Mechanistic insights into the oxidation of substituted phenols via hydrogen atom abstraction by a cupric-superoxo complex

Jung Yoon Lee, Ryan L. Peterson, Kei Ohkubo, Isaac Garcia-Bosch, Richard A. Himes, Julia Woertink, Cathy D. Moore, Edward I. Solomon, Shunichi Fukuzumi, Kenneth D. Karlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


To obtain mechanistic insights into the inherent reactivity patterns for copper(I)-O2 adducts, a new cupric-superoxo complex [(DMM-tmpa)CuII(O2•-)]+ (2) [DMM-tmpa = tris((4-methoxy-3,5-dimethylpyridin-2-yl)methyl)amine] has been synthesized and studied in phenol oxidation-oxygenation reactions. Compound 2 is characterized by UV-vis, resonance Raman, and EPR spectroscopies. Its reactions with a series of para-substituted 2,6-di-tert-butylphenols (p-X-DTBPs) afford 2,6-di-tert-butyl-1,4-benzoquinone (DTBQ) in up to 50% yields. Significant deuterium kinetic isotope effects and a positive correlation of second-order rate constants (k2) compared to rate constants for p-X-DTBPs plus cumylperoxyl radical reactions indicate a mechanism that involves rate-limiting hydrogen atom transfer (HAT). A weak correlation of (kBT/e) ln k 2 versus Eox of p-X-DTBP indicates that the HAT reactions proceed via a partial transfer of charge rather than a complete transfer of charge in the electron transfer/proton transfer pathway. Product analyses, 18O-labeling experiments, and separate reactivity employing the 2,4,6-tri-tert-butylphenoxyl radical provide further mechanistic insights. After initial HAT, a second molar equiv of 2 couples to the phenoxyl radical initially formed, giving a CuII-OO-(ArO') intermediate, which proceeds in the case of p-OR-DTBP substrates via a two-electron oxidation reaction involving hydrolysis steps which liberate H2O2 and the corresponding alcohol. By contrast, four-electron oxygenation (O-O cleavage) mainly occurs for p-R-DTBP which gives 18O-labeled DTBQ and elimination of the R group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9925-9937
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number28
StatePublished - 16 Jul 2014


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