Nat Commun. 2022 Aug 15;13(1):4793. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-32428-4.
Conformational isomerization can be guided by weak interactions such as chalcogen bonding (ChB) interactions. Here we report a catalytic strategy for asymmetric access to chiral sulfoxides by employing conformational isomerization and chalcogen bonding interactions. The reaction involves a sulfoxide bearing two aldehyde moieties as the substrate that, according to structural analysis and DFT calculations, exists as a racemic mixture due to the presence of an intramolecular chalcogen bond. This chalcogen bond formed between aldehyde (oxygen atom) and sulfoxide (sulfur atom), induces a conformational locking effect, thus making the symmetric sulfoxide as a racemate. In the presence of N-heterocyclic carbene (NHC) as catalyst, the aldehyde moiety activated by the chalcogen bond selectively reacts with an alcohol to afford the corresponding chiral sulfoxide products with excellent optical purities. This reaction involves a dynamic kinetic resolution (DKR) process enabled by conformational locking and facile isomerization by chalcogen bonding interactions.