Henry Rzepa's Blog Chemistry with a twist

April 4, 2019

Smoke and mirrors. All is not what it seems with this Sn2 reaction!

Previously, I explored the Graham reaction to form a diazirine. The second phase of the reaction involved an Sn2′ displacement of N-Cl forming C-Cl. Here I ask how facile the simpler displacement of C-Cl by another chlorine might be and whether the mechanism is Sn2 or the alternative Sn1. The reason for posing this question is that as an Sn1 reaction, simply ionizing off the chlorine to form a diazacyclopropenium cation might be a very easy process. Why? Because the resulting cation is analogous to the cyclopropenium cation, famously proposed by Breslow as the first example of a 4n+2 aromatic ring for which the value of n is zero and not 1 as for benzene.[1] Another example of a famous “Sn1” reaction is the solvolysis of t-butyl chloride to form the very stable tertiary carbocation and chloride anion (except in fact that it is not an Sn1 reaction but an Sn2 one!)



  1. R. Breslow, "SYNTHESIS OF THE s-TRIPHENYLCYCLOPROPENYL CATION", Journal of the American Chemical Society, vol. 79, pp. 5318-5318, 1957. http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/ja01576a067

September 24, 2015

Isoelectronic games: the CO analogue of diazirines as an intriguing species?

How does an anaesthetic work? Surprisingly, it is only recently[1] that the possible binding sites of the anaesthetic propofol (2,6-di-isopropylphenol) have been identified using a technique known as photoaffinity labelling.[2] A propofol analogue was constructed[1] by replacing one of the isopropyl groups with a trifluoromethyl diazirine group (R=CF3, X=Y=N below). Upon photolysis, this species looses nitrogen and forms a carbene as a reactive species, which with further chemistry binds covalently[2] to adjacent amino acids in the binding pocket.These modified segments could then be analysed by mass spectrometry.[1] An isomer of  diazirine is diazomethane, which is some 11 kcal/mol lower in free energy, but fortunately the diazirene is preventing from thermally isomerising to this species by a large kinetic barrier. That was the intro; now for a connection. I recently attended a presentation on another medical topic, the therapeutic uses of carbon monoxide.[3] In higher concentrations it is notoriously lethal, but with appropriate delivery it can be therapeutic. So, intertwingling, I asked myself what the properties of the carbon monoxide isoelectronic analogue of a diazirine might be (X=C, Y=O below). 



  1. G.M.S. Yip, Z. Chen, C.J. Edge, E.H. Smith, R. Dickinson, E. Hohenester, R.R. Townsend, K. Fuchs, W. Sieghart, A.S. Evers, and N.P. Franks, "A propofol binding site on mammalian GABAA receptors identified by photolabeling", Nature Chemical Biology, vol. 9, pp. 715-720, 2013. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nchembio.1340
  2. L. Dubinsky, B.P. Krom, and M.M. Meijler, "Diazirine based photoaffinity labeling", Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry, vol. 20, pp. 554-570, 2012. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bmc.2011.06.066
  3. R. Motterlini, and L.E. Otterbein, "The therapeutic potential of carbon monoxide", Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, vol. 9, pp. 728-743, 2010. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nrd3228

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