Alkynylation is an addition reaction in organic synthesis where a terminal alkyne adds to a carbonyl group to form an α-alkynyl alcohol. When the acetylide is formed from acetylene, the reaction gives an α-ethynyl alcohol. This process is often referred to as ethynylation. Such process often involve metal acetylide intermediates
The principal reaction of interest involves the addition of the acetylene to a ketone or aldehyde:
- RCOR' + HC≡CR" → RR'C(OH)C≡CR"
The reaction proceeds with retention of the triple bond. For aldehydes and unsymmetrical ketones, the product is chiral, hence there is interest in asymmetric variants. These reactions invariably involve metal-acetylide intermediates.
This reaction was discovered by chemist John Ulric Nef in 1899 while experimenting with reactions of elemental sodium, phenylacetylene, and acetophenone. For this reason, the reaction is sometimes referred to as Nef synthesis. Sometimes this reaction is erroneously called the Nef reaction, a name more often used to describe a different reaction (see Nef reaction). Chemist Walter Reppe coined the term ethynylation during his work with acetylene and carbonyl compounds.
In the following reaction (scheme 1), the alkyne proton of ethyl propiolate is deprotonated by n-butyllithium at -78 °C to form lithium ethyl propiolate to which cyclopentanone is added forming a lithium alkoxide. Acetic acid is added to remove lithium and liberate the free alcohol.
Several modifications of alkynylation reactions are known:
- In the Arens–van Dorp Synthesis the compound ethoxyacetylene is converted to a Grignard reagent and reacted with a ketone, the reaction product is a propargyl alcohol.
- The Isler modification is a modification of Arens–van Dorp Synthesis where ethoxyacetylene is replaced by β-chlorovinyl ether and lithium amide.
Alkynylation finds use in synthesis of pharmaceuticals, particularly in the preparation of steroid hormones. For example, ethynylation of 17-ketosteroids produces important contraceptive medications known as progestins. Examples include drugs such as Norethisterone, Ethisterone, and Lynestrenol. Hydrogenation of these compounds produces anabolic steroids with oral bioavailability, such as Norethandrolone.
Alkynylation is used to prepare commodity chemicals such as propargyl alcohol, butynediol, 2-methylbut-3-yn-2-ol (a precursor to isoprenes such as vitamin A), 3-hexyne-2,5-diol (a precursor to Furaneol), and 2-methyl-2-hepten-6-one (a precursor to Linalool).
For the stoichiometric reactions involving alkali metal or alkaline earth acetylides, work-up for the reaction requires liberation of the alcohol. To achieve this hydrolysis, aqueous acids are often employed.
Grignard reagents of acetylene or alkynes can be used to perform alkynylations on compounds that are liable to polymerization reactions via enolate intermediates. However, substituting lithium for sodium or potassium acetylides accomplishes similar results, often giving this route little advantage over the conventional reaction.
The Favorskii reaction is an alternative set of reaction conditions, which involves prereaction of the acetylene with an alkali metal hydroxide such as KOH. The reaction proceeds through equilibria, making the reaction reversible:
- HC≡CH + KOH ⇌ HC≡CK + H2O
- RR'C=O + HC≡CK ⇌ RR'C(OK)C≡CH
These reactions are used to manufacture propargyl alcohol and butynediol. Alkali metal acetylides, which are often more effective for ketone additions, are used to produce 2-methyl-3-butyn-2-ol from acetylene and acetone.
Alkyne coupling reactions
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