Role of Electron-Deficient Olefin Ligands in a Ni-Catalyzed Aziridine Cross-Coupling to Generate Quaternary Carbons

Jesús G. Estrada, Wendy L. Williams, Stephen I. Ting, Abigail G. Doyle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


We previously reported the development of an electron-deficient olefin (EDO) ligand, Fro-DO, that promotes the generation of quaternary carbon centers via Ni-catalyzed Csp3-Csp3 cross-coupling with aziridines. By contrast, electronically and structurally similar EDO ligands such as dimethyl fumarate and electron-deficient styrenes afford primarily β-hydride elimination side reactivity. Only a few catalyst systems have been identified that promote the formation of quaternary carbons via Ni-catalyzed Csp3-Csp3 cross-coupling. Although Fro-DO represents a promising ligand in this regard, the basis for its superior performance is not well understood. Here we describe a detailed mechanistic study of the aziridine cross-coupling reaction and the role of EDO ligands in facilitating Csp3-Csp3 bond formation. This analysis reveals that cross-coupling proceeds by a Ni0/II cycle with a NiII azametallacyclobutane catalyst resting state. Turnover-limiting C-C reductive elimination occurs from a spectroscopically observable NiII-dialkyl intermediate bound to the EDO. Computational analysis shows that Fro-DO accelerates turnover limiting reductive elimination via LUMO lowering. However, it is no more effective than dimethyl fumarate at reducing the barrier to Csp3-Csp3 reductive elimination. Instead, Fro-DO's unique reactivity arises from its ability to associate favorably to NiII intermediates. Natural bond order second-order perturbation theory analysis of the catalytically relevant NiII intermediate indicates that Fro-DO binds to NiII through an additional stabilizing donor-acceptor interaction between its sulfonyl group and NiII. Design of new ligands to evaluate this proposal supports this model and has led to the development of a new and tunable ligand framework.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8928-8937
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number19
StatePublished - May 13 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Catalysis
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Role of Electron-Deficient Olefin Ligands in a Ni-Catalyzed Aziridine Cross-Coupling to Generate Quaternary Carbons'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this