Copper/amino acid catalyzed cross-couplings of aryl and vinyl halides with nucleophiles

Acc Chem Res. 2008 Nov 18;41(11):1450-60. doi: 10.1021/ar8000298.


Copper-assisted Ullmann-type coupling reactions are valuable transformations for organic synthesis. Researchers have extensively applied these reactions in both academic and industrial settings. However, two important issues, the high reaction temperatures (normally above 150 degrees C) and the stoichiometric amounts of copper necessary, have greatly limited the reaction scope. To solve these problems, we and other groups have recently explored the use of special ligands to promote these coupling reactions. We first showed that the structure of alpha-amino acids can accelerate Cu-assisted Ullmann reactions, leading to the coupling reactions of aryl halides and alpha-amino acids at 80-90 degrees C. In response to these encouraging results, we also discovered that an l-proline ligand facilitated the following transformations: (1) coupling of aryl halides with primary amines, cyclic secondary amines, and N-containing heterocycles at 40-90 degrees C; (2) coupling of aryl halides with sulfinic acid salts at 80-95 degrees C; (3) azidation of aryl halides and vinyl halides with sodium azide at 40-95 degrees C; (4) coupling of aryl halides with activated methylene compounds at 25-50 degrees C. In addition, we found that N,N-dimethylglycine as a ligand facilitated Cu-catalyzed biaryl ether formation at 90 degrees C. Moreover, Sonogashira reactions worked in the absence of palladium and phosphine ligands, forming enamides from vinyl halides and amides at temperatures ranging from ambient temperature up to 80 degrees C. Furthermore, we discovered that an ortho-amide group can accelerate some Ullmann-type reactions. This functional group in combination with other ligand effects allowed for aryl amination or biaryl ether formation at ambient temperature. The coupling between aryl halides and activated methylene compounds even proceeded at -45 degrees C to enantioselectively form a quaternary carbon center. Taking advantage of these results, we developed several novel approaches for the synthesis of pharmaceutically important heterocycles: 1,2-disubstituted benzimidazoles, polysubstituted indoles, N-substituted 1,3-dihydrobenzimidazol-2-ones, and substituted 3-acyl oxindoles. Our results demonstrate that an l-proline or N,N-dimethylglycine ligand can facilitate most typical Ullmann-type reactions, with reactions occurring under relatively mild conditions and using only 2-20 mol % copper catalysts. These conveniently available and inexpensive catalytic systems not only accelerate the reactions but also tolerate many more functional groups. Thus, they should find considerable application in organic synthesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amides / chemistry
  • Amino Acids / chemistry*
  • Catalysis
  • Copper / chemistry*
  • Cross-Linking Reagents / chemistry*
  • Halogens / chemistry*
  • Ions / chemistry
  • Methylation
  • Molecular Structure
  • Sulfur / chemistry
  • Vinyl Compounds / chemistry*


  • Amides
  • Amino Acids
  • Cross-Linking Reagents
  • Halogens
  • Ions
  • Vinyl Compounds
  • Sulfur
  • Copper