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Multicomponent Reactions

Multicomponent Reactions (MCRs) are convergent reactions, in which three or more starting materials react to form a product, where basically all or most of the atoms contribute to the newly formed product. In an MCR, a product is assembled according to a cascade of elementary chemical reactions. Thus, there is a network of reaction equilibria, which all finally flow into an irreversible step yielding the product. The challenge is to conduct an MCR in such a way that the network of pre-equilibrated reactions channel into the main product and do not yield side products. The result is clearly dependent on the reaction conditions: solvent, temperature, catalyst, concentration, the kind of starting materials and functional groups. Such considerations are of particular importance in connection with the design and discovery of novel MCRs. (A. Dömling, Org. Chem. Highlights 2004, April 5. Link)


A. Dömling, Org. Chem. Highlights 2004, April 5.


Multicomponent Reactions with Carbonyl Compounds

Some of the first multicomponent reactions to be reported function through derivatization of carbonyl compounds into more reactive intermediates, which can react further with a nucleophile. One example is the Mannich Reaction:


Mannich Reaction

Obviously, this reaction only proceeds if one carbonyl compound reacts faster with the amine to give an imine, and the other carbonyl compound plays the role of a nucleophile. In cases where both carbonyl compounds can react as the nucleophile or lead to imines with the same reaction rate, preforming the intermediates is an alternative, giving rise to a standard multistep synthesis.

Carbonyl compounds played a crucial role in the early discovery of multicomponent reactions, as displayed by a number of name reactions:


Biginelli Reaction


Bucherer-Bergs Reaction


Gewald Reaction


Hantzsch Dihydropyridine (Pyridine) Synthesis


Kabachnik-Fields Reaction


Mannich Reaction


Strecker Synthesis


Kindler Thioamide Synthesis


Isocyanide-based Multicomponent Reactions

Isocyanides play a dual role as both a nucleophile and electrophile, allowing interesting multicomponent reactions to be carried out. One of the first multicomponent reactions to use isocyanides was the Passerini Reaction. The mechanism shows how the isocyanide displays ambident reactivity. The driving force is the oxidation of CII to CIV, leading to more stable compounds.


Passerini Reaction

This interesting isocyanide chemistry has been rediscovered, leading to an overwhelming number of useful transformations. One of these is the Ugi Reaction:


Ugi Reaction

Both the Passerini and Ugi Reactions lead to interesting peptidomimetic compounds, which are potentially bioactive. The products of these reactions can constitute interesting lead compounds for further development into more active compounds. Both reactions offer an inexpensive and rapid way to generate compound libraries. Since a wide variety of isocyanides are commercially available, an equivalently diverse spectrum of products may be obtained.

Variations in the starting compounds may also lead to totally new scaffolds, such as in the following reaction, in which levulinic acid simultaneously plays the role of a carboxylic acid and a carbonyl compound:


H. Tye, M. Whittaker, Org. Biomol. Chem., 2004, 2, 813-815.

But how can multicomponent reactions be discovered? It's sometimes a simple matter of trial and error. Some very interesting MCRs have even been discovered by preparing libraries from 10 different starting materials. By analyzing the products of each combination (three-, four-, up to ten-component reactions), one is able to select those reactions that show a single main product. HPLC and MS are useful analytical methods, because the purity and mass of the new compounds help to decide rapidly whether a reaction might be interesting to investigate further. (L. Weber, K. Illgen, M. Almstetter, Synlett, 1999, 366-374. DOI)


Links of Interest

Organic Chemistry Highlights: Multicomponent Reactions


Reviews on Multicomponent Reactions

A. Dömling, I. Ugi, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2000, 39, 3168. DOI
A. Dömling, Org. Chem. Highlights 2004, April 5. Link


Books on Multicomponent Reactions


Multicomponent Reactions

Jieping Zhu, Hugues Bienaymé
Hardcover, 468 Pages
First Edition, 2005
ISBN: 3-527-30806-7 - Wiley-VCH


Recent Literature

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Photoredox-Catalyzed Multicomponent Petasis Reaction with Alkyltrifluoroborates
J. Yi, S. O. Badir, R. Alam, G. A. Molander, Org. Lett., 2019, 21, 4853-4858.


A Ni-catalyzed arylboration converts substituted alkenes, aryl bromides, and diboron reagents to products that contain a tertiary or quaternary carbon and a synthetically versatile carbon-boron bond with control of stereoselectivity and regioselectivity. In addition, the method is useful for the synthesis of saturated nitrogen heterocycles.
S. R. Sardini, A. L. Lambright, G. L. Trammel, H. M. Omer, P. Liu, M. K. Brown, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2019, 141, 9391-9400.


A nickel-catalyzed 1,2-arylboration of vinylarenes with aryl halides provides various 2-boryl-1,1-diarylalkanes, which constitute a class of significant pharmacophores, in the presence of bis(pinacolato)diboron under mild reaction conditions. This three-component cascade reaction exhibits good functional group tolerance and excellent chemo- and stereoselectivity.
W. Wang, C. Ding, H. Pang, G. Yin, Org. Lett., 2019, 21, 3968-3971.


