Amide synthesis is one of the most widely practiced chemical reactions, owing to its use in drug development and peptide synthesis. Despite the importance of these applications, the attendant effort to eliminate waste associated with these protocols has met with limited success, and pernicious α-epimerization is most often minimized but not eliminated when targeting challenging amides (e.g., N-aryl amides). This effort has focused on what is essentially a single paradigm in amide formation wherein an electrophilic acyl donor reacts with a nucleophilic amine. Umpolung amide synthesis (UmAS) emerged from α-halo nitroalkane reactions with amines and has since been developed into a method for the synthesis of enantiopure amides using entirely catalytic, enantioselective synthesis. However, its inability to forge N-aryl amides has been a longstanding problem, one limiting its application more broadly in drug development where α-chiral N-aryl amides are increasingly common. We report here the reaction of α-fluoronitroalkanes and N-aryl hydroxyl amines for the direct synthesis of N-aryl amides using a simple Brønsted base as the promoter. No other activating agents are required, and experiments guided by mechanistic hypotheses outline a mechanism based on the UmAS paradigm and confirm that the N-aryl amide, not the N-aryl hydroxamic acid, is the direct product. Ultimately, select chiral α-amino-N-aryl amides were prepared with complete conservation of enantioenrichment, in contrast to a parallel demonstration of their ability to epimerize using the conventional amide synthesis alternative.
Michael S. Crocker, Zihang Deng, and Jeffrey N. Johnston, Journal of the American Chemical Society Article ASAP. DOI: 10.1021/jacs.2c05986