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Nature. 2015 Dec 24;528(7583):493-8. doi: 10.1038/nature16440.

Network-analysis-guided synthesis of weisaconitine D and liljestrandinine.

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Department of Chemistry, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, USA.
Cadre Research Labs, Chicago, Illinois 60654, USA.


General strategies for the chemical synthesis of organic compounds, especially of architecturally complex natural products, are not easily identified. Here we present a method to establish a strategy for such syntheses, which uses network analysis. This approach has led to the identification of a versatile synthetic intermediate that facilitated syntheses of the diterpenoid alkaloids weisaconitine D and liljestrandinine, and the core of gomandonine. We also developed a web-based graphing program that allows network analysis to be easily performed on molecules with complex frameworks. The diterpenoid alkaloids comprise some of the most architecturally complex and functional-group-dense secondary metabolites isolated. Consequently, they present a substantial challenge for chemical synthesis. The synthesis approach described here is a notable departure from other single-target-focused strategies adopted for the syntheses of related structures. Specifically, it affords not only the targeted natural products, but also intermediates and derivatives in the three families of diterpenoid alkaloids (C-18, C-19 and C-20), and so provides a unified synthetic strategy for these natural products. This work validates the utility of network analysis as a starting point for identifying strategies for the syntheses of architecturally complex secondary metabolites.

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