As part of a comprehensive investigation on the stereochemistry of base-catalyzed 1,2-elimination and H/D exchange reactions of carbonyl compounds, we have found that the stereoselectivity of H/D exchange of 3-hydroxybutyryl N-acetylcysteamine (3) in D(2)O is strongly influenced by the presence of buffers. This buffer effect is also operative with a simple acyclic ester, ethyl 3-methoxybutanoate (7). Buffers whose general-acid components are cyclic tertiary ammonium ions are particularly effective in changing the stereoselectivity. (2)H NMR analysis showed that without buffer, H/D exchange of 3 produces 81-82% of the 2R*, 3R* diastereomer of 2-deuterio 3 (the anti product). In the presence of 0.33 M 3-quinuclidinone buffer, only 44% of the 2R*, 3R* diastereomer was formed. With ester 7, the stereoselectivity went from 93-94% in DO(-)/D(2)O to 60% in the presence of buffer. Phosphate buffer, as well as others, also showed substantial effects. The results are put into the context of what is known about the mechanism of H/D exchange of esters and thioesters, and the relevance of the buffer effect on the mechanism of the enoyl-CoA hydratase reaction is discussed. It is likely that hydrogen bonding in the enolate-buffer acid encounter complex is an important stereochemical determinant in producing a greater amount of the 2R*, 3S* diastereomer (the syn product). Studies that involve the protonation of enolate anions in D(2)O need to include the buffer general acid in any understanding of the stereoselectivity.
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