A multifunctional catalyst that stereoselectively assembles prodrugs

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Science  28 Apr 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6336, pp. 426-430
DOI: 10.1126/science.aam7936

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Getting phosphorus into healthy shape

ProTide therapeutics play a trick on the body, getting nucleoside analogs where they need to be by decorating them with unnatural phosphoramidates in place of ordinary phosphates. These compounds pose an unusual synthetic challenge because their configuration must be controlled at phosphorus; most methods have been refined to manipulate the geometry of carbon. DiRocco et al. report a metal-free, small-molecule catalyst that attains high selectivity for nucleoside phosphoramidation by activating both reaction partners. Kinetic studies with an early prototype revealed a double role for the catalyst that inspired the rational design of a more active and selective dimeric structure.

Science, this issue p. 426


The catalytic stereoselective synthesis of compounds with chiral phosphorus centers remains an unsolved problem. State-of-the-art methods rely on resolution or stoichiometric chiral auxiliaries. Phosphoramidate prodrugs are a critical component of pronucleotide (ProTide) therapies used in the treatment of viral disease and cancer. Here we describe the development of a catalytic stereoselective method for the installation of phosphorus-stereogenic phosphoramidates to nucleosides through a dynamic stereoselective process. Detailed mechanistic studies and computational modeling led to the rational design of a multifunctional catalyst that enables stereoselectivity as high as 99:1.

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