Density functional theory calculations with the B3LYP functional were performed for the title ring-opening reaction to understand the intrinsic activating and directing effects of the N-substituents, as well as the electron donating effect of the para-substituted (Y = Cl, H, Me) phenyl group at the more hindered benzylic C2 atom. The N-tosyl group (i.e., N-Tos) or the N-(2-pyridyl)sulfonyl group (i.e., N-Py) was introduced to activate the ring nitrogen atom (N1) and the para-substituted (Y = Cl, H, Me) phenyl group for the activation of the C2 atom. Conformational searches and geometry optimizations were performed for the N-(para-substituted)phenylaziridines (1∼6). Calculations indicate that the aziridine 6 (i.e., Py/Me) has the most elongated C2N1 bond intrinsically due to the electronic activating effects, implying the aziridine 6 to be the most potent candidate for the more-hindered C2 opening. Transition states (TSs) were investigated for the prospective ring-opening paths (I∼IV), considering the types of intermolecular push–pull interactions between the N-activated phenylaziridines and the cuprate. The N-Py group provides an unique C2-favored TS along the path IV, which the N-Tos group cannot afford, due to the less charge transfer from the nucleophilic CH of the cuprate into the electrophilic C2 atom. Furthermore, the e-donating effect of the para-substituents (Y = Cl, H, Me) enhances the C2 opening for the path IV. This study enables us to understand the unusual ring-opening phenomena in terms of electronic and directing effects and hence may serve as a tool to design substrates for highly regioselective ring openings. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Comput Chem, 2011
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