The cinchona alkaloid-derived urea-catalyzed asymmetric conjugate addition of aromatic thiols to cycloalkenones was studied using density functional theory (DFT). Deprotonation of the thiol gives a protonated amine that activates the electrophile by Brønsted acid catalysis, while the urea group binds the nucleophilic thiolate by hydrogen bonding. These results demonstrate the generality of the Brønsted acid-hydrogen bonding transition state (TS) model for cinchona alkaloid catalysis that we recently showed to be favored over Wynberg's widely accepted ion pair-hydrogen bonding model and represent the first detailed mechanistic study of a cinchona urea-catalyzed reaction. The conformation of the catalyst methoxy group has a strong effect on the TS, an effect overlooked in previous mechanistic studies of reactions catalyzed by cinchona alkaloids.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Colloid and Surface Chemistry