Investigation of all O-methyl ethers of 1,2,3-benzenetriol and 4-methyl-1,2,3-benzenetriol (3-16) by 1H NMR spectroscopy and density-functional calculations disclosed practically useful conformational effects on 1H NMR chemical shifts in the aromatic ring. While the conversion of phenol (2) to anisole (1) causes only small positive changes of 1H NMR chemical shifts (Delta delta <0.08 ppm) that decrease in the order Hortho > Hmeta > Hpara, the experimental O-methylation induced shifts in ortho-disubstituted phenols are largest for Hpara, Delta delta equals; 0.19 +/- 0.02 ppm (n = 11). The differences are due to different conformational behavior of the OH and OCH3 groups; while the ortho-disubstituted OH group remains planar in polyphenols due to hydrogen bonding and conjugative stabilization, the steric congestion in ortho-disubstituted anisoles outweighs the conjugative effects and forces the Ar-OCH3 torsion out of the ring plane, resulting in large stereoelectronic effects on the chemical shift of Hpara. Conformational searches and geometry optimizations for 3-16 at the B3LYP/6-31G** level, followed by B3LYP/6-311++G(2d,2p) calculations for all low-energy conformers, gave excellent correlation between computed and observed 1H NMR chemical shifts, including agreement between computed and observed chemical shift changes caused by O-methylation. The observed regularities can aid structure elucidation of partly O-methylated polyphenols, including many natural products and drugs, and are useful in connection with chemical shift predictions by desktop computer programs.
Journal of Organic Chemistry, 2006, Vol 71, Issue 25, p. 9449-57