Catalytic Conversion of Nitriles by Metal Pincer Complexes

Beibei Guo, Edwin Otten, Johannes G. de Vries*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
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The nitrile is an extremely useful functional group in organic synthesis: it can be transformed into amides, carboxylic acids, amines and imines; yet it is relatively stable and can be easily carried through several synthetic steps before being converted. The conversions of nitriles under mild conditions are thus very important transformations. Great progress has been made in the last decade in the use of metal pincer complexes as catalysts for quite a number of reactions of nitriles and nitrile-containing molecules. The selective hydrogenation of nitriles either to the amines or to the imines usually follows a Noyori-type outer-sphere mechanism. Coordination of aliphatic nitriles to the metal centre renders the α-proton rather acidic allowing deprotonation followed by carbon-carbon coupling reactions. The pyridine-based metal pincer complexes introduced by Milstein allow for novel mechanisms based on metal-ligand cooperativity in which the pyridine undergoes dearomatisation induced by deprotonation of one of the side arms. The nitrile can undergo a cycloaddition to the complex in its dearomatised form, creating a new bond between the nitrogen atom and the metal, whereas the nitrile carbon atom forms a C-C bond with the carbon atom of one of the pincer side-arms. The resulting metalimide undergoes nucleophilic addition more easily than the nitrile. It can also easily rearrange to the enamide, which can undergo C-C bond forming reactions. Also, oxo- and aza-Michael reactions are facilitated on the unsaturated nitriles, such as acrylonitriles or pentenitriles. Most reactions proceed under mild conditions in excellent yields.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTopics in Organometallic Chemistry
EditorsGerard van Koten, Karl Kirchner, Marc-Etienne Moret
PublisherSpringer Verlag
Number of pages57
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-68916-2
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-68915-5, 978-3-030-68918-6
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Publication series

NameTopics in Organometallic Chemistry
ISSN (Print)1436-6002
ISSN (Electronic)1616-8534


  • Acylation
  • Aldol
  • Alkylation
  • Amide
  • Amidine
  • Amine
  • Deuteration
  • Hydration
  • Imine
  • Mannich
  • Mechanism
  • Michael addition
  • Nitrile
  • Olefination
  • Quinazoline
  • Quinoline

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