So far in this chapter, we have seen several examples of carbanion-intermediate (E1cb) beta-elimination reactions, in which the first step was proton abstraction at a carbon positioned ato an electron-withdrawing carbonyl or imine. Elimination reactions are also possible at positions that are isolated from carbonyls or any other electron-withdrawing groups. This type of elimination can be described by two model mechanisms: it can occur in a single concerted step (proton abstraction at Cα occurring at the same time as Cβ-X bond cleavage), or in two steps (Cβ-X bond cleavage occurring first to form a carbocation intermediate, which is then 'quenched' by proton abstraction at the alpha-carbon).
These mechanisms, termed E2 and E1, respectively, are important in laboratory organic chemistry, but are less common in biological chemistry. As explained below, which mechanism actually occurs in a laboratory reaction will depend on the identity of the R groups (ie., whether the alkyl halide is primary, secondary, tertiary, etc.) as well as on the characteristics of the base.
- Layne A. Morsch (University of Illinois Springfield)