Highly efficient and diastereoselective gold(I)-catalyzed synthesis of tertiary amines from secondary amines and alkynes: substrate scope and mechanistic insights

Chemistry. 2011 Nov 11;17(46):12932-45. doi: 10.1002/chem.201101982. Epub 2011 Oct 20.


An efficient method for the synthesis of tertiary amines through a gold(I)-catalyzed tandem reaction of alkynes with secondary amines has been developed. In the presence of ethyl Hantzsch ester and [{(tBu)(2)(o-biphenyl)P}AuCl]/AgBF(4) (2 mol %), a variety of secondary amines bearing electron-deficient and electron-rich substituents and a wide range of alkynes, including terminal and internal aryl alkynes, aliphatic alkynes, and electron-deficient alkynes, underwent a tandem reaction to afford the corresponding tertiary amines in up to 99 % yield. For indolines bearing a preexisting chiral center, their reactions with alkynes in the presence of ethyl Hantzsch ester catalyzed by [{(tBu)(2)(o-biphenyl)P}AuCl]/AgBF(4) (2 mol %) afforded tertiary amines in excellent yields and with good to excellent diastereoselectivity. All of these organic transformations can be conducted as a one-pot reaction from simple and readily available starting materials without the need of isolation of air/moisture-sensitive enamine intermediates, and under mild reaction conditions (mostly room temperature and mild reducing agents). Mechanistic studies by NMR spectroscopy, ESI-MS, isotope labeling studies, and DFT calculations on this gold(I)-catalyzed tandem reaction reveal that the first step involving a monomeric cationic gold(I)-alkyne intermediate is more likely than a gold(I)-amine intermediate, a three-coordinate gold(I) intermediate, or a dinuclear gold(I)-alkyne intermediate. These studies also support the proposed reaction pathway, which involves a gold(I)-coordinated enamine complex as a key intermediate for the subsequent transfer hydrogenation with a hydride source, and reveal the intrinsic stereospecific nature of these transformations observed in the experiments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alkynes / chemistry*
  • Amines / chemical synthesis*
  • Amines / chemistry*
  • Catalysis
  • Gold / chemistry*
  • Hydrogenation
  • Molecular Structure
  • Stereoisomerism


  • Alkynes
  • Amines
  • Gold