The selective (and controllable) modification of complex molecules with disparate functional groups (for example, natural products) is a long-standing challenge that has been addressed using catalysts tuned to perform singular transformations (for example, C–H hydroxylation). A method whereby reactions with diverse functional groups within a single natural product are feasible depending on which catalyst or reagent is chosen would widen the possible structures one could obtain. Fluoroarylborane catalysts can heterolytically split Si–H bonds to yield an oxophilic silylium (R3Si+) equivalent along with a reducing (H–) equivalent. Together, these reactive intermediates enable the reduction of multiple functional groups. Exogenous phosphine Lewis bases further modify the catalyst speciation and attenuate aggressive silylium ions for the selective modification of complex natural products. Manipulation of the catalyst, silane reagent and the reaction conditions provides experimental control over which site is modified (and how). Applying this catalytic method to complex bioactive compounds (natural products or drugs) provides a powerful tool for studying structure–activity relationships.
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This work was exclusively supported by the Department of Energy (Basic Energy Sciences, DE-FG02-05ER15630). T.A.B. is grateful for a University of North Carolina Dissertation Completion Fellowship.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Bender, T., Payne, P. & Gagné, M. Late-stage chemoselective functional-group manipulation of bioactive natural products with super-electrophilic silylium ions. Nature Chem 10, 85–90 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/nchem.2863