Mechanistic basis for high stereoselectivity and broad substrate scope in the (salen)Co(III)-catalyzed hydrolytic kinetic resolution

J Am Chem Soc. 2013 Oct 16;135(41):15595-608. doi: 10.1021/ja408027p. Epub 2013 Oct 7.


In the (salen)Co(III)-catalyzed hydrolytic kinetic resolution (HKR) of terminal epoxides, the rate- and stereoselectivity-determining epoxide ring-opening step occurs by a cooperative bimetallic mechanism with one Co(III) complex acting as a Lewis acid and another serving to deliver the hydroxide nucleophile. In this paper, we analyze the basis for the extraordinarily high stereoselectivity and broad substrate scope observed in the HKR. We demonstrate that the stereochemistry of each of the two (salen)Co(III) complexes in the rate-determining transition structure is important for productive catalysis: a measurable rate of hydrolysis occurs only if the absolute stereochemistry of each of these (salen)Co(III) complexes is the same. Experimental and computational studies provide strong evidence that stereochemical communication in the HKR is mediated by the stepped conformation of the salen ligand, and not the shape of the chiral diamine backbone of the ligand. A detailed computational analysis reveals that the epoxide binds the Lewis acidic Co(III) complex in a well-defined geometry imposed by stereoelectronic rather than steric effects. This insight serves as the basis of a complete stereochemical and transition structure model that sheds light on the reasons for the broad substrate generality of the HKR.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alcohols / chemical synthesis*
  • Alcohols / chemistry
  • Catalysis
  • Cobalt / chemistry*
  • Epoxy Compounds / chemical synthesis
  • Epoxy Compounds / chemistry*
  • Ethylenediamines / chemistry*
  • Hydrolysis
  • Kinetics
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Structure
  • Organometallic Compounds / chemistry*
  • Quantum Theory
  • Stereoisomerism


  • Alcohols
  • Epoxy Compounds
  • Ethylenediamines
  • Organometallic Compounds
  • Cobalt
  • disalicylaldehyde ethylenediamine