Flexible biphenyl chromophore as a circular dichroism probe for assignment of the absolute configuration of carboxylic acids

J Am Chem Soc. 2006 May 31;128(21):6893-902. doi: 10.1021/ja058552a.


A general and nonempirical approach to determine the absolute configuration (AC) of 2-substituted chiral carboxylic acids by circular dichroism (CD) spectroscopy has been developed. In this protocol, the chiral acids are converted to the corresponding biphenyl amides, in which a flexible biphenyl probe gives rise to a Cotton effect at 250 nm (A band) in the CD spectrum, the sign of which is related to the acid AC. Two different mechanisms of transfer of chirality from the acid stereogenic center to the biphenyl moiety are operative in amides derived from 2-alkyl- and 2-aryl-substituted acids, respectively. For both classes of compounds, a model has been defined which allows one to predict, for a given acid AC, the preferred twist of the biphenyl moiety and thus the sign of the A band in the CD spectrum, related to the biphenyl torsion. Interestingly, while in alkyl-substituted substrates the preferred biphenyl twist is determined only by steric interactions, in the aryl-substituted ones the structure of the prevalent conformer and thus the biphenyl twist are dictated by arene-arene edge-to-face stabilizing interactions. Following this protocol, the AC of a 2-substituted chiral acid can be established simply by preparing its biphenyl amides, recording the CD spectrum, and looking at the sign of the A band. From the sign of such a band, the torsion of the biphenyl can be deduced and then the acid AC. Substrates having different structures and functionalities have been investigated, always obtaining reliable AC assignments by this simple protocol.