scale is constantly increasing. Among biocatalysts, bacterial multicomponent monooxygenases (BMMs), a diverse group of nonheme diiron enzymes that activate dioxygen, are of primary interest due to their ability to catalyze a variety of complex oxidations, including reactions of mono- and dihydroxylation of phenolic compounds. In recent years, both directed evolution and rational design have been successfully used to identify the molecular determinants responsible for BMM regioselectivity and to improve their activity toward natural and nonnatural substrates. Toluene o-xylene monooxygenase (ToMO) is a BMM isolated from Pseudomonas sp. strain OX1 which hydroxylates a wide spectrum of aromatic compounds. In this work we investigate the use of recombinant ToMO for the biosynthesis in recombinant cells of Escherichia coli strain JM109 of 4-hydroxyphenylethanol (tyrosol), an antioxidant present in olive oil, from 2-phenylethanol, a cheap and commercially available substrate. We initially found that wild-type ToMO is unable to convert 2-phenylethanol to tyrosol. This was explained by using a computational model which analyzed the interactions between ToMO active-site residues and the substrate. We found that residue F176 is the major steric hindrance for the correct positioning of the reaction intermediate leading to tyrosol production into the active site of the enzyme. Several mutants were designed and prepared, and we found that the combination of different mutations at position F176 with mutation E103G allows ToMO to convert up to 50% of 2-phenylethanol into tyrosol in 2 h.
PMCID: PMC3147462  PMID: 21666013
23.  Pyridine is an organocatalyst for the reductive ozonolysis of alkenes 
Organic Letters  2012;14(9):2242-2245.
Whereas the cleavage of alkenes by ozone typically generates peroxide intermediates that must be decomposed in an accompanying step, ozonolysis in the presence of pyridine directly generates ketones or aldehydes through a process that neither consumes pyridine nor generates any detectable peroxides. The reaction is hypothesized to involve nucleophile-promoted fragmentation of carbonyl oxides via formation of zwitterionic peroxyacetals.
PMCID: PMC3365558  PMID: 22512349
24.  Mechanistic Study of the Oxidative Coupling of Styrene with 2-Phenylpyridine Derivatives Catalyzed by Cationic Rhodium( III) via C–H Activation 
The Rh(III) catalyzed oxidative coupling of alkenes with arenes provides a greener alternative to the classical Heck reaction for the synthesis of arene-functionalized alkenes. The present mechanistic study gives insights for the rational development of this key transformation. The catalyst resting states and the rate law of the reaction have been identified. The reaction rate is solely dependent on catalyst and alkene concentrations and the rate determining step is the migratory insertion of alkene into a Rh–C(aryl) bond.
PMCID: PMC3677599  PMID: 23590843
25.  Homo-Roche Ester Derivatives By Asymmetric Hydrogenation and Organocatalysis 
The Journal of organic chemistry  2013;78(23):10.1021/jo401996m.
Asymmetric hydrogenation routes to homologs of The Roche ester tend to be restricted to hydrogenations of itaconic acid derivatives, ie substrates that contain a relatively unhindered, 1,1-disubstituted, alkene. This is because in hydrogenations mediated by RhP2 complexes, the typical catalysts, it is difficult to obtain high conversions using the alternative substrate for the same product, the isomeric trisubstituted alkenes (D in the text). However, chemoselective modification of the identical functional groups in itaconic acid derivatives are difficult, hence it would be favorable to use the trisubstituted alkene. Trisubstituted alkene substrates can be hydrogenated with high conversions using chiral analogs of Crabtree’s catalyst of the type IrN(carbene). This paper demonstrates such reactions are scalable (tens of grams) and can be manipulated to give optically pure homo-Roche ester chirons. Organocatalytic fluorination, chlorination, and amination of the homo-Roche building blocks was performed to demonstrate that they could be easily transformed into functionalized materials with two chiral centers and α,ω-groups that provide extensive scope for modifications. A synthesis of (S,S)- and (R,S)-γ-hydroxyvaline was performed to illustrate one application of the amination product.
PMCID: PMC3882134  PMID: 24219839

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