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Title: Unconventional mechanism and selectivity of the Pd-catalyzed C–H bond lactonization in aromatic carboxylic acid

The search for more effective and highly selective C–H bond oxidation of accessible hydrocarbons and biomolecules is a greatly attractive research mission. The elucidating of mechanism and controlling factors will, undoubtedly, help to broaden scope of these synthetic protocols, and enable discovery of more efficient, environmentally benign, and highly practical new C–H oxidation reactions. Here, we reveal the stepwise intramolecular SN2 nucleophilic substitution mechanism with the rate-limiting C–O bond formation step for the Pd(II)-catalyzed C(sp3)–H lactonization in aromatic 2,6-dimethylbenzoic acid. We show that for this reaction, the direct C–O reductive elimination from both Pd(II) and Pd(IV) (oxidized by O2oxidant) intermediates is unfavorable. Critical factors controlling the outcome of this reaction are the presence of the η3-(π-benzylic)–Pd and K+–O(carboxylic) interactions. The controlling factors of the benzylic vs ortho site-selectivity of this reaction are the: (a) difference in the strains of the generated lactone rings; (b) difference in the strengths of the η3-(π-benzylic)–Pd and η2-(π-phenyl)–Pd interactions, and (c) more pronounced electrostatic interaction between the nucleophilic oxygen and K+cation in the ortho-C–H activation transition state. The presented data indicate the utmost importance of base, substrate, and ligand in the selective C(sp3)–H bond lactonization in the presence of C(sp2)–H.

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Nature Communications
Nature Publishing Group
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National Science Foundation
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