Synergistic Noncovalent Catalysis Facilitates Base-Free Michael Addition

Jianzhu Wang, Tom A. Young, Fernanda Duarte, Paul J. Lusby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Carbon–carbon bond-forming processes that involve the deprotonation of a weakly acidic C–H pro-nucleophile using a strong Brønsted base are central to synthetic methodology. Enzymes also catalyze C–C bond formation from weakly C–H acidic substrates; however, they accomplish this at pH 7 using only collections of noncovalent interactions. Here, we show that a simple, bioinspired synthetic cage catalyzes Michael addition reactions using only Coulombic and other weak interactions to activate various pro-nucleophiles and electrophiles. The anion-stabilizing property of the cage promotes spontaneous pro-nucleophile deprotonation, suggesting acidity enhancement equivalent to several pKa units. Using a second noncovalent reagent—commercially available 18-crown-6—facilitates catalytic base-free addition of several challenging Michael partners. The cage’s microenvironment also promotes high diastereoselectivity compared to a conventional base-catalyzed reaction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17743–17750
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number41
Early online date14 Sep 2020
Publication statusPublished - 14 Oct 2020

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