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Keywords:

  • alkenes;
  • carbonyl compounds;
  • heterocycles;
  • McMurry reactions;
  • titanium compounds
  • Alkenes;
  • Carbonyl compounds;
  • Heterocycles;
  • McMurry reaction;
  • Titanium

Abstract

Among the applications of low-valent titanium in organic synthesis, the reductive coupling of carbonyl compounds to produce alkenes (the McMurry reaction) is particularly prominent. Discovered at the beginning of the 1970s, it has been developed and tested repeatedly, for example in numerous syntheses of natural products. This alkene synthesis has become a standard reaction in the repertoire of preparative chemists. However, the possibilities of low-valent titanium are by no means limited to this process: the last few years have brought some spectacular applications of the conventional McMurry reaction (for example the synthesis of taxol) along with a considerable extension of the scope of reductive carbonyl couplings. Thus, diverse heterocycles are now accessible following novel and efficient pathways based on intramolecular cross-coupling of functional groups—some of which were hitherto considered to be inert to titanium. The use of this method for the synthesis of indole and pyrrole alkaloids illustrates the new possibilities. At the same time, considerably simplified methods for conducting McMurrytype reactions have been developed. Examples include the particularly convenient “instant” method, the first ketone–amide coupling reactions requiring only catalytic amounts of titanium salts, and the first application of commercially available titanium powder as a coupling agent. Last but not least, the detailed investigation of diverse classical McMurry reagents has afforded a deeper understanding of the nature and mode of action of low-valent titanium. Revision of some of the current conceptions of the process of reductive carbonyl coupling is thus indispensable.