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C-H Activation and Proton Transfer Initiate Alkene Metathesis Activity of the Tungsten(IV)-Oxo Complex.


In alkene metathesis, while group 6 (Mo or W) high-oxidation state alkylidenes are accepted to be key reaction intermediates for both homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysts, it has been proposed that low valent species in their +4 oxidation state can serve as precatalysts. However, the activation mechanism for these latter species-generating alkylidenes-is still an open question. Here, we report the syntheses of tungsten(IV)-oxo bisalkoxide molecular complexes stabilized by pyridine ligands, WO(OR)2py3 (R = CMe(CF3)2 (2a), R = Si(O tBu)3 (2b), and R = C(CF3)3 (2c); py = pyridine), and show that upon activation with B(C6F5)3 they display alkene metathesis activities comparable to W(VI)-oxo alkylidenes. The initiation mechanism is examined by kinetic, isotope labeling and computational studies. Experimental evidence reveals that the presence of an allylic CH group in the alkene reactant is crucial for initiating alkene metathesis. Deuterium labeling of the allylic C-H group shows a primary kinetic isotope effect on the rate of initiation. DFT calculations support the formation of an allyl hydride intermediate via activation of the allylic C-H bond and show that formation of the metallacyclobutane from the allyl "hydride" involves a proton transfer facilitated by the coordination of a Lewis acid (B(C6F5)3) and assisted by a Lewis base (pyridine). This proton transfer step is rate determining and yields the metathesis active species.

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