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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Palladium-catalyzed α-arylation for the addition of small rings to aromatic compounds.

  • Author(s): He, Zhi-Tao
  • Hartwig, John F
  • et al.

Small, strained rings have rigid, defined conformations and unique electronic properties. For these reasons, many groups seek to use these subunits to form biologically active molecules. We report a generally applicable approach to attach small rings to a wide range of aromatic compounds by palladium-catalyzed α-arylation of cyclopropyl, cyclobutyl and azetidinyl esters. The direct α-arylation of cyclopropyl esters and cyclobutyl esters is achieved in high yield by ensuring that the rate of coupling exceeds the rate of Claisen condensation. The α-arylation of azetidines is achieved without ring opening of the strained saturated heterocycle by conducting the reactions with an azetidine derivative bearing a benzyl protecting group on nitrogen. Mechanistic studies show that the α-arylation of small rings is challenging because of the weak acidity of α C-H bond (cyclopropanes), strong sensitivity of the strained esters to Claisen condensation (cyclobutatanes), or facile decomposition of the enolates (azetidinyl esters).

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