A BF3-mediated in situ generation of alkynyl imines followed by alkynylation or allylation with boronic esters enables an efficient synthesis of α-alkynyl- or α-allyl-substituted N-Boc-propargylic amines in good yields under mild conditions.
K. Yasumoto, T. Kano, K. Maruoka, Org. Lett., 2019, 21, 3214-3217.


A reductive three-component coupling of terminal alkynes, aryl halides, and pinacolborane provides benzylic alkyl boronates in good yields via a hydrofunctionalization of both π-bonds of the alkyne promoted by cooperative action of the catalysts. The reaction offers excellent substrate scope and tolerates the presence of esters, nitriles, alkyl halides, epoxides, acetals and alkenes.
M. K. Armstrong, G. Lalic, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2019, 141, 6173-6179.


A direct, highly efficient KOAc-catalyzed one-pot three-component reaction of readily accessible diazo compounds, nitrosoarenes, and alkenes provides functionalized isoxazolidines in high yields. The reaction offers cheap and readily available catalyst and starting materials, excellent functional group compatibility, wide substrate scope, and excellent chemo-, regio-, and diastereoselectivities.
X. Li, T. Feng, D. Li, H. Chang, W. Gao, W. Wei, J. Org. Chem., 2019, 84, 4402-4412.


A copper-catalyzed four-component formal oxyaminalization of alkenes with Togni's reagent and amines in the presence of molecular oxygen as both the oxidant and oxygen source efficiently provides a range of structurally diverse α-oxoketene aminals. This simple procedure offers excellent functional group tolerance, broad substrate scope, and mild conditions.
L. Wang, C. Qi, T. Guo, H. Jiang, Org. Lett., 2019, 21, 2223-2226.


Reactions of thiocarbonyl fluoride derived from CF3SiMe3, elemental sulfur, and KF with secondary amines provides a wide variety of thiocarbamoyl fluorides in good yields at room temperature in THF, whereas the reaction with primary amines gives isothiocyanates. The two reactions show broad substrate scope and good functional group tolerance. Moreover, AgSCF3 can be used as an alternative.
L. Zhen, H. Fan, X. Wang, L. Jiang, Org. Lett., 2019, 21, 2106-2110.


A highly efficient reaction of readily available aromatic amines, benzaldehydes, and NH4SCN as a sulfur source provides 2-arylbenzothiazoles with wide functional group compatibility in good yields via an iodine-mediated oxidative annulation.
A. Dey, A. Hajra, Org. Lett., 2019, 21, 1686-1689.


Molecular iodine catalyzes a facile and practical synthesis of thiocarbamates in good yields from readily available sodium sulfinates, isocyanides, and water. The present methodology offers favorable functional group tolerance and the use of odorless sodium sulfinates.
P. Bao, L. Wang, H. Yue, Y. Shao, J. Wen, D. Yang, Y. Zhao, H. Wang, W. Wei, J. Org. Chem., 2019, 84, 2976-2983.


A chiral iron(II) complex catalyzes a regio- and enantioselective α-halo-β-azido difunctionalization of both α,β-unsaturated amides and α,β-unsaturated esters under mild reaction conditions to provide a broad spectrum of valuable functionalized amides and esters.
P. Zhou, X. Liu, W. Wu, C. Xu, X. Feng, Org. Lett., 2019, 21, 1170-1175.


Acenaphthoimidazolylidene gold complexes are effective catalysts for a chemoselective arylsulfonylation of boronic acids using potassium metabisulfite (K2S2O5) and diaryliodonium salts to provide sterically hindered diarylsulfones even in gram scale. Sterically hindered aryl groups in unsymmetric diaryliodonium salts are preferentially transferred over less bulky ones.
H. Zhu, Y. Shen, D. Wen, Z.-G. Le, T. Tu, Org. Lett., 2019, 21, 974-979.


A three-component reaction of nitroarenes, alcohols, and sulfur powder provided 2-substituted benzothiazoles in good yield with a good functional group tolerance via nitro reduction, C-N condensation, and C-S bond formation.
Q. Xing, Y. Ma, H. Xie, F. Xiao, F. Zhang, G.-J. Deng, J. Org. Chem., 2019, 84, 1238-1246.


A silver-catalyzed, one-pot, four-component reaction of terminal alkynes, TMSN3, sodium sulfinate, and sulfonyl azide provides amidines. A possible cascade reaction mechanism consists of alkyne hydroazidation, sulfonyl radical addition, 1,3-dipolar cycloaddition of TMSN3, and retro-1,3-dipolar cycloaddition.
B. Liu, Y. Ning, M. Virelli, G. Zanoni, E. A. Anderson, X. Bi, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 2019, 141, 1593-1598.


The low-melting mixture urea-ZnCl2 as reaction medium efficiently catalyzes the formation of imidazoles from a dicarbonyl compound, ammonium acetate, and an aromatic aldehyde to provide a broad range of triaryl-1H-imidazoles or 2-aryl-1H-phenanthro[9,10-d]imidazoles in very good yields. In addition, the eutectic solvent can be reused five times without loss of catalytic activity.
N. L. Higuera, D. Peña-Solórzano, C. Ochoa-Puentes, Synlett, 2019, 30, 225-229.


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