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Keywords:

  • azaspiracid-1;
  • diazonamide A;
  • natural products;
  • revised structures;
  • total synthesis

Abstract

Over the course of the past half century, the structural elucidation of unknown natural products has undergone a tremendous revolution. Before World War II, a chemist would have relied almost exclusively on the art of chemical synthesis, primarily in the form of degradation and derivatization reactions, to develop and test structural hypotheses in a process that often took years to complete when grams of material were available. Today, a battery of advanced spectroscopic methods, such as multidimensional NMR spectroscopy and high-resolution mass spectrometry, not to mention X-ray crystallography, exist for the expeditious assignment of structures to highly complex molecules isolated from nature in milligram or sub-milligram quantities. In fact, it could be argued that the characterization of natural products has become a routine task, one which no longer even requires a reaction flask! This Review makes the case that imaginative detective work and chemical synthesis still have important roles to play in the process of solving nature's most intriguing molecular puzzles.