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J Am Chem Soc. 2007 Sep 5;129(35):10886-94. Epub 2007 Aug 11.

Organocatalytic enantioselective cascade Michael-alkylation reactions: synthesis of chiral cyclopropanes and investigation of unexpected organocatalyzed stereoselective ring opening of cyclopropanes.

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Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87131-0001, USA.


The development of efficient methods for the facile construction of important molecular architectures is a central goal in organic synthesis. An unprecedented organocatalytic asymmetric cascade Michael-alkylation reaction of alpha,beta-unsaturated aldehydes with bromomalonates has been developed. The process, efficiently catalyzed by chiral diphenylprolinol TMS ether in the presence of base 2,6-lutidine, serves as a powerful approach to the preparation of synthetically and biologically important cyclopropanes in high levels of enantio- and diastereoselectivities. Remarkably, the power of the cascade process is fueled by its high efficiency of the production of two new C-C bonds, two new stereogenic centers, and one quaternary carbon center in one single operation, which otherwise is difficult to achieve by traditional strategies. Moreover, the beauty of the cascade process is further underscored by the nature of the product formation depending on the reaction conditions. With the alternation of base from 2,6-lutidine (1.1 equiv), which is effective for the cyclopropanations, to NaOAc (4.0 equiv), the spontaneous ring-opening of cyclopropanes takes place to lead to stereoselective (E) alpha-substituted malonate alpha,beta-unsaturated aldehydes. A possible reaction mechanism, which involves a Michael-alkylation-retro-Michael pathway, is proposed and verified by experimental studies. This investigation represents the first example of an organocatalyst-promoted ring opening of the cyclopropanes, whereas such reactions have been intensively explored by Lewis acid-based catalysis.

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