Natural product–inspired cascade synthesis yields modulators of centrosome integrity

Natural product–inspired cascade synthesis yields modulators of centrosome integrity

Heiko Dückert, Verena Pries, Vivek Khedkar, Sascha Menninger, Hanna Bruss, Alexander W Bird, Zoltan Maliga, Andreas Brockmeyer, Petra Janning, Anthony Hyman, Stefan Grimme, Markus Schürmann, Hans Preut, Katja Hübel, Slava Ziegler, Kamal Kumar & Herbert Waldmann
I will start this write-up with a question to all readers: what is the longest cascade reaction you can think of? I mean how many separate steps occur while the compounds react and rearrange and form new bonds. [1] The longest one I thought is the Ugi-4CR with some concomitant steps e.g. condensation to form heterocycles. But all in all with a maximum of 8 reaction steps.

So have a look at this one:

Scheme 1

If you have some spare time try to figure out what happens. For all the others here is the solution the authors offer. [2]
The first step is the Michael addition of PPh3 into the triple bond of the acetylenic ester. Vinylogous aldol addition of the so formed ester enolate and subsequent Michael addition of the newly formed enolate into the unsaturated ester gave a tricyclic compound after elimination of triphenylphosphine. Then tryptamine was added followed by 1.5 eq of CSA. Tryptamine attacks the unsaturated ketone which results in elimination of the phenolate. The formed 2H-pyrane undergoes an electrocyclic ring opening which closes again to a dihydropyridine ring system.

Scheme 2

Next the dihydropyridine eliminates again the phenolate forming a pyridinium ion which is attacked again by the phenolate to give a rearranged dihydropyridine. Electrocyclic ring opening yields an imine which undergoes a Pictet-Spengler reaction with the 2-position of the indole ring. The last two steps contain another Michael addition of the tetrahydro-β-carboline nitrogen atom onto the unsaturated ketone and subsequent eliminiation of phenolate to give at last the indoloquinolizine skeleton.

Scheme 3

The yields ranged from 20 % up to 91 % in a single pot reaction and the procedure is rather simple: just mix PPh3, the aldehyde, and the acetylenic ester in hot PhMe. After about 5 minutes add the tryptamine followed by CSA and heat the mixture for another 5 to 30 minutes.

[1] For all of you admiring cascade reactions I must recommend this review by Nicolaou (for all those who did not read it yet): DOI:
[2] The authors state that even they did not expect the last steps to happen. But some of the substances they got are very active in interfering with the mitosis of cancer cells.


2 Responses

  1. Very impressive how versatile the acidity of phenol can be used to trigger such a nice cascade. But it would be very interesting at which step CSA comes into play. Is it really just added for protonating the phenolate-anion formed in step 4? It´s not quite easy to understand the role of CSA in the following steps because there are several intermediates which could be protonated and by that the cascade arrives at a dead end. Can you tell me anything about that?

    Stay tuned 😉
    Kaeptn Future

  2. hey, thx for the question. i would think that most likely the CSA is needed to get the isomerization and condensation done in step 6.
    compared to standard conditions for dihydropyridine formation it would make sense. this might be an explanation but the authors did not state exactly for what reason they added CSA in this sequence.

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