The Effects of Sulfur Substitution for the Nucleophile andBridging Oxygen Atoms in Reactions of Hydroxyalkyl Phosphate Esters

Document Type


Journal/Book Title

Journal of Organic Chemistry

Publication Date






First Page


Last Page



The effects of sulfur substitution on the reactions of hydroxyalkyl phosphate esters are examined. These compounds are models for the intramolecular phosphoryl transfer reaction involved in the cleavage of the internucleotide bond in RNA. The models studied here lack the ribose ring and their conformational flexibility results in greater stability and the availability of different reaction pathways. Sulfur in the nucleophilic position shows no nucleophilic reaction at phosphorus, instead rapidly attacking at the beta carbon atom, forming thiirane with departure of a phosphomonoester. Sulfur substitution at either of the two bridging positions leads to cleavage of the diester via formation of a cyclic intermediate, but with significant rate acceleration when compared to the oxygen analogues. The bridge-substituted models react substantially slower than the analogous ribose compounds with sulfur substitution at comparable positions. Kinetic isotope effects reveal significant differences in the transition state depending on which bridging position sulfur occupies. When sulfur is in the scissile bridging position, a highly associative transition state is indicated, with a largely formed bond to the nucleophile and the scissile P−S bond is little changed. When sulfur occupies the other bridging position, the isotope effects imply a very early transition state in a concerted reaction.

This document is currently not available here.