Cooperative C–H activation of pyridine by PBP complexes of Rh and Ir can lead to bridging 2-pyridyls with different connectivity to the B–M unit†
Pyridine and quinoline undergo selective C–H activation in the 2-position with Rh and Ir complexes of a boryl/bis(phosphine) PBP pincer ligand, resulting in a 2-pyridyl bridging the transition metal and the boron center. Examination of this reactivity with Rh and Ir complexes carrying different non-pincer ligands on the transition metal led to the realization of the possible isomerism derived from the 2-pyridyl fragment connecting either via B–N/C–M bonds or via B–C/N–M bonds. This M–C/M–N isomerism was systematically examined for four structural types. Each of these types has a defined set of ligands on Rh/Ir besides 2-pyridyl and PBP. A pair of M–C/M–N isomers for each type was computationally examined for Rh and for Ir, totaling 16 compounds. Several of these compounds were isolated or observed in solution by experimental methods, in addition to a few 2-quinolyl variants. The DFT predictions concerning the thermodynamic preference within each M–C/M–N isomeric match the experimental findings very well. In two cases where DFT predicts <2 kcal mol−1 difference in free energy, both isomers were experimentally observed in solution. Analysis of the structural data, of the relevant Wiberg bond indices, and of the ETS-NOCV partitioning of the interaction of the 2-pyridyl fragment with the rest of the molecule points to the strength of the M–C(pyridyl) bond as the dominant parameter determining the relative M–C/M–N isomer favorability. This M–C bond is always stronger for the analogous Ir vs. Rh compounds, but the nature of the ligand trans to it has a significant influence, as well. DFT calculations were used to evaluate the mechanism of isomerization for one of the molecule types.