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Confined acids catalyze asymmetric single aldolizations of acetaldehyde enolates

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Science  12 Oct 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6411, pp. 216-219
DOI: 10.1126/science.aau0817

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An acid inaccessible to aldol products

The aldol reaction is a venerable and widely applicable method for making carbon-carbon bonds. Ironically, it is most challenged by the simplest substrates. The trouble is that the product looks a lot like one of the reactants, and so it can latch onto the coupling partner instead. Schreyer et al. report that a bulky phosphorus-based acid catalyst alleviates this problem. The acidic site is buried in a pocket that is too small to activate the product for further reaction. The chiral geometry of the catalyst also induces high enantioselectivity.

Science, this issue p. 216

Abstract

Reactions that form a product with the same reactive functionality as that of one of the starting compounds frequently end in oligomerization. As a salient example, selective aldol coupling of the smallest, though arguably most useful, enolizable aldehyde, acetaldehyde, with just one partner substrate has proven to be extremely challenging. Here, we report a highly enantioselective Mukaiyama aldol reaction with the simple triethylsilyl (TES) and tert-butyldimethylsilyl (TBS) enolates of acetaldehyde and various aliphatic and aromatic acceptor aldehydes. The reaction is catalyzed by recently developed, strongly acidic imidodiphosphorimidates (IDPi), which, like enzymes, display a confined active site but, like small-molecule catalysts, have a broad substrate scope. The process is scalable, fast, efficient (0.5 to 1.5 mole % catalyst loading), and greatly simplifies access to highly valuable silylated acetaldehyde aldols.

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