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Acetylenic Carbon-Containing Stable Five-Membered Metallacycles

MIIT Key Laboratory of Critical Materials Technology for New Energy Conversion and Storage, School of Chemistry & Chemical Engineering, Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin 150001, China
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Catalysts 2020, 10(11), 1268;
Submission received: 9 October 2020 / Revised: 27 October 2020 / Accepted: 28 October 2020 / Published: 2 November 2020


Due to the linear property around an acetylenic carbon, the introduction of such an atom to a small cycle would result in high ring strain. Currently, the smallest isolated rings are five-membered, including metallacycloalkynes and metallapentalynes. Both types contain at least one unusual small bond angle around the acetylenic carbon, thus exhibiting abnormal reactivities. This feature article gives a comprehensive overview on these two kind complexes. The synthesis and reactivities are extensively described, the source of stability is presented, and the future prospect is discussed. The article aims to provide a better development for the chemical diversity of five-membered metallacycloalkynes and metallapentalynes.

1. Introduction

Due to the sp hybridization of acetylenic carbon, the X≡C-Y moiety is normally linear. If such a moiety is introduced into a small cycle, large angle strain would be caused, which increases with decreasing ring size [1,2]. To date, the smallest purified unsubstituted carbocyclic alkyne is cyclooctyne with an eight-membered ring (1, Figure 1) [3], although cycloheptyne, cyclohexyne, and cyclopentyne could exist as transient reactional intermediates [4]. One of the methods to stabilize such small cyclic compounds is by the introduction of bulky substituent(s) into the α-position(s) of the X≡C bond. The bulky group(s) can prevent the dimerization of the unsaturated bond(s), and also the attack from other molecules [2]. For example, cycloheptyne is highly unstable and has a half-life of 1 h at −78 °C [5], however after the introduction of four methyl groups into the α-positions, the resulting compound 3,3,7,7-tetramethylcycloheptyne could be purified and is stable at room temperature (2, Figure 1) [6].
The substitution of carbon atoms in the ring by heteroatoms sometimes also stabilizes the strained carbocyclic cycles. Cyclohexyne is not stable above −100 °C and could only be characterized by infrared (IR) spectroscopy at low temperature [7]. In comparison, the six-membered tetrasilacyclohexyne is isolated and stable in boiling toluene even after one day (3, Figure 1) [8,9]. The stability of tetrasilacyclohexyne is due to the reduction of the angle strain by the longer Si-C bonds, which make the C≡C-Si angles closer to linear.
The incorporation of a metal center is another elegant method to stabilize the strained acetylenic carbon-containing compounds. For example, cyclopentyne is too unstable to be trapped [10]; in contrast, two types of five-membered metallacycles containing at least one acetylenic carbon atom have been developed (metallacycloalkyne A and metallapentalyne B, Figure 2) [11,12,13,14,15,16]. These five-membered metallacycles are interesting not only due to their abnormal structures and unusual reactivities, but also because five-membered metallacycles are intermediates in many transition-metal-catalyzed organic reactions [11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19]. Surprisingly, there is no review paper covering both types. Considering the similarity of A and B, and the emergence of more and more novel chemistry, this review will discuss them together for the first time. Through the summarization and comparison on the synthesis and reactivities of A and B, it is favorable for the development of their chemical diversity, which is the aim of this account.

