Tuesday, October 06, 2009
How to Turn an Amine Into a Leaving Group
Leaving group activation of alcohols followed by nucleophilic substitution is routine stuff for the synthetic organic chemist. Just make the tosylate, nosylate, mesylate, triflate.... and things generally go according to plan. However, what if you are stuck with an amine and want to substitute it with a nucleophile. There are a number of ways to do this but it's not just a walk in the park. Until recently I had never had to do this but then one fine morning I wanted to do the reaction above. How does one go about doing this? Is there a simple method by which I could activate the amine and displace it with the anion of 2-nitropropane, followed by a simple reduction to get the amine I wanted? Well, as it turns out Katritzky and co-workers published a paper in 1979 introducing triphenylpyrylium salts that can convert amines to leaving groups. Granted, the atom economy in this process is (to say the least) poor. However, the required pyrylium salt is commertcially available at a resonable price. All you do is stir it up with the amine. Prior to adding the amine the suspension is pale yellow and then when you toss the amine in it becomes a deep red slurry. In the photo the amine has just been added. It's always exciting with a bit of colour if your an organic chemist. The product is isolated by filtration. In this case the pyridinium salt was isolated as a light brown solid in 63% yield, perfectly clean by NMR. Next the pyridinium salt was treated with deprotonated 2-nitropropane in hot DMSO to give the nitro compound that was reduced using old school conditions. Interestingly, we could not get any reduction AT ALL of the nitro compound by catalytic hydrogentaion (at atmospheric pressure). Very odd! I would have expected to see at least a few percent of the reduced stuff. Any ideas out there? Anyway, the amine was isolated in good yield over two steps after a short (2 cm tall) DCVC column. Yes a wastefull method but it is simple and fast. D!