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Dramatic substituent effects on the mechanisms of nucleophilic attack on Se—S bridges



The reactions of XSeSX, XSeSY, and YSeSX (X, Y = CH3, NH2, OH, F) with F and CN nucleophiles have been investigated by means of B3PW91/6-311+G(2df,p) and G4 calculations. In systems where the two substituents are not identical (XSeSY), the more stable of the two possible isomers corresponds to those in which the most electronegative substituent is attached to Se. Nucleophilic attack takes place at Se, independent of the nature of the nucleophile, with the only exception being XSeSF (X = CH3, NH2, OH), in which case the attack occurs at S. In agreement with recent results for disulfide and diselenide linkages, the mechanisms leading to Se—S bond cleavage are not always the more favorable ones because for highly electronegative substituents the most favorable process is fission of the chalcogen-substituent bond. These dissimilarities in the observed reactivity pattern as a function of the electronegativity of the substituents are due to the fact that the σ-type Se—S antibonding orbital, which for low-electronegative substituents is the lowest unnoccupied molecular orbital (LUMO), becomes strongly destabilized when the electronegativity of the substituent increases, and is replaced by an antibonding π-type Se-X (or S-X) orbital. In contrast, however, with what has been found for disulfide and diselenide derivatives, the observed reactivity does not change with the nature of the nucleophile. The activation strain model provides interesting insight into these processes, showing that in most cases the activation barriers are the consequence of subtle differences in the strain or in the interaction energies. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.