Nat Commun. 2022 Nov 9;13(1):6505. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-34176-x.
Regioselective transformations of tertiary amines, which are ubiquitously present in natural products and drugs, are important for the development of novel medicines. In particular, the oxidative α-C-H functionalisation of tertiary amines with nucleophiles via iminium cations is a promising approach because, theoretically, there is almost no limit to the type of amine and functionalisation. However, most of the reports on oxidative α-C-H functionalisations are limited to α-methyl-selective or non-selective reactions, despite the frequent appearance of α-methylene-substituted amines in pharmaceutical fields. Herein, we develop an unusual oxidative regiospecific α-methylene functionalisation of structurally diverse tertiary amines with alkynes to synthesise various propargylic amines using a catalyst comprising Zn salts and hydroxyapatite-supported Au nanoparticles. Thorough experimental investigations suggest that the unusual α-methylene regiospecificity is probably due to a concerted one-proton/two-electron transfer from amines to O2 on the Au nanoparticle catalyst, which paves the way to other α-methylene-specific functionalisations.