Cis/trans isomerization of amide bonds is a key step in a wide range of biological and synthetic processes. Occurring through C-N amide bond rotation, it also coincides with the activation of amides in enzymatic hydrolysis. In recently described QM studies of cis/trans isomerization in secondary amides using density functional methods, we highlighted that a peptidic prototype, such as glycylglycine methyl ester, can suitably represent the isomerization and complexities arising out of a larger molecular backbone, and can serve as the primary scaffold for model structures with different substitution patterns in order to assess and compare the steric effect of the substitution patterns. Here, we describe our theoretical assessment of such steric effects using tert
-butyl as a representative bulky substitution. We analyze the geometries and relative stabilities of both trans and cis isomers, and effects on the cis/trans isomerization barrier. We also use the additivity principle to calculate absolute steric effects with a gradual increase in bulk. The study establishes that bulky substitutions significantly destabilize cis isomers and also increases the isomerization barrier, thereby synergistically hindering the cis/trans isomerization of secondary amides. These results provide a basis for the rationalization of kinetic and thermodynamic properties of peptides with potential applications in synthetic and medicinal chemistry.
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