Scalable Total Synthesis of (-)-Berkelic Acid Using a Protecting-Group-Free Strategy
Francisco J. Fananás, Abraham Mendoza, Tamara Arto, Baris Temelli, and Felix Rodriguez
Berkelic acid is a rather old target to the synthetic community and three total syntheses have been published to date. Interestingly the material provided by synthesis produced contradictory biological results compared to earlier studies. So besides showing the power of their methodology the group planned to provide enough material for refined studies.
As can be seen from scheme 1 the group planned to construct almost the whole framework in one single step after disconnection of the side. It should be noted that the group has some experience with this kind of cascade transformations of which they can rely on. Nevertheless instead of employing palladium catalysts the group turned their attention to silver catalysis. With this cascade reaction in mind they hoped that the stereogenic methyl group would control the stereoselectivity of the whole transformation.
The three key building blocks were prepared in a straightforward manner. Starting from commercially available butynol 1 the hydroxy functionality was mesylated and replaced by diethylmalonate to give after complete reduction diol 2. Starting from ester 3 the second fragment was prepared by triflation of the least hindered hydroxy group followed by Suzuki cross coupling with the trifluoroborate of heptyne. Hydroxy-directed reaction with formaldehyde and subsequent oxidation produced ester 4. The last building block stems from dimethyl malate which was doubly alkylated in the first place. Then the a-hydroxy ester was used for a periodate cleavage followed by cyanohydrin formation which was catalyzed by PNPCl.
Combination of the red fragment 2 and orange fragment 4 was accomplished in the presence of 5 mol% silver(II). Subsequent hydrogenation of the resulting double bond yielded 7 in good yield and diastereoselectivity favoring the desired one. Appel reaction under standard conditions was followed by cyanohydrin alkylation and unmasking of the ketone to give protected Berkelic acid 9. Small amounts of Berkelic acid can be produced in good yield by selective saponification of the more active ester. This was only done when material was needed for testing or analysis as the natural product is a short-lived compound.
The mechanism of the cool key step is presented below. On one hand the red fragment underwent a 5-exo-dig cyclization thus desymmetrizing the propanediol moiety to give after protodemetallation a tetrahydrofuran ring. On the other hand the carbonyl of the orange fragment underwent a 6-endo-dig cyclization. Supported by keto-enol tautomerism of the hydroxy functionality an ortho-quinone methide is formed. Michael addition of the enol ether from the red fragment onto the quinone methide was followed by acetal formation by the phenol. Hydrogenation of the newly formed double bond then gave intermediate 7.
 I was pointed to the title which says “[...] protecting-group-FREE strategy”… I am not particularly sure how they got the title but I see almost two protecting groups: the TES-cyanohydrin and one of the methyl esters. Maybe the title refers to the neat cascade reaction in which no protecting groups are necessary…
 It is the first time I ever saw this reagent in action. It is usually used for halogenation reactions. The cited paper in this step found that in the presence of PNPCl the cyanohydrin formation is much faster which was ascribed to an activation of the carbonyl oxygen by the high oxophilicity of phosphorous.
 At first sight one might think of a Diels-Alder reaction. But brief examination of the stereochemistry on the newly formed pyran ring shows that only a stepwise mechanism can form this particular anti-substitution pattern.