Most homogenous gold catalyses demand ≥ 0.5 mol% catalyst loading. Owing to the high cost of gold, these reactions are unlikely to be applicable in medium- or large-scale applications. Here we disclose a novel ligand design based on the privileged (1,1'-biphenyl)-2-ylphosphine framework that offers a potentially general approach to dramatically lowering catalyst loading. In this design, an amide group at the 3'-position of the ligand framework directs and promotes nucleophilic attack at the ligand gold complex-activated alkyne, which is unprecedented in homogenous gold catalysis considering the spatial challenge of using ligand to reach anti-approaching nucleophile in a linear P-Au-alkyne centroid structure. With such a ligand, the gold(I) complex becomes highly efficient in catalysing acid addition to alkynes, with a turnover number up to 99,000. Density functional theory calculations support the role of the amide moiety in directing the attack of carboxylic acid via hydrogen bonding.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We appreciate the financial support of NIH (NIGMS (R01 GM084254), NSF (CHE-1301343) and the Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant number 21172248, 21121062).