American Chemical Society
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Reactivity and Selectivity in the Wittig Reaction:  A Computational Study

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journal contribution
posted on 2006-02-22, 00:00 authored by Raphaël Robiette, Jeffery Richardson, Varinder K. Aggarwal, Jeremy N. Harvey
The salt-free Wittig reaction of non-, semi-, and stabilized ylides has been investigated on realistic systems using density functional theory (DFT) calculations, including continuum solvation. Our results provide unequivocal support for the generally accepted mechanism and are in very good agreement with experimental selectivities. This study shows that E/Z selectivity of non- and semi-stabilized ylides cannot be fully understood without considering the energy of the elimination TS. The influence of ylide stabilization and the nature of phosphorus substituents on reversibility of oxaphosphetane formation is clarified. Unexpectedly, the puckering ability of addition TSs is shown not to depend on ylide stabilization, but the geometry of the TS is decided by an interplay of 1,2; 1,3; and C−H···O interactions in the case of non- and semi-stabilized ylides, whereas a dipole−dipole interaction governs the addition TS structures for stabilized ylides. The well-known influence of ylide stabilization on selectivity of PPh3 derivatives is explained as follows:  in non- and semi-stabilized ylides reactions, cis and trans addition TSs have, respectively, puckered and planar geometries, and selectivity is governed by an interplay of 1,2 and 1,3 interactions. For stabilized ylides, the high E selectivity is due to a strong dipole−dipole interaction at the addition TS. The influence of the nature of phosphorus substituents on selectivity is also detailed, the different behavior of (MeO)3PCHCO2Me ylides being explained by their lower dipole. This novel picture of the factors determining TS structures and selectivity provides a sound basis for the design of new ylides.