Leveraging Chiral Zr(IV)-Based Metal-Organic Frameworks To Elucidate Catalytically Active Rh Species in Asymmetric Hydrogenation Reactions

Wei Gong, Xinfa Chen, Wenqiang Zhang, Kent O. Kirlikovali, Bing Nan, Zhijie Chen, Rui Si, Yan Liu, Omar K. Farha*, Yong Cui

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


One of the most widely employed strategies to produce chiral molecules involves the asymmetric hydrogenation of functionalized olefins using rhodium catalysts. Despite their excellent performance, the exact identity of the active Rh species is still ambiguous as each site may plausibly feature one or two phosphorus ligands. In this work, we used a sequential postsynthetic modification approach to successfully incorporate single-site Rh species into a zirconium-based metal-organic framework comprised of chiral spinol-based ligands. These Rh species feature one phosphorus ligand per Rh, which contrasts with the molecular analogue that contains two phosphorus ligands per Rh site. Following extensive characterization of the Rh-monophosphorus material using techniques including solid-state NMR and extended X-ray absorption fine-structure (EXAFS) spectroscopy, we studied their catalytic performance in the asymmetric hydrogenations of enamides and α-dehydroamino acid esters and observed excellent yields and enantioselectivities (up to 99.9% ee). Notably, the Rh-monophosphorus catalyst is 5 times more active than the homogeneous Rh-biphosphorus control, which we attributed to the higher activity of the single-site Rh-monophosphorus species and the confined MOF cavities that can enrich reactants. In addition, we observed a unique topology-dependent behavior in which linker expansion leads to the formation of a novel Zr-MOF with a distinct 4,8-connected net that cannot be phosphorylated, presumably due to intense tensile strain and steric repulsion present within this framework. Finally, we demonstrate the utility of this single-site Rh-monophosphorus catalyst in the gram-scale synthesis of (R)-cinacalcet hydrochloride, a first-in-class drug in the therapy of secondary hyperparathyroidism and parathyroid carcinoma, with 99.1% ee.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3117-3126
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number7
StatePublished - Feb 23 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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