The ability of platinum and gold catalysts to effect powerful atom-economic transformations has led to a marked increase in their utilization. The quite remarkable correlation of their catalytic behavior with the available structural data, coordination chemistry, and organometallic reactivity patterns, including relativistic effects, allows the underlying principles of catalytic carbophilic activation by π acids to be formulated. The spectrum of reactivity extends beyond their utility as catalytic and benign alternatives to conventional stoichiometric π acids. The resulting reactivity profile allows this entire field of catalysis to be rationalized, and brings together the apparently disparate electrophilic metal carbene and nonclassical carbocation explanations. The advances in coupling, cycloisomerization, and structural reorganization—from the design of new transformations to the improvement to known reactions—are highlighted in this Review. The application of platinum- and gold-catalyzed transformations in natural product synthesis is also discussed.
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