Computational Replication of the Abnormal Secondary Kinetic Isotope Effects in a Hydride Transfer Reaction in Solution with a Motion Assisted H‑Tunneling Model

We recently reported abnormal secondary deuterium kinetic isotope effects (2° KIEs) for hydride transfer reactions from alcohols to carbocations in acetonitrile (<i>Chem. Comm.</i> 2012, <i>48</i>, 11337). Experimental 2° KIE values were found to be inflated on the 9-C position in the xanthylium cation but deflated on the β-C position in 2-propanol with respect to the values predicted by the semi-classical transition-state theory. No primary (1°) isotope effect on 2° KIEs was observed. Herein, the KIEs were replicated by the Marcus-like H-tunneling model that requires a longer donor–acceptor distance (DAD) in a lighter isotope transfer process. The 2° KIEs for a range of potential tunneling-ready-states (TRSs) of different DADs were calculated and fitted to the experiments to find the TRS structure. The observed no effect of 1° isotope on 2° KIEs is explained in terms of the less sterically hindered TRS structure so that the change in DAD due to the change in 1° isotope does not significantly affect the reorganization of the 2° isotope and hence the 2° KIE. The effect of 1° isotope on 2° KIEs may be expected to be more pronounced and thus observable in reactions occurring in restrictive environments such as the crowded and relatively rigid active site of enzymes.