Other advances in chiral chemistry
Researchers at the Department of Applied Chemistry, the Faculty of Science, at the Tokyo University of Science and the
Japanese Foundation Center for Cancer Research developed a method for the total synthesis of AMF-26, an antitumor agent that
disrputs the Golgi system by inhibiting ADP-ribosylation factor 1 activation (2). A key part of the synthesis was the construction
of the chiral linear precursor by the asymmetric aldol reaction followed by a computer-assisted predictive stereoselective
intramolecular Diels–Alder reaction (2).
Researchers also recently reported on what they classified as the first organocatalytic asymmetric synthesis of 3,3-disubstituted
oxindoles featuring two heteroatoms at the C3 position by employing the highly enantioselective amination of 3-arylthiooxindoles
or 3-alkoxyoxindoles using DBAD (3). The work showed that 3-thiooxindoles and 3-alkoxyoxindoles were reactive nucleophiles
for the development of catalytic asymmetric reactions (3). In other news, researchers describe their work involving a catalytic
asymmetric double (1,3)-dipolar cycloaddition reaction. They reported that by using a chiral silver catalyst, enantioenriched
pyrrolizidines can be prepared in one flask from inexpensive, commercially available starting materials. The pyrrolizidine
products contain a variety of substitution patterns and as many as six stereogenic centers (4).
In the area of biocatalysis, researchers at the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Georgia Institute of
Technology, Petit Institute of Bioengineering and Bioscience and Merck & Co., successfully altered a leucine dehydrogenase
through several rounds of protein engineering to an enantioselective amine dehydrogenase (5). Instead of the wild-type a-keto
acid, the new amine dehydrogenase accepts the analogous ketone, methyl isobutyl ketone, which corresponds to exchange of the
carboxy group by a methyl group to produce chiral (R)-1,3-dimethylbutylamine (5).
Other catalytic approaches
In synthesizing pharmaceutical intermediates or APIs, broad advances in catalysis can be helpful. The research group of Professor
Petri Pihko at the Department of Chemistry and the NanoScience Center of the University of Jyväskylä at the Academy of Finland
recently resolved two problems in chemical catalysis, according to a Dec. 20, 2012 press release.
Antibody drug conjugates remain a niche, but strong area of investment.
In the first project, the researchers designed an intramolecularly assisted catalyst for the synthesis of beta-amino acids.
Previously published catalysts work only with aromatic side chains in the imines, but the new catalyst designed at the University
of Jyväskylä does not have this limitation, according to the release. The method may be applied in the synthesis of beta-amino
acids, which are important building blocks. For the understanding of the catalytic mechanism and design of the catalyst, the
researchers collaborated with the research groups of Professor Imre Pápai at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences for computational
studies, and Academy Professor Kari Rissanen at the University of Jyväskylä for X-ray characterization of catalysts.
In a second project, the researchers identified new mechanism for the amine-catalyzed Michael addition reaction between aldehydes
and nitroalkenes. The new model proposed by the Pihko and Pápai groups includes a new species, a six-membered ring, as the
key on-cycle intermediate that is protonated in the rate-determining step. The work is a combination of computational and
experimental studies that complement each other in understanding the reaction mechanism. Specifically, the researchers used
dihydrooxazine oxides, which are stable intermediates that are protonated directly, without the intermediacy of the zwitterions,
in organocatalytic Michael additions of aldehydes and nitroalkenes. Protonation of these species explains the role of the
acid co-catalyst in these reactions, and the observed stereochemistry when the reaction is conducted with a-alkylnitroalkenes
BINOL and its derivatives are widely used classes of ligands in asymmetric synthesis, such as in Diels–Alder reactions, carbonyl
addition, and reductions (7). Researchers at the University of Texas, Austin have developed a bifunctional catalyst derived
from BINOL for producing highly enantioselective bromolactonizations of unsaturated carboxylic acids (8, 9). Specifically,
the catalyst promoted highly enantioselective bromolactonizations of 4- and 5-aryl-4-pentenoic acids, but it also catalyzed
the highly enantioselective bromolactonizations of 5-alkyl-4(Z)-pentenoic acids. The researchers assert that these reactions
represent the first catalytic bromolactonizations of alkyl-substituted olefinic acids that proceeded by means of 5-exo mode
cyclizations to give lactones in which new carbon–bromine bonds are formed at a stereogenic center with high enantioselectivity.
The researchers also reported on what they say is the first catalytic desymmetrization of a prochiral dienoic acid by enantioselective
bromolactonization (8, 9).