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J Pharm Sci. 2014 Sep;103(9):2797-808. doi: 10.1002/jps.23918. Epub 2014 Mar 14.

Investigation of the mechanism of racemization of litronesib in aqueous solution: unexpected base-catalyzed inversion of a fully substituted carbon chiral center.

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Eli Lilly and Company, Lilly Research Laboratories, Indianapolis, Indiana, 46285-3811.


Mitosis inhibitor (R)-litronesib (LY2523355) is a 1,3,4-thiadiazoline-bearing phenyl and N-(2-ethylamino)ethanesulfonamido-methyl substituents on tetrahedral C5. Chiral instability has been observed at pH 6 and above with the rate of racemization increasing with pH. A positively charged trigonal intermediate is inferred from the fact that p-methoxy substituent on the phenyl accelerated racemization, whereas a p-trifluoromethyl substituent had the opposite effect. Racemization is proposed to occur through a relay mechanism involving intramolecular deprotonation of the sulfonamide by the side chain amino group and attack of the sulfonamide anion on C5, cleaving the C5S bond, to form an aziridine; heterolytic dissociation of the aziridine yields an ylide. This pathway is supported by (1) a crystal structure providing evidence for a hydrogen bond between the sulfonamide NH and the amino group, (2) effects of substituents on the rate of racemization, and (3) computational studies. This racemization mechanism results from neighboring group effects in this densely functionalized molecule. Of particular novelty is the involvement of the side-chain secondary amino group, which overcomes the weak acidity of the sulfonamide by anchimeric assistance.


chiral inversion; mechanism; neighboring group; racemization; relay ionization; ylide

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