Quantification and Theoretical Analysis of the Electrophilicities of Michael Acceptors

J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2017, 139 (38), 13318–13329       DOI: 10.1021/jacs.7b05106


In order to quantify the electrophilic reactivities of common Michael acceptors, we measured the kinetics of the reactions of monoacceptor-substituted ethylenes (H2C═CH-Acc, 1) and styrenes (PhCH═CH-Acc, 2) with pyridinium ylides 3, sulfonium ylide 4, and sulfonyl-substituted chloromethyl anion 5. Substitution of the 57 measured second-order rate constants (log k) and the previously reported nucleophile-specific parameters N and sN for 35 into the correlation log k = sN(E + N) allowed us to calculate 15 new empirical electrophilicity parameters E for Michael acceptors 1 and 2. The use of the same parameters sN, N, and E for these different types of reactions shows that all reactions proceed via a common rate-determining step, the nucleophilic attack of 35 at the Michael acceptors with formation of acyclic intermediates, which subsequently cyclize to give tetrahydroindolizines (stepwise 1,3-dipolar cycloadditions with 3) and cyclopropanes (with 4 and 5), respectively. The electrophilicity parameters E thus determined can be used to calculate the rates of the reactions of Michael acceptors 1 and 2 with any nucleophile of known N and sN. DFT calculations were performed to confirm the suggested reaction mechanisms and to elucidate the origin of the electrophilic reactivities. While electrophilicities E correlate poorly with the LUMO energies and with Parr’s electrophilicity index ω, good correlations were found between the experimentally observed electrophilic reactivities of 44 Michael acceptors and their calculated methyl anion affinities, particularly when solvation by dimethyl sulfoxide was taken into account by applying the SMD continuum solvation model. Because of the large structural variety of Michael acceptors considered for these correlations, which cover a reactivity range of 17 orders of magnitude, we consider the calculation of methyl anion affinities to be the method of choice for a rapid estimate of electrophilic reactivities.

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