Structural contributions to autocatalysis and asymmetric amplification in the soai reaction

Soumitra V. Athavale, Adam Simon, K. N. Houk, Scott E. Denmark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Diisopropylzinc alkylation of pyrimidine aldehydes-the Soai reaction, with its astonishing attribute of amplifying asymmetric autocatalysis-occupies a unique position in organic chemistry and stands as an eminent challenge for mechanistic elucidation. A new paradigm of "mixed catalyst-substrate"experiments with pyrimidine and pyridine systems allows a disconnection of catalysis from autocatalysis, providing insights into the role played by reactant and alkoxide structure. The alkynyl substituent favorably tunes catalyst solubility, aggregation, and conformation while modulating substrate reactivity and selectivity. The alkyl groups and the heteroaromatic core play further complementary roles in catalyst aggregation and substrate binding. In the study of these structure-activity relationships, novel pyridine substrates demonstrating amplifying autocatalysis were identified. Comparison of three autocatalytic systems representing a continuum of nitrogen Lewis basicity strength suggests how the strength of N-Zn binding events is a predominant contributor toward the rate of autocatalytic progression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18387-18406
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number43
StatePublished - Oct 28 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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