A time-resolved spectroscopic study of the bichromophoric phototrigger 3',5'-dimethoxybenzoin diethyl phosphate: Interaction between the two chromophores determines the reaction pathway

Ma Chensheng, Wai Ming Kwok, Hui Ying An, Xiangguo Guan, Michael Yunyi Fu, Patrick H. Toy, David Lee Phillips

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


3',5'-Dimethoxybenzoin (DMB) is a bichromophoric system that has widespread application as a highly efficient photoremovable protecting group (PRPG) for the release of diverse functional groups. The photodeprotection of DMB phototriggers is remarkably clean, and is accompanied by the formation of a biologically benign cyclization product, 3',5'-dimethoxybenzofuran (DMBF). The underlying mechanism of the DMB deprotection and cyclization has, however, until now remained unclear. Femtosecond transient absorption (fs-TA) spectroscopy and nanosecond time-resolved resonance Raman (ns-TR3) spectroscopy were employed to detect the transient species directly, and examine the dynamic transformations involved in the primary photoreactions for DMB diethyl phosphate (DMBDP) in acetonitrile (CH3CN). To assess the electronic character and the role played by the individual sub-chromophore, that is, the benzoyl, and the di-meta-methoxybenzylic moieties, for the DMBDP deprotection, comparative fsTA measurements were also carried out for the reference compounds diethyl phosphate acetophenone (DPAP), and 3',5'-dimethoxybenzylic diethyl phosphate (DMBnDP) in the same solvent. Comparison of the fs-TA spectra reveals that the photoexcited DMBDP exhibits distinctly different spectral character and dynamic evolution from those of the reference compounds. This fact, combined with the related steadystate spectral and density functional theoretical results, strongly suggests the presence in DMBDP of a significant interaction between the two sub-chromophores, and that this interaction plays a governing role in determining the nature of the photoexcitation and the reaction channel of the subsequent photophysical and photochemical transformations. The ns-TR3results and their correlation with the fs-TA spectra and dynamics provide evidence for a novel concerted deprotection-cyclization mechanism for DMBDP in CH1CN. By monitoring the direct generation of the transient DMBF product, the cyclization time constant was determined unequivocally to be <1 ns. This indicates that there is little relevance for the long-lived intermediates (>10 ns) in giving the DMBF product, and excludes the stepwise mechanism proposed in the literature as the major pathway for the DMB cyclization reaction. This work provides important new insights into the origin of the 3',5'-dimethoxy substitution effect for the DMB photodeprotection. It also helps to clarify the many different views presented in previous mechanistic studies of the DMB PRPGs. In addition to this, our fs-TA results on the reference compound DMBnDP in CH3CN provide the first direct observation (to the best of our knowledge) showing the predominance of a prompt (<2ps) heterolytic bond cleavage after photoexcitation of mefa-methoxybenzylic compounds. This provides insight into the long-term controversies about the photoinitiated dissociation mode of related substituted benzylic compounds. KGaA.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5102-5118
Number of pages17
JournalChemistry - A European Journal
Issue number17
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2010


  • Chromophores
  • Dimethoxybenzoin
  • Photochemistry
  • Raman spectroscopy
  • Time-resolved spectroscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry


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