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The activation of C–H bonds in homogeneous systems has been the subject of study for many years due to its involvement in important industrial catalytic processes. A large number of reviews on the different areas involved have appeared, but those dealing with kinetic studies, including activation parameters, are rather scarce due to the severe difficulties in interpreting experimental data. In this perspective, the information available from kinetico-mechanistic studies of cyclometalation reactions on Pd(II) and Rh(II) centres via C–H bond activation is considered. Experimental results from studies performed on complexes of these metal centres indicate that the historically accepted electrophilic substitution classification is not a satisfactory mechanistic term for the process occurring during the reaction. A definite acid-assisted phenomenon is evident for all the processes studied, which contradicts the expected need for a proton abstractor in the reaction. This is even more surprising when considering the expected hydrolysis of M–C bonds in such acidic media, indicating that metalation prevails under these conditions. Only the presence of coordinated acid molecules in solvolytic carboxylic acid media can explain the observations. The fine tuning between the proton abstraction capacity of a coordinated RCO2H molecule and its Lewis basicity results in a unique reactivity trend. DFT calculations carried out for these acid-assisted processes fully agree with the experimental trends observed.
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