2. Five-Membered Metallacycloalkynes

2.1. Synthesis of Five-Membered Metallacycloalkynes

The first five-membered metallacycloalkynes with the structure of A shown in Figure 2 were reported by Suzuki et al. in 2002 [20]. Treatment of CpZrCl2 with 2 equivalents of n-BuMgX at low temperature generated a low-valent zirconocene, which further reacted with (Z)-1,4-disubstituted-1,2,3-butatriene (4a: R = SiMe3, 4b: R = t-Bu) for 1 h at room temperature to provide two 1-zirconacyclopent-3-ynes 5a and 5b, existing as cis- and trans-isomers (Scheme 1). n-BuMgX can be replaced by n-BuLi or EtMgBr, while in the latter case, a seven-membered metalacyclic alkyne would be afforded as the by-product [21,22]. Initially, cis-configurations were dominant for both 5a and 5b. However, after 48 h at room temperature in solution, the ratios of cis/trans isomers of 5a and 5b changed to 36/64 and 12/88, respectively. The isomerization from cis to trans resulted in the isolation of trans-isomers as good single crystals only. Later on, complex 5c with a cis/trans ratio of 50/50 was prepared in a similar procedure (Scheme 1) [23]. This strategy could also be extended for the preparation of titanium and hafnium analogues [23,24].
Complex trans-5a is selected as the example to illustrate the structures of these metallacyclopentynes. The five atoms in the cyclopentyne ring are almost coplanar, with an interior angle sum of the five-membered zirconacycle as 539.5°, close to an ideal planar pentagon (Figure 3). The bond length of C2≡C3 is 1.195(7) Å, slightly shorter than that of cyclonoyne (1.21 Å) determined by gas phase electron diffraction [25], and at the longer end of those in normal acyclic alkynes (1.167–1.197 Å) [26]. The Zr-C2 and Zr-C3 distances are 2.291(5) and 2.286(6) Å, respectively, comparable to the Zr-CH3 lengths in Cp2Zr(CH3)2 (2.280(5) and 2.273(5) Å) [27], and even shorter than those of Zr-C1 (2.469(5) Å) and Zr-C4 (2.456(7) Å) in trans-5a. Therefore, one may think the C2≡C3 bond is coordinated with the metal and it is actually a metallacyclopentene complex. However, in normal zirconocene-alkyne complexes, the lengths of coordinated triple bonds are in the range for double bonds [28], which is contradictory to the C2≡C3 distance in trans-5a. Besides, the IR absorption band for C2≡C3 bond at 2014 cm−1, which is in a sharp contrast to those in Zr-alkyne complexes (i.e., 1611 cm−1) [29], further supports its triple bond nature.
The C1-C2≡C3 and C2≡C3-C4 angles are 154.2(6)° and 154.4(7)°, respectively, which largely deviate from the standard angle around sp-hybridized carbon. Thus, there must be a high ring strain, and how can this kind of complexes be stable? Jemmis and coworkers proposed that the stability of 5 is due to the Lewis structure of 5B2-σ,σ + η2-π coordination mode), in which the C≡C triple bond is coordinated by the Zr atom (Figure 4) [30,31,32]. Lin et al., on the other hand, proposed that the cumulene coordinated resonance form 5C is the major contribution for their stability (Figure 4, η4-π,π mode) [33]. Through an electron density analysis based on X-ray diffraction data, Hashizume, Suzuki, and Chihara, however, stated that the mode is a resonance hybrid, with the major contributor as the η2-σ,σ form (5A, Figure 4), and the minor one as 5C [34]. The existence of 5C explains the interconversion of cis/trans isomers.
In 2004, the Suzuki group developed a more convenient route, in which butatriene derivatives are not necessary, for the construction of 1-metallacyclopent-3-ynes. Reduction of Cp’ZrCl2 and 1,4-dichlorobut-2-yne by Mg in THF resulted in the formation of 5d and 5e [35], and 1-titanacyclopent-3-yne 6 was generated similarly (Scheme 2) [23,24]. The synthetic route was also applicable for the synthesis of 1-hafnacyclopent-3-yne 7, although it could not be purified and was only characterized by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy (Scheme 2) [23]. Note that a variety of strain five-membered metallacyclocumulene complexes have been reported by the group of Rosenthal, while all of them contain substituents at the metallacycle [36,37]. The “non-substituted” metallacyclocumulenes might be too instable to be isolated, in agreement with general statements in the introduction. Therefore, it is surprising that the “non-substituted” 5d, 6 and 7 can be stable at room temperature. Notably, after the comparation of the bond distances and bond angles in the metallacycles, the authors proposed that the η4-π,π mode in the titanium complex 6 has a larger contribution in relative to those in similar Zr and Hf complexes.
In fact, an alternative synthetic route to target the titanium complex 6 was developed by Rosenthal and coworkers in prior to that shown in Scheme 2. When ClCH2C≡CCH2Cl was added into two equivalents of Cp2Ti(η2-Me3SiC≡CSiMe3) in hexane, complex 6 was formed rapidly, accompanied by the generation of Me3SiC≡CSiMe3 and Cp2TiCl2 (Scheme 3) [38].
The same group later synthesized 1-zircona-2,5-disilacyclopent-3-yne 8, through reduction of Cp2ZrCl2 and ClMe2SiC≡CSiMe2Cl by Mg (Scheme 4). The structural and spectral parameters, together with natural localized molecular orbital (NLMO) analysis, suggest 8 is a Si-substituted metallacyclopentyne with a weak interaction between the triple bond and the metal center, rather than a metallocene-stabilized 1,4-disilabutatriene complex [39]. The results are consistent with Suzuki’s all-C metallacycloalkynes 5 [20,34].
The other type of metallacyclopentynes, with an alkylidene at each α-carbon of the C≡C bond, was designed by the group of Suzuki, either. Treatment of the low-valent zirconocene-bisphosphine complex Cp2Zr(PMe3)2 with hexapentaene 9a in THF at room temperature gave 2,5-bisalkylidene-1-zirconacyclopent-3-yne 11a. If the reaction was carried out at −40 °C, the η2-π-complex 10a could be detected (Scheme 5) [40,41]. When 9a was switched to 9b, complex 10b was formed selectively in high yield. Only when BEt3 was added to abstract the coordinated PMe3, 10b was converted to 11b. Interestingly, this transformation is reversible: 11b was changed back to 10b upon the addition of excess PMe3 (Scheme 5) [41]. Several other analogues of 11 were prepared as well, and if the starting four substituents in hexapentaene are not the same, the resulted zirconacyclopentynes would exist as several isomers [22,42,43].
Recently, a cis thorium cyclopentyne 13, was afforded via hydride insertion by treatment of 12 with 1,4-diphenyl-1,3-butadiyne (Scheme 6) [44]. This new route breaks the limitation that the metallacyclopentyne chemistry is restricted to group 4 metals.

