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Stable gold(III) catalysts by oxidative addition of a carbon–carbon bond


Low-valent late transition-metal catalysis has become indispensable to chemical synthesis, but homogeneous high-valent transition-metal catalysis is underdeveloped, mainly owing to the reactivity of high-valent transition-metal complexes and the challenges associated with synthesizing them. Here we report a carbon–carbon bond cleavage at ambient conditions by a Au(i) complex that generates a stable Au(iii) cationic complex. In contrast to the well-established soft and carbophilic Au(i) catalyst, this Au(iii) complex exhibits hard, oxophilic Lewis acidity. For example, we observed catalytic activation of α,β-unsaturated aldehydes towards selective conjugate additions as well as activation of an unsaturated aldehyde-allene for a [2 + 2] cycloaddition reaction. The origin of the regioselectivity and catalytic activity was elucidated by X-ray crystallographic analysis of an isolated Au(iii)-activated cinnamaldehyde intermediate. The concepts revealed suggest a strategy for accessing high-valent transition-metal catalysis from readily available precursors.

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Figure 1: Routes to high-valent metal complexes.
Figure 2: Accessing Au(iii) via oxidative addition of a carbon–carbon bond.
Figure 3: Examples of selective Au(iii)-catalysed 1,4-additions.
Figure 4: Remote selectivity in Au(iii)-catalysed additions to dienals.
Figure 5
Figure 6: A model for the obtained selectivity.


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We gratefully acknowledge the NIHGMS (RO1 GM073932) for financial support. C.-Y.W. thanks the Taiwan National Science Council for a postdoctoral fellowship (2011-2012). T.H. thanks the Uehara Memorial Foundation for a postdoctoral fellowship. C.B.J. is grateful to the Lundbeck Foundation for a postdoctoral fellowship. We thank A. DiPasquale (at the College of Chemistry X-ray Crystallography Facility of the University of California, Berkeley) for X-ray crystallographic data collection and we acknowledge support from the NIH Shared Instrumentation Grant S10-RR027172. We thank H.-J. Liu for his generous donation of the biphenylene.

Author information




C.-Y.W. initiated and developed the organometallic study. C.-Y.W. and T.H. developed the Lewis-acid catalysis. C.-Y.W., T.H. and C.B.J. optimized the Lewis-acid catalysis study. C.-Y.W., T.H. and C.B.J. performed the experiments. C.-Y.W., T.H. and C.B.J. and F.D.T. wrote the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to F. Dean Toste.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Additional information

X-ray crystallographic data have been deposited in the Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre database ( under code CCDC 1002525-1002527.

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This file contains Supplementary Text and Data, Supplementary Figures 1-5, Supplementary Tables 1-20 and Supplementary References. (PDF 23602 kb)

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Wu, CY., Horibe, T., Jacobsen, C. et al. Stable gold(III) catalysts by oxidative addition of a carbon–carbon bond. Nature 517, 449–454 (2015).

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