Titanium is an attractive metal for catalytic reaction development: it is earth-abundant, inexpensive, and generally nontoxic. However-like most early transition metals-catalytic redox reactions with Ti are difficult because of the stability of the high-valent Ti IV state. Understanding the fundamental mechanisms behind Ti redox processes is key for making progress toward potential catalytic applications. This Account details recent progress in Ti-catalyzed (and -mediated) oxidative amination reactions that proceed through formally Ti II/Ti IV catalytic cycles.This class of reactions is built on our initial discovery of Ti-catalyzed [2 + 2 + 1] pyrrole synthesis from alkynes and azobenzene, where detailed mechanistic studies have revealed important factors that allow for catalytic turnover despite the inherent difficulty of Ti redox. Two important conclusions from mechanistic studies are that (1) low-valent Ti intermediates in catalysis can be stabilized through coordination of π-acceptor substrates or products, where they can act as "redox-noninnocent" ligands through metal-to-ligand π back-donation, and (2) reductive elimination processes with Ti proceed through π-type electrocyclic (or pericyclic) reaction mechanisms rather than direct σ-bond coupling.The key reactive species in Ti-catalyzed oxidative amination reactions are Ti imidos (Ti≡NR), which can be generated from either aryl diazenes (RN═NR) or organic azides (RN 3). These Ti imidos can then undergo [2 + 2] cycloadditions with alkynes, resulting in intermediates that can be coupled to an array of other unsaturated functional groups, including alkynes, alkenes, nitriles, and nitrosos. This basic reactivity pattern has been extended into a broad range of catalytic and stoichiometric oxidative multicomponent coupling reactions of alkynes and other reactive small molecules, leading to multicomponent syntheses of various heterocycles and aminated building blocks.For example, catalytic oxidative coupling of Ti imidos with two different alkynes leads to pyrroles, while stoichiometric oxidative coupling with alkynes and nitriles leads to pyrazoles. These heterocycle syntheses often yield substitution patterns that are complementary to those of classical condensation routes and provide access to new electron-rich, highly substituted heteroaromatic scaffolds. Furthermore, catalytic oxidative alkyne carboamination reactions can be accomplished via reaction of Ti imidos with alkynes and alkenes, yielding α,β-unsaturated imine or cyclopropylimine building blocks. New catalytic and stoichiometric oxidative amination methods such as alkyne α-diimination, isocyanide imination, and ring-opening oxidative amination of strained alkenes are continuously emerging as a result of better mechanistic understanding of Ti redox catalysis.Ultimately, these Ti-catalyzed and -mediated oxidative amination methods demonstrate the importance of examining often-overlooked elements like the early transition metals through the lens of modern catalysis: rather than a lack of utility, these elements frequently have undiscovered potential for new transformations with orthogonal or complementary selectivity to their late transition metal counterparts.
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To all of the students, postdocs, and collaborators in the group over the past eight years: thank you for all of your hard work, creativity, perseverance, and teamwork. The success of all of the projects reported herein is a reflection of your collective strengths. This work has been generously supported by the University of Minnesota, the NIH (R35GM119457), and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
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