2.2. Reactivities of Five-Membered Metallacycloalkynes

2.2.1. Formation of Alkyne-Coordinated Complexes

As mentioned previously, Suzuki and coworkers regarded the major contributor of metallacycloalkynes 5 as the η2-σ,σ form 5A (Figure 4) [34]. 5A contains a free C≡C bond, which might act as a 2e ligand to be coordinated with other metals. Thus, the reactions of 5d with Cp2Zr(η2-CH2=CHEt)(PMe3) or (PR3)2Ni(η2-CH2=CH2) (R = Ph or Cy) were carried out, and as expected, the alkyne-coordinated products 14, 15a, and 15b were obtained, respectively (Scheme 7) [35,45]. It is noteworthy that, after comparing the structural data between 15a and 15b with 5d, 14, and the Ni(0) zirconacyclocumulene complex Cp2Zr[μ-(η4-PhC4Ph)]Ni(PPh3)2, the authors pointed out that in both of 15a and 15b, the interactions of the C≡C bond with Zr center are stronger than those in 5d and 14 [45].
On the other hand, if the starting metal precursors do not contain phosphine ligand, symmetric bimetallic complexes would be produced. For example, upon treatment of 5d with Cp2ZrCl2 and Mg, or Cp2Zr(n-Bu)2, complex 16 was afforded, and the alkyne-coordinated intermediate was not detected (Scheme 8) [46]. 16 can be regarded as a μ-trans-butatriene complex, with a “zig-zag” C4 ligand connecting the two zirconocenes. Alternatively, 16 could be synthesized directly from ClCH2C≡CCH2Cl with two equivalents of Cp2ZrCl2 and three equivalents of Mg, or from 14 with BEt3 [46]. Two analogues 17 and 18 were produced similarly (Scheme 8) [38,47].

2.2.2. Reactions with Electrophiles

Organic alkynes can react with electrophiles to give alkenes, in contrast, the reactions between five-membered metallacycloalkynes and electrophiles normally result in ring-opening, due to their high ring strain. For example, treatment of 5d in THF with excess HCl in diethyl ether (1.0 M) gave a mixture of 1,2-butadiene and 2-butyne in NMR yields of 83% and 3%, respectively (Scheme 9) [48]. To investigate the reaction mechanism, the amount of HCl in ether was decreased to 0.3 equivalent, and the protonated intermediate 19 (R = H) was observed. Together with a deuterium labeling experiment, it was proposed that 19 is in equilibrium with 19A, which is the originality of 2-butyne (Scheme 9) [48]. When 5d was replaced by 5a or 5b, the major products would be the corresponding alkynes rather than allene derivatives (Scheme 9) [20], probably because the equilibrium favors 19A under the effect of the bulky R group [48].
Similar to the formation of 19, the group of Rosenthal found that B(C6F5)3 could activate one of the α-C-Zr bonds in their five-membered zirconacycloalkynes as well. When 20 and 21 were treated with B(C6F5)3, two zwitterionic boranate complexes 22 and 23 were generated, respectively (Scheme 10) [49,50]. In each of complexes 22 and 23, one of the ortho-F atoms has certain interactions with the Zr center. These two complexes are analogous with the products of metallacyclocumulenes with B(C6F5)3 [51]. 1-Titanacyclopent-3-yne 6 displayed a similar reactivity, except that no F-Ti interaction is found in the final product [49].
In the presence of a proton source, metallacycloalkynes could further react with aldehydes. For example, treatment of 5d and triethylamine hydrochloride with benzaldehyde or propylaldehyde gave 2-methyl-1-phenyl-2,3-butadien-1-ol and 1-ethyl-2-methyl-2,3-butadien-1-ol, respectively. The intermediate was also supposed as 19 (R = H), which further attacks the carbonyl group of aldehyde, accompanied by the formation of O-Zr bond and the cleavage of Zr-C bond, to form an allene moiety. After the quenching by H+, the final products are generated (Scheme 11) [48].

2.2.3. Isocyanide Insertion Reactions

As discussed in Scheme 5, 10b can be converted back from 11b with PMe3 [41]. Tert-butylisocyanide has a strong coordination ability, thus it might behave similarly as PMe3. Indeed, the formation of 24 was achieved expectedly upon treatment of 11b with 1 equivalent of t-BuNC. Interestingly, excess of t-BuNC would result in the carbon insertion into the three-membered zirconacycle to form intermediate 25, which could further rearrange into 26 with a cyclobutene structure (Scheme 12) [41,43]. Actually, similar reactivities of the “non-substituted” zirconacyclocumulenes 5d and 20 with t-BuNC had been reported earlier [52].

2.2.4. Formation of 1-Metallacyclopenta-2,3-Dienes

By the treatment of the five-membered zirconacycloalkyne 11a with two equivalents of Li (or KC8), a two-electron reduction occurred, generating a dianionic complex. Addition of catechol produced the major product 27, and a minor zirconacycloallene 28. However, the addition of catechol is not a good method for the synthesis of zirconacycloallene, because the yield of 28 was very low (18%). Delightedly, when catechol was replaced by MeI or Me3SnI, products 29 and 30 could be formed in high yields (83% and 92%, respectively) (Scheme 13) [40]. 1-Zirconacyclopenta-2,3-dienes 2830 are another type of five-membered strain metallacycles [36,53].

