Mechanistic and Computational Study of a Palladacycle-Catalyzed Decomposition of a Series of Neutral Phosphorothioate Triesters in Methanol

The methanolytic cleavage of a series of O,O-dimethyl O-aryl phosphorothioates (1ag) catalyzed by a C,N-palladacycle, (2-[N,N-dimethylamino(methyl)phenyl]-C1,N)(pyridine) palladium(II) triflate (3), at 25 °C and sspH 11.7 in methanol is reported, along with data for the methanolytic cleavage of 1ag. The methoxide reaction gives a linear log k2−OMe vs sspKa (phenol leaving group) Brønsted plot having a gradient of βlg = −0.47 ± 0.03, suggesting about 34% cleavage of the P−OAr bond in the transition state. On the other hand, the 3-catalyzed cleavage of 1 gives a Brønsted plot with a downward break at sspKa (phenol) ∼ 13, signifying a change in the rate-limiting step in the catalyzed reaction, with the two wings having βlg values of 0.0 ± 0.03 and −1.93 ± 0.06. The rate-limiting step for good substrates with low leaving group sspKa values is proposed to be substrate/pyridine exchange on the palladacycle, while for substrates with poor leaving groups, the rate-limiting step is a chemical one with extensive cleavage of the P−OAr bond. DFT calculations support this process and also identify two intermediates, namely, one where substrate/pyridine interchange has occurred to give the palladacycle coordinated to substrate through the SP linkage and to methoxide (6) and another where intramolecular methoxide attack has occurred on the PS unit to give a five-coordinate phosphorane (7) doubly coordinated to Pd via the S and through a bridging methoxide linked to P and Pd. Attempts to identify the existence of the phosphorane by 31P NMR in a d4-methanol solution containing 10 mM each of 3, trimethyl phosphorothioate (a very slow cleaving substrate), and methoxide proved unsuccessful, instead showing that the phosphorothioate was slowly converted to trimethyl phosphate, with the palladacycle decomposing to Pd0 and free pyridine. These results provide the first reported example where a palladacycle-promoted solvolysis reaction exhibits a break in the Brønsted plot signifying at least one intermediate, while the DFT calculations provide further insight into a more complex mechanism involving two intermediates.