Abstract The analysis of reactivity indices suggests the polar nature of the [2+3] cycloaddition of a-phenylnitroethene to (Z)-C,N-diphenylnitrone. Similar conclusions can be drawn from the investigation of the reaction pathways using the B3LYP/6-31g(d) algorithm. This shows that the cycloaddition mechanism depends on the polarity of the reaction medium. A one-step mechanism is followed in the gas phase and toluene in all the theoretically possible pathways. In more polar media (nitromethane, water), a zwitterionic, two-step rather than a one-step mechanism occurs in the pathway leading to 3,4-trans-2,3,5-triphenyl-4-nitroisoxazolidine. Graphical abstract <alternatives> [...] </alternatives>
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