3. Metallapentalynes

3.1. Synthesis of Metallapentalynes

The first metallapentalynes with the structure of B shown in Figure 2 were reported by Xia group in 2013. Treatment of 31 with terminal alkynes, including methyl propiolate, ethyl propiolate, and tert-butyl propiolate, produced the cationic osmapentalynes 3234, respectively (Scheme 14) [54]. On the other hand, when internal alkynes dimethyl but-2-ynedioate or dimethyl but-2-ynedioate were used, the neutral products 35 and 36 were afforded (Scheme 14) [55].
The X-ray single crystal structure of complex 32 is shown in Figure 5. The Os center is in an octahedral geometry. The nearly coplanar metallabicycle is composed of seven carbon atoms and one osmium atom, with the mean deviation from the least-squares plane as 0.0415 Å. Besides the three carbon atoms, there are one Cl and two PPh3 groups linking directly with the Os center. The C-C bond lengths in the two fused rings are with small alternation (between 1.377 and 1.402 Å). The Os-C1 triple bond distance is 1.845 Å, slightly longer than those in acyclic osmium carbynes (1.671–1.841 Å). The most remarkable feature is the Os≡C1-C2 angle (129.5°), which is much smaller than those around the sp-carbons in trans-5a as discussed previously (154.2(6)° and 154.4(7)°) [20], and represents the smallest one around a carbyne carbon at that time (the smallest angle now is 127.9(5)° in complex 35) [55]. How can such a small angle exist in a stable organometallic complex?
To answer that question, density functional theory (DFT) calculations optimized at the B3LYP level were performed. Compared to the estimated angles around acetylenic carbons in organic cyclopentyne (116.0°), the 129.5° in 32 indicates the great release of angle strain. In fact, due to the bridgehead Os atom, the computed strain energy (24.3 kcal mol−1) on the basis of a chain model molecule is much smaller than that of cyclopentyne (71.9 kcal mol−1). Besides, according to a model in which the PPh3 ligands are simplified to PH3, the authors stated that complex 32 is a cyclic eight-center eight-electron Craig-type Möbius aromatic complex, which is supported by the calculated values of NICS(0)zz (−11.1 and −10.8 ppm in each ring) and isomerization stabilization energies (ISE). Moreover, the down-fielded proton chemical shifts (H3, 8.32; H5, 9.27; H7, 14.25 ppm), and delocalized C-C bonds in the osmapentalyne cycle as described in the previous paragraph, further confirm its aromaticity. Thus, the stability of metallapentalynes is attributed to both of the reduced ring strain and the aromaticity. Notably, organic pentalyne is anti-aromatic, hence the incorporation of a metal into organics might change their aromaticity [54].
Alternatively, metallapentalynes can be synthesized directly from organics with metal precursors. Xia and coworkers found that triynes with a hydroxyl group reacted with MCl2(PPh3)3 (M = Os or Ru) in the presence of PPh3 to give a series of metallapentalynes 3742 (Scheme 15) [56,57]. When X = CH2CH2, the alkyne-coordinated intermediate was isolable [56]. It is worth pointing out that complexes 41 and 42 are the first metallapentalynes based on a second-row transition metal [57].
Sometimes, metallapentalenes [58,59], which is another kind of metallaaromatics, could act as the starting materials for the preparation of metallapentalynes. For example, in the presence of HBF4, osmapentalene 43 reacted with allenylboronic acid pinacol ester to afford osmapentalyne 44. Similarly, treatment of 43 with phenylacetylene and HBF4 led to the formation of osmapentalyne 45. Tetracyanoethylene (TCNE) was active, too, and under the existence of NaPF6, osmapentalyne 46 was generated (Scheme 16) [60].
When osmapentalenofuran 47 was treated with FeCl3 under air, osmapentalyne 48 was afforded. Mechanistically, it was proposed that 47 is initially converted to intermediate 49 via reductive elimination; subsequently, 49 is oxidized by FeCl3 to be transformed into 50; after the elimination of HCl, 48 is produced ultimately (Scheme 17) [61].

3.2. Reactivities of Metallapentalynes

3.2.1. Formation of Metal Carbyne-Coordinated Complexes

Similar to five-membered metallacycloalkynes, in which the alkyne can act as a 2e- donor to be coordinated with other metals, the metal carbyne moiety in metallapentalynes is somehow “alkyne-like”, thus can also react with an external metal precursor to form metal carbyne-coordinated complexes [57,62]. For example, Xia et al. treated complex 35 with CuCl to provide the hetero dinuclear complex 51 in 96% yield. In 51, the Cl atom linking with Os is also coordinated with the Cu atom. Similarly, 35 could be transformed into the hetero dinuclear complexes 52 and 53 when CuCl was replaced by silver or gold precursors. The interactions between the osmacarbyne with Cu, Ag, and Au are not strong, which can be reflected by the fact that 5153 were easily converted back to 35 upon the addition of PPh3 (for 51) or (n-Bu)4NCl (for 52 and 53) (Scheme 18) [62].

