Asymmetric Total Synthesis of (−)-Phaeocaulisin A

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The therapeutic properties of Curcuma (ginger and turmeric’s family) have long been known in traditional medicine. However, only recently have guaiane-type sesquiterpenes extracted from Curcuma phaeocaulis been submitted to biological testing, and their enhanced bioactivity was highlighted. Among these compounds, phaeocaulisin A has shown remarkable anti-inflammatory and anticancer activity, which appears to be tied to the unique bridged acetal moiety embedded in its tetracyclic framework. Prompted by the promising biological profile of phaeocaulisin A and by the absence of a synthetic route for its provision, we have implemented the first enantioselective total synthesis of phaeocaulisin A in 17 steps with 2% overall yield. Our route design builds on the identification of an enantioenriched lactone intermediate, tailored with both a ketone moiety and a conjugated alkene system. Taking advantage of the umpolung carbonyl-olefin coupling reactivity enabled by the archetypal single-electron transfer (SET) reductant samarium diiodide (SmI2), the lactone intermediate was submitted to two sequential SmI2-mediated cyclizations to stereoselectively construct the polycyclic core of the natural product. Crucially, by exploiting the innate inner-sphere nature of carbonyl reduction using SmI2, we have used a steric blocking strategy to render sites SET-unreceptive and thus achieve chemoselective reduction in a complex substrate. Our asymmetric route enabled elucidation of the naturally occurring isomer of phaeocaulisin A and provides a synthetic platform to access other guaiane-type sesquiterpenes from Curcuma phaeocaulis - as well as their synthetic derivatives - for medicinal chemistry and drug design.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7457−7464
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number16
Early online date13 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 27 Apr 2022


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