A bifunctional catalyst, N-(4-imidazolylmethyl)benzohydroxamic acid, was synthesized from benzohydroxamic acid and chloromethylimidazole, and used for the hydrolysis of p-nitrophenyl acetate. The reaction proceeded via the formation of the acetyl hydroxamate and its subsequent decomposition. The deacylation step was shown to be general base-catalyzed by the intramolecular imidazole group on the basis of the deuterium solvent kinetic isotope effect of 2.0. The efficiency of water attack on the acetyl hydroxamate was enhanced 130-fold by the imidazole group. The catalytic process is compared with the reactions of related monofunctional compounds, and finally its significance as a model of the charge relay system is discussed.
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