3.2.2. Reactions with Electrophiles

As mentioned in Section 2.2.2, Brönsted acids are active and can easily break the metallacycle of five-membered metallacycloalkynes. Metallapentalynes are also sensitive to acids, however the fused rings are always reserved, indicating their higher stability owing to the aromaticity.
Treatment of osmapentalyne 32 with HBF4·Et2O at room temperature for 30 min resulted in the formation of osmapentalene 54 [54,63]. Complex 54 is not stable in solution due to its 16e- character and is easily converted to the new 18e- osmapentalyne 55 (Scheme 19). During the process from 54 to 55, there are two possibilities: Elimination of Ha or Hb. DFT calculations optimized at the B3LYP level in a model complex suggest that the deprotonation of Hb is more favorable both kinetically (5.1 kcal mol−1 difference in energy) and dynamically (0.9 kcal mol−1 difference in energy), thus forming 55 selectively [63]. In comparison to the structures between 32 and 55, we can see clearly that the addition of HBF4·Et2O resulted in the shift of Os≡C from one cycle to the other. Some other metallapentalynes, such as osmapentalynes 33 and 34, and ruthenapentalyne 42, display similar metal carbyne bond shift reactivity [54,57].
Complex 55 could further react with other electrophiles. Upon the addition of ICl or Br2, 55 was converted to iodocarbene 56 and bromocarbene 57, respectively (Scheme 20) [64]. 56 and 57 are the first metallaiodirenium ion and metallabromirenium ion, which have similar structures as the proposed intermediates in the halogenation of alkynes. The results further support the “alkyne-like” properties of M≡C in metallapentalynes. Interestingly, nucleophilic substitution of 56 by (n-Bu)4NBr was observed, and 57 was produced. However, when (n-Bu)4NCl was used, the regeneration of 55 rather than the formation of an analogous metallachlorirenium ion was discovered. This is probably because of the smaller atomic size of the Cl atom compared to Br and I, which makes the three-membered metallachlorirenium ring unstable. In addition, Se was another electrophile to be active with 55, and osmapentaloselenirene 58 was given (Scheme 20) [65]. 58 was regarded as the first complex that contains an unsaturated Se-containing ring, in which the aromaticity is dominated by σ-type.
Alkynes could act as electrophiles to react with metallapentalynes, either. Treatment of osmapentalyne 59 with phenylacetylene in the presence of HCl·Et2O resulted in the formation of 60, in which a trans-alkenyl is positioned in the α-position, accompanied by the C≡C bond shift (Scheme 21). This reaction is highly efficient, and a series of other alkynes are also applicable [66].

3.2.3. Reactions with Nucleophiles

Although there is no report on five-membered metallacycloalkynes with nucleophiles, such reactivities have been discovered for metallapentalynes. For example, under CO atmosphere, complex 32 reacted with CH3ONa or CH3SNa to give osmapentalenes 61 and 62, respectively (Scheme 22) [63]. On the other hand, when CO was replaced by O2, in the presence of CH3OH, 32 was transformed to the osmium-peroxo complex 63, which is active for alcohol dehydrogenation reactions (Scheme 22) [67]. Given that alkynes sometimes can act as 2e- donor analogous to CO, Xia et al. further treated 32 with CH3OH and Cs2CO3 in the presence of different alkynes, and several osmafulvenallenes 6467 were afforded (Scheme 22) [68]. It was proposed that the first step is the nucleophilic attack of methoxide to the Os≡C bond, the same as that from 32 to 61. After the coordination of alkyne to Os center, an isomerization occurs to form a vinylidene intermediate, which can be further subjected to addition of CH3OH. In the end, the ring opening followed by the ester coordination provides the final product. It is noteworthy that complexes 6467 are the first metallafulvenallenes.
Isocyanides are another kind of reactive nucleophiles. Treatment of 32 with t-BuNC or 1-adamantanyl isocyanide resulted in the formation of the C-C coupling complexes 68 and 69, where the isocyanides only connect with the α-carbon of the resulting osmapentalene ring. On the other hand, the η2-iminoketenyl products 7074 were isolated, respectively, when tosylmethyl isocyanide, p-nitrophenyl isocyanide, cyclohexyl isocyanide, 2-naphthyl isocyanide, or p-anisyl isocyanide was used (Scheme 23) [69]. For 68 and 69, they do not adopt the η2-iminoketenyl coordination mode, probably because the bulky tert-butyl and 1-adamantyl groups inhibit bending at their isocyanide nitrogen atoms. It is worth mentioning that η2-iminoketenyl species were often proposed as the intermediates in nucleophile-induced carbyne-isocyanide coupling processes, while they had never been isolated before the publication reported by Xia and coworkers. Later on, the η2-iminoketenyl complexes were extended to ruthenium, reported by the same group [70].
The metal carbyne bond shifted complex 55 is also active to nucleophiles. For example, the addition of NaSH produced 75, and the reaction with PhCH2NH2 in the presence of Cs2CO3 led to the formation of 76 (Scheme 24) [54]. Interestingly, when PhNH2 was selected as the nucleophile, under basic conditions, the product was a polycyclic aromatic complex 77, formed involving C-H activation. PhOH exhibited a similar reactivity as PhNH2 and 78 was afforded (Scheme 24) [71]. Complexes 77 and 78 are the first metal-bridged tricyclic aromatic complexes, in which the three five-membered rings are all aromatic. By using the same strategy, a series of polycyclic aromatics [71,72,73], including one with six and one with seven fused aromatic rings, derived from 1-aminopyrene and 9-phenanthrenol, respectively, had been developed [71]. Notably, when the lactone-fused osmapentalyne 79 [74] was mixed with 3-(methylsulfanyl)-benzenol in the presence of K2CO3, the resulting polycyclic osmaaromatic complex 80 possesses high charge transport ability (Scheme 25) [75]. These results indicate that metallapentalynes and their derivatives have a very broad application prospect in the field of material chemistry.

