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Bifunctional Iminophosphorane Catalyzed Enantioselective Sulfa-Michael Addition to Unactivated α‑Substituted Acrylate Esters

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journal contribution
posted on 30.12.2015, 00:00 by Alistair J. M. Farley, Christopher Sandford, Darren J. Dixon
The highly enantioselective sulfa-Michael addition of alkyl thiols to unactivated α-substituted acrylate esters catalyzed by a bifunctional iminophosphorane organocatalyst under mild conditions is described. The strong Brønsted basicity of the iminophosphorane moiety of the catalyst provides the necessary activation of the alkyl thiol pro-nucleophile, while the two tert-leucine residues flanking a central thiourea hydrogen-bond donor facilitate high enantiofacial selectivity in the protonation of the transient enolate intermediate. The reaction is broad in scope with respect to the alkyl thiol, the ester moiety, and the α-substituent of the α,β-unsaturated ester, affords sulfa-Michael adducts in excellent yields (up to >99%) and enantioselectivities (up to 96% ee), and is amenable to decagram scale-up using catalyst loadings as low as 0.05 mol %.