Gold-catalyzed rearrangements and beyond.Acc Chem Res. 2014 Mar 18; 47(3):902-12.AC
Cycloisomerizations of enynes are probably the most representative carbon-carbon bond forming reactions catalyzed by electrophilic metal complexes. These transformations are synthetically useful because chemists can use them to build complex architectures under mild conditions from readily assembled starting materials. However, these transformations can have complex mechanisms. In general, gold(I) activates alkynes in the presence of any other unsaturated functional group by forming an (η(2)-alkyne)-gold complex. This species reacts readily with nucleophiles, including electron-rich alkenes. In this case, the reaction forms cyclopropyl gold(I) carbene-like intermediates. These can come from different pathways depending on the substitution pattern of the alkyne and the alkene. In the absence of external nucleophiles, 1,n-enynes can form products of skeletal rearrangement in fully intramolecular reactions, which are mechanistically very different from metathesis reactions initiated by the [2 + 2] cycloaddition of a Grubbs-type carbene or other related metal carbenes. In this Account, we discuss how cycloisomerization and addition reactions of substituted enynes, as well as intermolecular reactions between alkynes and alkenes, are best interpreted as proceeding through discrete cationic intermediates in which gold(I) plays a significant role in the stabilization of the positive charge. The most important intermediates are highly delocalized cationic species that some chemists describe as cyclopropyl gold(I) carbenes or gold(I)-stabilized cyclopropylmethyl/cyclobutyl/homoallyl carbocations. However, we prefer the cyclopropyl gold(I) carbene formulation for its simplicity and mnemonic value, highlighting the tendency of these intermediates to undergo cyclopropanation reactions with alkenes. We can add a variety of hetero- and carbonucleophiles to the enynes in the presence of gold(I) in intra- or intermolecular reactions, leading to the corresponding adducts with high stereoselectivity through stereospecific anti-additions. We have also developed stereospecific syn-additions, which probably occur through similar intermediates. The attack of carbonyl groups at the cyclopropyl carbons of the intermediate cyclopropyl gold(I) carbenes initiates a particularly interesting group of reactions. These trigger a cascade transformation that can lead to the formation of two C-C and one C-O bonds. In the fully intramolecular process, this stereospecific transformation has been applied for the synthesis of natural sesquiterpenoids such as (+)-orientalol F and (-)-englerin A. Intra- and intermolecular trapping of cyclopropyl gold(I) carbenes with alkenes leads to the formation of cyclopropanes with significant increase in the molecular complexity, particularly in cases in which this process combines with the migration of propargylic alkoxy and related OR groups. We have recently shown this in the stereoselective total synthesis of the antiviral sesquiterpene (+)-schisanwilsonene by a cyclization/1,5-acetoxy migration/intermolecular cyclopropanation. In this synthesis, the cyclization/1,5-acetoxy migration is faster than the alternative 1,2-acyloxy migration that would result in racemization.