3.2.4. Cycloaddition Reactions

In principle, cycloaddition of the C≡C bond in five-membered metallacycloalkynes would greatly reduce their ring strain, while surprisingly, such reactions have not been reported up to date. In contrast, many cycloaddition reactions involving the M≡C bond in metallapentalynes have been discovered.
The first [2+2+2] cycloaddition reaction of an alkyne with a late transition metal carbyne occurred between the neutral osmapentalyne 35 and HC≡COEt, generating complex 81 (Scheme 26) [55]. The three fused rings in 81 are not planar, with the carbene carbon of Os=C(OEt) almost perpendicular to the two five-membered rings. It was proposed that the reaction underwent a [2+2] intermediate, which could not be detected.
Interestingly, when 35 was replaced by the cationic osmapentalyne 55, the [2+2] product 82 could be isolated, and NH4PF6 is not necessary (Scheme 27) [76]. Different from 81, the four-membered ring and the osmapentalene cycle in 82 are almost planar. Notably, pentalene and cyclobutadiene are both antiaromatic, therefore the incorporation of a transition metal can stabilize two antiaromatic systems. The other alkyne, HC≡CCOOH, was also active to give 83 (Scheme 27) [76]. Complexes 82 and 83 are the first [2+2] cycloaddition products formed between a late transition metal carbyne with alkynes. Unlike 35, even excess of alkynes did not result in further insertion to give 5,5,6-fused complexes. The reaction of nitrosobenzene with 55 is similar, giving 84, and the introduction of an electron-donating group at the para-position of nitrosobenzene is beneficial for the reactivity, due to the enhanced nucleophilicity of the N atom. For instance, the generation of 85 and 86 are faster than that of 84 (Scheme 27) [77]. 8486 are the first metallapentalenoxazetes.
As just mentioned, [2+2] cycloaddition products are found between 55 and alkynes, such as HC≡COEt and HC≡CCOOH. Unexpectedly, when aryl alkynes were reacted with 55 in the presence of O2 and H2O, the products were totally different. For example, complexes 87 and 88 were afforded, respectively, when phenylacetylene or 3-ethynylthiophene was selected (Scheme 28) [74,78]. 87 and 88 are the first α-metallapentalenofurans, and DFT calculations optimized at the B3LYP level suggest that their Möbius aromaticity is derived from dπ-pπ π-conjugation. Deuterium labeling experiments indicate the oxygen in the furan ring comes from H2O. Interestingly, the presence of HBF4 induced the formation of two lactone-fused metallapentalynes 89 and 79, accompanied by the migration of Os≡C bond (Scheme 28) [74]. It is worthy to compare the formation of 89 and 79 with that of 60 shown in Scheme 21: During the formation of 60, H2O and O2 are absent, and the reactant 59 does not contain a methyl ester substituent.
Although [2+2+2] cycloaddition has not been reported between 55 and alkynes, it has been found between 55 and two molecules of 2,2-diphenylacetonitrile. The product is metallapentalenopyrazine 90, which contains three fused aromatic rings. 90 is the first aromatic complex with a metallapyrazine fragment (Scheme 29) [79].
Recently, the Xia group found a new type of “alkyne-like” reactivity. The authors used the osmapentalyne derivative 91, which already contains three fused aromatic rings, as the starting material to react with azides, and several polycyclic products 9296 were produced (Scheme 30) [80]. They are “metalla-click” type reactions, and the products consist of four fused five-membered rings. Moreover, these rings are all aromatic. Before the publication, the maximum number of fused aromatic rings sharing with one bridgehead metal was three, thus these results broke through the record.
NaN3 is also active for some metallapentalynes. For example, when NaN3 was added, 32 was converted to the [3+1] cycloaddition product 97 (Scheme 31) [81].

