Chain‐Cleavage and hydrolysis of activated polyethylene glycol derivatives: Evidence for competitive processes


Studies have been carried out with the tosylate of the monomethyl ether of polyethylene glycol (MeO–PEG–OTs) and with low molecular weight models to assess whether the neighboring oxygen at position 3 or 6 provides the driving force for hydrolytic cleavage of these activated derivatives. Our results reveal that MeO–PEG–OTs undergoes hydrolysis by competitive pathways. Water directly displaces the tosylate group to give the original PEG alcohol and the oxygen at position 6 nucleophilically displaces the tosylate group to give a cyclic oxonium ion as an intermediate. This intermediate can react by three pathways. First, it can lead to the production of the original PEG alcohol by attack of water on a ring carbon; second, dioxane and a lower molecular weight PEG alcohol is produced by water attack at the nonring carbon next to the charged oxygen; and third dioxane can be displaced by the oxygen atom at position 6 in the chain.

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Journal of Polymer Science Part A: Polymer Chemistry