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Curr Med Chem. 2004 Jul;11(14):1837-72.

Asymmetric synthesis of beta-lactams through the Staudinger reaction and their use as building blocks of natural and nonnatural products.

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Departamento de Química Orgánica I, Facultad de Química, Universidad del País Vasco, Apdo. 1072, 20080 San Sebastia, Spain.


In the last two decades, the better understanding of the mechanistic aspects of the beta-lactams' biological activity and their inhibition, and the chemical exploitation of beta-lactams as synthetic intermediates in organic chemistry, have experienced a continuous and somewhat complementary advance. A prerequisite for such a development has been the accessibility of enantiopure beta-lactams. The latter are now routinely prepared most often through the ketene-imine cycloaddition reaction, also termed the Staudinger reaction. This review accounts for the recent progress made in the asymmetric synthesis of beta-lactams (with special emphasis in the Staudinger reaction approach), as well as in their use as synthetic intermediates en route to natural products, including alpha- and beta-amino acids and peptides derived therefrom.

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