4. Conclusions and Perspectives

Challenging the limits is the driving force of social progress. Chemists have devoted to the isolation of small cyclic compounds with acetylenic carbon(s), for more than half a century. After continuous efforts, the number of atoms in the ring has been decreased to as small as five. Such complexes can be divided into two types: Metallacycloalkynes and metallapentalynes. For the former type, the angles around the acetylenic carbons are around 155°, representing the smallest ones before the discovery of the latter type (around 130°). These angles are far away from 180°, thus leading to extremely high ring strain and unusual reactivities.
For metallacycloalkynes, four main classes of reactions have been investigated, including the reactions with external metal precursors to form alkyne-coordinated complexes, the reactions with electrophiles, isocyanide insertion reactions, and the formation of 1-metallacyclopenta-2,3-dienes. The first two classes of reactions have been discovered for metallapentalynes as well, although for the reactions with electrophiles, the products were totally different. The addition of an electrophile, such as H+ or B(C6F5)3, into metallacycloalkynes normally resulted in ring opening of the metallacycles. In contrast, when H+, ICl, Br2 or Se was added into metallapentalynes, the metallacycles could be preserved. The results might be attributed to the higher stability of metallapentalynes resulted by their aromaticity. On the other hand, the last two classes of reactions for metallacycloalkynes have not been discovered for metallapentalynes, whereas two other “alkyne-like” reactivities, namely nucleophilic addition and cycloaddition reactions, had been explored.
Compared to the abundant chemistry of alkynes, the research on five-membered metallacycloalkynes and metallapentalynes is still limited. Except one example based on thorium (complex 13), five-membered metallacyclopentynes are restricted on group 4 metals; metallapentalynes have only been discovered for ruthenium and osmium complexes. Especially, in consideration that five-membered metallacycles are regarded as intermediates in many transition-metal catalyzed reactions, and the reactivity studies of metallapentalynes have given a variety of novel metallapentalene derivatives, which showed a great application prospect in various areas, such as near-infrared dyes [54], photothermal therapy [82,83,84], phototherapy [85], and self-healing materials [86], the chemistry on these two kinds of five-membered metallacycles is still far more than anticipated. Moreover, as special organometallic complexes, the application prospect of metallacycloalkynes and metallapentalynes in catalytic transformations should not be underestimated.

Author Contributions

Design, B.H. and C.L.; writing—original draft preparation, B.H. and C.L.; writing—review and editing, B.H. and C.L. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of Heilongjiang (LC2018005) and the National Key R&D Program of China (2016YFC0204401).

Conflicts of Interest

There are no conflicts to declare.


