[PhSiO1.5]8,10,12 as nanoreactors for non-enzymatic introduction of ortho, meta or para-hydroxyl groups to aromatic molecules

Dalton Trans. 2017 Jul 11;46(27):8797-8808. doi: 10.1039/c7dt00373k.


Traditional electrophilic bromination follows long established "rules": electron-withdrawing substituents cause bromination selective for meta positions, whereas electron-donating substituents favor ortho and para bromination. In contrast, in the [PhSiO1.5]8,10,12 silsesquioxanes, the cages act as bulky, electron withdrawing groups equivalent to CF3; yet bromination under mild conditions, without a catalyst, greatly favors ortho substitution. Surprisingly, ICl iodination without a catalyst favors (>90%) para substitution [p-IC6H4SiO1.5]8,10,12. Finally, nitration and Friedel-Crafts acylation and sulfonylation are highly meta selective, >80%. In principle, the two halogenation formats coupled with the traditional electrophilic reactions provide selective functionalization at each position on the aromatic ring. Furthermore, halogenation serves as a starting point for the synthesis of two structural isomers of practical utility, i.e. in drug prospecting. The o-bromo and p-iodo compounds are easily modified by catalytic cross-coupling to append diverse functional groups. Thereafter, F-/H2O2 treatment cleaves the Si-C bonds replacing Si with OH. This represents a rare opportunity to introduce hydroxyl groups to aromatic rings, a process not easily accomplished using traditional organic synthesis methods. The as-produced phenol provides additional opportunities for modification. Each cage can be considered a nanoreactor generating 8-12 product molecules. Examples given include syntheses of 4,2'-R,OH-stilbenes and 4,4'-R,OH-stilbenes (R = Me, CN). Unoptimized cleavage of the Br/I derivatives yields 55-85% phenol. Unoptimized cleavage of the stilbene derivatives yields 35-40% (3-5 equivalents of phenol) in the preliminary studies presented here. In contrast, meta R-phenol yields are 80% (7-10 mol per cage).