The first example of a catalytic Michael addition reaction of non-activated aliphatic nitriles to α,β-unsaturated carbonyl compounds under mild, neutral conditions is reported. A new de-aromatized pyridine-based PNP pincer complex of the Earth-abundant, first-row transition metal manganese serves as the catalyst. The reaction tolerates a variety of nitriles and Michael acceptors with different steric features and acceptor strengths. Mechanistic investigations including temperature-dependent NMR spectroscopy and DFT calculations reveal that the cooperative activation of alkyl nitriles, which leads to the generation of metalated nitrile nucleophile species (α-cyano carbanion analogues), is a key step of the mechanism. The metal center is not directly involved in the catalytic bond formation but rather serves, cooperatively with the ligand, as a template for the substrate activation. This approach of "template catalysis" expands the scope of potential donors for conjugate addition reactions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Colloid and Surface Chemistry