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The Ugi reaction constructs ??-acylaminoamide compounds by combining an aldehyde or ketone, an amine, a carboxylic acid, and an isocyanide in a single flask. Its appealing features include inherent atom and step economy together with the potential to generate products of broad structural diversity. However, control of the stereochemistry in this reaction has proven to be a formidable challenge. We describe an efficient enantioselective four-component Ugi reaction catalyzed by a chiral phosphoric acid derivative that delivers more than 80 ??-acylaminoamides in good to excellent enantiomeric excess. Experimental and computational studies establish the reaction mechanism and origins of stereoselectivity.

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This is a remarkable result: a group from Shenzhen reports an enantioselective Ugi reaction. If you’re among the majority of the human race that doesn’t know what an Ugi reaction is to start with, it’s probably the best-known of a rather rare...