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Figure 1. Representative examples of isolable cyclic alkynes.
Figure 1. Representative examples of isolable cyclic alkynes.
Catalysts 10 01268 g001
Figure 2. Strained five-membered metallacycles with triple bond.
Figure 2. Strained five-membered metallacycles with triple bond.
Catalysts 10 01268 g002
Scheme 1. Synthesis of metallacyclopentynes 5a-5c.
Scheme 1. Synthesis of metallacyclopentynes 5a-5c.
Catalysts 10 01268 sch001
Figure 3. X-ray single crystal structure of trans-5a. The thermal ellipsoids are displayed at 50% probability. Hydrogen atoms are omitted for clarity.
Figure 3. X-ray single crystal structure of trans-5a. The thermal ellipsoids are displayed at 50% probability. Hydrogen atoms are omitted for clarity.
Catalysts 10 01268 g003
Figure 4. The proposed bonding modes of 1-zirconacyclopent-3-ynes 5.
Figure 4. The proposed bonding modes of 1-zirconacyclopent-3-ynes 5.
Catalysts 10 01268 g004
Scheme 2. Synthesis of “non-substituted” metallacyclopentynes 5d, 5e, 6 and 7.
Scheme 2. Synthesis of “non-substituted” metallacyclopentynes 5d, 5e, 6 and 7.
Catalysts 10 01268 sch002
Scheme 3. An alternative route for the synthesis of 6.
Scheme 3. An alternative route for the synthesis of 6.
Catalysts 10 01268 sch003
Scheme 4. Synthesis of 1-zircona-2,5-disilacyclopent-3-yne 8.
Scheme 4. Synthesis of 1-zircona-2,5-disilacyclopent-3-yne 8.
Catalysts 10 01268 sch004
Scheme 5. Synthesis of 2,5-bisalkylidene-1-zirconacyclopent-3-ynes 11a and 11b.
Scheme 5. Synthesis of 2,5-bisalkylidene-1-zirconacyclopent-3-ynes 11a and 11b.
Catalysts 10 01268 sch005
Scheme 6. Synthesis of thorium cyclopentyne 13.
Scheme 6. Synthesis of thorium cyclopentyne 13.
Catalysts 10 01268 sch006
Scheme 7. Reactions of 5d with phosphine-containing metal complexes.
Scheme 7. Reactions of 5d with phosphine-containing metal complexes.
Catalysts 10 01268 sch007
Scheme 8. Synthesis of bimetallic complexes 1618.
Scheme 8. Synthesis of bimetallic complexes 1618.
Catalysts 10 01268 sch008
Scheme 9. Protonation of 5d 5a and 5b.
Scheme 9. Protonation of 5d 5a and 5b.
Catalysts 10 01268 sch009
Scheme 10. Reactions of 20 and 21 with B(C6F5)3.
Scheme 10. Reactions of 20 and 21 with B(C6F5)3.
Catalysts 10 01268 sch010
Scheme 11. Reactions of 5d with aldehydes in the presence of NHEt3Cl.
Scheme 11. Reactions of 5d with aldehydes in the presence of NHEt3Cl.
Catalysts 10 01268 sch011
Scheme 12. Reaction of 11b with t-BuNC.
Scheme 12. Reaction of 11b with t-BuNC.
Catalysts 10 01268 sch012
Scheme 13. Synthesis of 1-metallacyclopenta-2,3-dienes 2830.
Scheme 13. Synthesis of 1-metallacyclopenta-2,3-dienes 2830.
Catalysts 10 01268 sch013
Scheme 14. Synthesis of osmapentalynes 3236.
Scheme 14. Synthesis of osmapentalynes 3236.
Catalysts 10 01268 sch014
Figure 5. X-ray single crystal structure of 32. The thermal ellipsoids are displayed at 50% probability. Hydrogen atoms and the phenyl groups of PPh3 are omitted for clarity.
Figure 5. X-ray single crystal structure of 32. The thermal ellipsoids are displayed at 50% probability. Hydrogen atoms and the phenyl groups of PPh3 are omitted for clarity.
Catalysts 10 01268 g005
Scheme 15. Synthesis of metallapentalynes 3742.
Scheme 15. Synthesis of metallapentalynes 3742.
Catalysts 10 01268 sch015
Scheme 16. Synthesis of osmapentalynes 4446.
Scheme 16. Synthesis of osmapentalynes 4446.
Catalysts 10 01268 sch016
Scheme 17. Synthesis of osmapentalyne 48.
Scheme 17. Synthesis of osmapentalyne 48.
Catalysts 10 01268 sch017
Scheme 18. Reactions of 35 with different metal precursors.
Scheme 18. Reactions of 35 with different metal precursors.
Catalysts 10 01268 sch018
Scheme 19. Reaction of 32 with HBF4·Et2O.
Scheme 19. Reaction of 32 with HBF4·Et2O.
Catalysts 10 01268 sch019
Scheme 20. Electrophilic reactions of osmapentalyne 55.
Scheme 20. Electrophilic reactions of osmapentalyne 55.
Catalysts 10 01268 sch020
Scheme 21. Electrophilic addition reaction of osmapentalyne 59 with phenylacetylene.
Scheme 21. Electrophilic addition reaction of osmapentalyne 59 with phenylacetylene.
Catalysts 10 01268 sch021
Scheme 22. Nucleophilic reactions of osmapentalyne 32 to form 6167.
Scheme 22. Nucleophilic reactions of osmapentalyne 32 to form 6167.
Catalysts 10 01268 sch022
Scheme 23. Nucleophilic reactions of 32 with isocyanides.
Scheme 23. Nucleophilic reactions of 32 with isocyanides.
Catalysts 10 01268 sch023
Scheme 24. Nucleophilic reactions of osmapentalyne 55 to form 7578.
Scheme 24. Nucleophilic reactions of osmapentalyne 55 to form 7578.
Catalysts 10 01268 sch024
Scheme 25. Nucleophilic reaction of osmapentalyne 79 with 3-(methylsulfanyl)-benzenol.
Scheme 25. Nucleophilic reaction of osmapentalyne 79 with 3-(methylsulfanyl)-benzenol.
Catalysts 10 01268 sch025
Scheme 26. [2+2+2] cycloaddition of 35 with HC≡COEt.
Scheme 26. [2+2+2] cycloaddition of 35 with HC≡COEt.
Catalysts 10 01268 sch026
Scheme 27. [2+2] cycloaddition reactions of 55 with alkynes and nitrosoarenes.
Scheme 27. [2+2] cycloaddition reactions of 55 with alkynes and nitrosoarenes.
Catalysts 10 01268 sch027
Scheme 28. Synthesis of complexes 8789 and 79.
Scheme 28. Synthesis of complexes 8789 and 79.
Catalysts 10 01268 sch028
Scheme 29. Reaction of 55 with 2,2-diphenylacetonitrile.
Scheme 29. Reaction of 55 with 2,2-diphenylacetonitrile.
Catalysts 10 01268 sch029
Scheme 30. Reactions of 91 with azides.
Scheme 30. Reactions of 91 with azides.
Catalysts 10 01268 sch030
Scheme 31. Reaction of 32 with NaN3.
Scheme 31. Reaction of 32 with NaN3.
Catalysts 10 01268 sch031
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Hu, B.; Li, C. Acetylenic Carbon-Containing Stable Five-Membered Metallacycles. Catalysts 2020, 10, 1268.

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Hu B, Li C. Acetylenic Carbon-Containing Stable Five-Membered Metallacycles. Catalysts. 2020; 10(11):1268.

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Hu, Bowen, and Chunxiang Li. 2020. "Acetylenic Carbon-Containing Stable Five-Membered Metallacycles" Catalysts 10, no. 11: 1268.

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