Research Article

Strain-release amination

Science  15 Jan 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6270, pp. 241-246
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad6252

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Opening one ring to tack on another

Curious chemists have long sought to learn just how tightly carbon atoms can be bound together. For instance, it's possible to form a bond between two opposite corners of an already strained four-membered ring to make an edge-sharing pair of triangles. Gianatassio et al. have now devised a general use for these and related molecular curiosities. They show that appropriately modified nitrogen centers can pop open the most highly strained bond, leaving the more modestly strained ring motif intact. In this way, small rings can emerge as a convenient diversifying element in compounds, including new pharmaceutical candidates.

Science, this issue p. 241


To optimize drug candidates, modern medicinal chemists are increasingly turning to an unconventional structural motif: small, strained ring systems. However, the difficulty of introducing substituents such as bicyclo[1.1.1]pentanes, azetidines, or cyclobutanes often outweighs the challenge of synthesizing the parent scaffold itself. Thus, there is an urgent need for general methods to rapidly and directly append such groups onto core scaffolds. Here we report a general strategy to harness the embedded potential energy of effectively spring-loaded C–C and C–N bonds with the most oft-encountered nucleophiles in pharmaceutical chemistry, amines. Strain-release amination can diversify a range of substrates with a multitude of desirable bioisosteres at both the early and late stages of a synthesis. The technique has also been applied to peptide labeling and bioconjugation.

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