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Charge-Tagged Proline-Based Organocatalyst for Mechanistic Studies Using ESI-MS

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A new 4-hydroxy-L-proline derivative with a charged 1-ethylpyridinium-4-phenoxy substituent has been synthesized with the aim of facilitating mechanistic studies of proline-catalyzed reactions by ESI mass spectrometry. The charged residue ensures a strongly enhanced ESI response compared to neutral unmodified proline. The connection by a rigid linker fixes the position of the charge tag far away from the catalytic center in order to avoid unwanted interactions. The use of a charged catalyst leads to significantly enhanced ESI signal abundances for every catalyst-derived species which are the ones of highest interest present in a reacting solution. The new charged proline catalyst has been tested in the direct asymmetric inverse aldol reaction between aldehydes and diethyl ketomalonate. Two intermediates in accordance with the List-Houk mechanism for enamine catalysis have been detected and characterized by gas-phase fragmentation. In addition, their temporal evolution has been followed using a microreactor continuous-flow technique.

The article, A new charge-tagged proline-based organocatalyst for mechanistic studies using electrospray mass spectrometry, is published in Beilstein Journal of Organic Chemistry and is free to access.