Michael Reaction of Stabilized Carbon Nucleophiles Catalyzed by [RuH2(PPh3)4]

The Michael reaction of active methylene compounds lacking cyano groups such as malonates, β-ketoesters, 1,3-diketones, 1,1-disulfones, nitrocompounds, Meldrum acid, and anthrone with common acceptors proceeds in acetonitrile solution in the presence of [RuH2(PPh3)4] as the catalyst. Cyano acetates, more acidic than malonates in organic solvents, are also excellent substrates for this reaction. In a number of cases, intramolecular aldol reactions catalyzed by [RuH2(PPh3)4] were also observed as side reactions. Catalysis by other ruthenium and rhodium complexes has been examined. Selectivity studies performed with malonate and disulfone donors indicate that the catalyst selectively activates Michael donors that can coordinate with ruthenium(II). Additionally, it has been shown that the reaction requires the presence of free phosphine. Therefore, the Michael reaction of stabilized enolates appears to be a ruthenium- and phosphine-catalyzed reaction. From a practical point of view, the use of readily prepared [RuH2(PPh3)4] as the catalyst in acetonitrile provided the best solution for the Michael reaction of active methylene compounds.