Dynamic Kinetic Resolution Enabled by Intramolecular Benzoin Reaction: Synthetic Applications and Mechanistic Insights

The highly enantio-, diastereo-, and regioselective dynamic kinetic resolution of β-ketoesters and 1,3-diketones was achieved via a chiral N-heterocyclic carbene catalyzed intramolecular cross-benzoin reaction. A variety of tetralone derivatives bearing two contiguous stereocenters and multiple functionalities were liberated in moderate to excellent yields and with high levels of stereoselectivity (>95% ee and >20:1 dr in most cases). In addition, the excellent regioselectivity control for aryl/alkyl 1,3-diketones, and the superior electronic differentiation of 1,3-diarylketones were highlighted. Moreover, a set of new mechanistic rationale that differs with the currently widely accepted understanding of intramolecular benzoin reactions was established to demonstrate the superior preference of benzoin over aldol transformation: (1) A coexistence of competitive aldol and benzoin reactions was detected, but a retro-aldol-irreversible benzoin process performs a vital role in the generation of predominant benzoin products. (2) The most essential role of an N-electron-withdrawing substituent in triazolium catalysts was revealed to be accelerating the rate of the benzoin transformation, rather than suppressing the aldol process through reducing the inherent basicity of the catalyst.