In chemistry
Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

, stereospecificity is the property of a reaction
Chemical reaction
A chemical reaction is a process that leads to the transformation of one set of chemical substances to another. Chemical reactions can be either spontaneous, requiring no input of energy, or non-spontaneous, typically following the input of some type of energy, such as heat, light or electricity...

 mechanism that leads to different stereoisomeric
Stereoisomers are isomeric molecules that have the same molecular formula and sequence of bonded atoms , but that differ only in the three-dimensional orientations of their atoms in space. This contrasts with structural isomers, which share the same molecular formula, but the bond connections...

 reaction products from different stereoisomeric
Stereoisomers are isomeric molecules that have the same molecular formula and sequence of bonded atoms , but that differ only in the three-dimensional orientations of their atoms in space. This contrasts with structural isomers, which share the same molecular formula, but the bond connections...

 reactants, or which operates on only one (or a subset) of the stereoisomers."Overlap Control of Carbanionoid Reactions. I. Stereoselectivity in Alkaline Epoxidation," Zimmerman, H. E.; Singer, L.; Thyagarajan, B. S. J. Am. Chem. Soc., 1959, 81, 108-116.Eliel, E., "Stereochemistry of Carbon Compound", McGraw-Hill, 1962 pp 434-436

In contrast, stereoselectivity
In chemistry, stereoselectivity is the property of a chemical reaction in which a single reactant forms an unequal mixture of stereoisomers during the non-stereospecific creation of a new stereocenter or during the non-stereospecific transformation of a pre-existing one...

is the property of a reactant mixture where a non-stereospecific mechanism allows for the formation of multiple products, but where one (or a subset) of the products is favored by factors, such as steric access, that are independent of the mechanism.

A stereospecific mechanism specifies the stereochemical outcome of a given reactant, whereas a stereoselective reaction selects products from those made available by the same, non-specific mechanism acting on a given reactant. Given a single, stereoisomerically pure starting material, a stereospecific mechanism will give 100% of a particular stereoisomer (or no reaction), although loss of stereochemical integrity can easily occur through competing mechanisms with different stereochemical outcomes. A stereoselective process will normally give multiple products even if only one mechanism is operating on an isomerically pure starting material.

The term stereospecific reaction is ambiguous, since the term reaction itself can mean a single-mechanism transformation (such as the Diels-Alder reaction
Diels-Alder reaction
The Diels–Alder reaction is an organic chemical reaction between a conjugated diene and a substituted alkene, commonly termed the dienophile, to form a substituted cyclohexene system. The reaction can proceed even if some of the atoms in the newly formed ring are not carbon...

), which could be stereospecific, or the outcome of a reactant mixture that may proceed through multiple competing mechanisms, specific and non-specific. In the latter sense, the term stereospecific reaction is commonly misused to mean 'highly stereoselective reaction'.

Chiral synthesis
Chiral synthesis
Enantioselective synthesis, also called chiral synthesis, asymmetric synthesis or stereoselective synthesis, is organic synthesis that introduces one or more new and desired elements of chirality...

 is built on a combination of stereospecific transformations (for the interconversion of existing stereocenters) and stereoselective ones (for the creation of new stereocenters), where also the optical activity of a chemical compound is preserved.

The quality of stereospecificity is focused on the reactants and their stereochemistry; it is concerned with the products too, but only as they provide evidence of a difference in behavior between reactants. Of stereoisomeric reactants, each behaves in its own specific way.


Nucleophilic substitution
Nucleophilic substitution
In organic and inorganic chemistry, nucleophilic substitution is a fundamental class of reactions in which an electron nucleophile selectively bonds with or attacks the positive or partially positive charge of an atom or a group of atoms called the leaving group; the positive or partially positive...

 at sp3 centres can proceed by the stereospecific SN2 mechanism, causing only inversion, or by the non-specific SN1 mechanism, the outcome of which can show a modest selectivity for inversion, depending on the reactants and the reaction conditions to which the mechanism does not refer. The choice of mechanism adopted by a particular reactant combination depends on other factors (steric access to the reaction centre in the substrate, nucleophile
A nucleophile is a species that donates an electron-pair to an electrophile to form a chemical bond in a reaction. All molecules or ions with a free pair of electrons can act as nucleophiles. Because nucleophiles donate electrons, they are by definition Lewis bases.Nucleophilic describes the...

, solvent, temperature).
Stereospecificity in substitution reactions
SN1 mechanism non-stereospecific SN2 mechanism stereospecific

For example, tertiary centres react almost exclusively by the SN1 mechanism whereas primary centres (except neopentyl centres) react almost exclusively by the SN2 mechanism. When a nucleophilic substitution results in incomplete inversion, it is because of a competition between the two mechanisms, as often occurs at secondary centres, or because of double inversion (as when iodide is the nucleophile).

The addition of carbenes to alkenes is stereospecific in that the geometry of the alkene is preserved in the product. For example, dibromocarbene and cis-2-butene yield cis-2,3-dimethyl-1,1-dibromocyclopropane, whereas the trans isomer exclusively yields the trans cyclopropane.

This addition remains stereospecific even if the starting alkene is not isomerically pure, as the products' stereochemistry will match the reactants'.

The disrotatory
In a conrotatory mode of an electrocyclic reaction the substituents located at the termini of a conjugated double bond system move in the same direction during ring opening or ring closure...

 ring closing reaction of conjugated trienes is stereospecific in that isomeric reactants will give isomeric products. For example, trans,cis,trans-2,4,6-octatriene gives cis-dimethylcyclohexadiene, whereas the trans,cis,cis reactant isomer gives the trans product and the trans,trans,trans reactant isomer does not react in this manner.
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