Polarizability matters in enantio-selection

Nat Commun. 2024 Apr 22;15(1):3394. doi: 10.1038/s41467-024-47813-4.


The prevalence of chirality, or, handedness in biological world is a fundamental phenomenon and a characteristic hallmark of life. Thus, understanding the origin of enantio-selection, i.e., the sense and magnitude of asymmetric induction, has been a long-pursued goal in asymmetric catalysis. Herein, we demonstrated a polarizability-derived electronic effect that was shown to be capable of rationalizing a broad range of stereochemical observations made in the field of asymmetric catalysis. This effect provided a consistent enantio-control model for the prediction of major enantiomers formed in a ruthenium-catalyzed asymmetric transfer hydrogenations of ketones. Direct and quantitative linear free energy relationships between substrates' local polarizabilities and observed enantio-selectivity were also revealed in three widely known asymmetric catalytic systems covering both reductions and oxidations. This broadly applicable polarizability-based electronic effect, in conjunction with conventional wisdom mainly leveraging on steric effect considerations, should aid rational design of enantio-selective processes for better production of chiral substances.