Computational study of the Curtius-like rearrangements of phosphoryl, phosphinyl, and phosphinoyl azides and their corresponding nitrenes.

Research paper by Ryan D RD McCulla, Gamal A GA Gohar, Christopher M CM Hadad, Matthew S MS Platz

Indexed on: 15 Nov '07Published on: 15 Nov '07Published in: Journal of Organic Chemistry


The free energies of reaction (DeltaG) and activation (DeltaG) were determined for the Curtius-like rearrangement of dimethylphosphinoyl, dimethylphosphinyl, and dimethylphosphoryl azides as well as the corresponding singlet and triplet nitrenes by CBS-QB3 and B3LYP computational methods. From CASSCF calculations, it was established that the closed-shell configuration was the lower energy singlet state for each of these nitrenes. The triplet states of dimethylphosphinyl- and dimethylphosphorylnitrene are the preferred ground states. However, the closed-shell singlet state is the ground state for dimethylphosphinoylnitrene. The CBS-QB3 DeltaG values for the Curtius-like rearrangements of dimethylphosphinyl and dimethylphosphoryl azides were 45.4 and 47.0 kcal mol-1, respectively. For the closed-shell singlet dimethylphosphinyl- and dimethylphosphorylnitrene, the CBS-QB3 DeltaG values for the rate-limiting step of the Curtius-like rearrangement were 22.9 and 18.0 kcal mol-1, respectively. It is unlikely that the nitrenes will undergo a Curtius-like rearrangement because of competing bimolecular reactions that have lower activation barriers. The pharmacology of weaponized organophosphorus compounds can be investigated using phosphorylnitrenes as photoaffinity labels. Dominant bimolecular reactivity is a desirable quality for a photoaffinity label to possess, and thus, the resistance of phosphorylnitrenes to intramolecular Curtius-like rearrangements increases their usefulness as photoaffinity labels.