Asymmetric catalysis of epoxide ring-opening reactions

Acc Chem Res. 2000 Jun;33(6):421-31. doi: 10.1021/ar960061v.


The discovery of the metal salen-catalyzed asymmetric ring-opening (ARO) of epoxides is chronicled. A screening approach was adopted for the identification of catalysts for the addition of TMSN(3) to meso-epoxides, and the chiral (salen)CrN(3) complex was identified as optimal. Kinetic and structural studies served to elucidate the mechanism of catalysis, which involves cooperative activation of both epoxide and azide by two different metal centers. Covalently linked bimetallic complexes were constructed on the basis of this insight, and shown to catalyze the ARO with identical enantioselectivity but 1-2 orders of magnitude greater reactivity than the monomeric analogues. Extraordinarily high selectivity is observed in the kinetic resolution of terminal epoxides using the (salen)CrN(3)/TMSN(3) system. A search for a practical method for the kinetic resolution reaction led to the discovery of highly enantiomer-selective hydrolytic ring-opening using the corresponding (salen)Co(III) catalyst. This system displays extraordinary substrate generality, and allows practical access to enantiopure terminal epoxides on both laboratory and industrial scales.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Catalysis
  • Chelating Agents / chemistry
  • Epoxy Compounds / chemistry*
  • Ethylenediamines / chemistry
  • Kinetics
  • Metals, Heavy / chemistry
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Structure
  • Organometallic Compounds / chemistry


  • Chelating Agents
  • Epoxy Compounds
  • Ethylenediamines
  • Metals, Heavy
  • Organometallic Compounds
  • disalicylaldehyde ethylenediamine