Merging constitutional and motional covalent dynamics in reversible imine formation and exchange processes

J Am Chem Soc. 2012 Jun 6;134(22):9446-55. doi: 10.1021/ja302793c. Epub 2012 May 29.


The formation and exchange processes of imines of salicylaldehyde, pyridine-2-carboxaldehyde, and benzaldehyde have been studied, showing that the former has features of particular interest for dynamic covalent chemistry, displaying high efficiency and fast rates. The monoimines formed with aliphatic α,ω-diamines display an internal exchange process of self-transimination type, inducing a local motion of either "stepping-in-place" or "single-step" type by bond interchange, whose rate decreases rapidly with the distance of the terminal amino groups. Control of the speed of the process over a wide range may be achieved by substituents, solvent composition, and temperature. These monoimines also undergo intermolecular exchange, thus merging motional and constitutional covalent behavior within the same molecule. With polyamines, the monoimines formed execute internal motions that have been characterized by extensive one-dimensional, two-dimensional, and EXSY proton NMR studies. In particular, with linear polyamines, nondirectional displacement occurs by shifting of the aldehyde residue along the polyamine chain serving as molecular track. Imines thus behave as simple prototypes of systems displaying relative motions of molecular moieties, a subject of high current interest in the investigation of synthetic and biological molecular motors. The motional processes described are of dynamic covalent nature and take place without change in molecular constitution. They thus represent a category of dynamic covalent motions, resulting from reversible covalent bond formation and dissociation. They extend dynamic covalent chemistry into the area of molecular motions. A major further step will be to achieve control of directionality. The results reported here for imines open wide perspectives, together with other chemical groups, for the implementation of such features in multifunctional molecules toward the design of molecular devices presenting a complex combination of motional and constitutional dynamic behaviors.