Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
, 43 (8), 1144-53

Mechanism of a Chemical Glycosylation Reaction


Mechanism of a Chemical Glycosylation Reaction

David Crich. Acc Chem Res.


Glycosylation is arguably the most important reaction in the field of glycochemistry, yet it involves one of the most empirically interpreted mechanisms in the science of organic chemistry. The beta-mannopyranosides, long considered one of the more difficult classes of glycosidic bond to prepare, were no exception to this rule. A number of logical but circuitous routes for their preparation were described in the literature, but they were accompanied by an even greater number of mostly ineffective recipes with which to access them directly. This situation changed in 1996 with the discovery of the 4,6-O-benzylidene acetal as a control element permitting direct entry into the beta-mannopyranosides, typically with high yield and selectivity. The unexpected nature of this phenomenon demanded study of the mechanism, leading first to the demonstration of the alpha-mannopyranosyl triflates as reaction intermediates and then to the development of alpha-deuterium kinetic isotope effect methods to probe their transformation into the product glycosides. In this Account, we assemble our observations into a comprehensive assessment consistent with a single mechanistic scheme. The realization that in the glucopyranose series the 4,6-O-benzylidene acetal is alpha- rather than beta-directing led to further investigations of substituent effects on the stereoselectivity of these glycosylation reactions, culminating in their explanation in terms of the covalent alpha-glycosyl triflates acting as a reservoir for a series of transient contact and solvent-separated ion pairs. The function of the benzylidene acetal, as explained by Bols and co-workers, is to lock the C6-O6 bond antiperiplanar to the C5-O5 bond, thereby maximizing its electron-withdrawing effect, destabilizing the glycosyl oxocarbenium ion, and shifting the equilibria as far as possible toward the covalent triflate. beta-Selective reactions result from attack of the nucleophile on the transient contact ion pair in which the alpha-face of the oxocarbenium ion is shielded by the triflate counterion. The alpha-products arise from attack either on the solvent-separated ion pair or on a free oxocarbenium ion, according to the dictates of the anomeric effect. Changes in selectivity from varying stereochemistry (glucose versus mannose) or from using different protecting groups can be explained by the shifting position of the key equilibria and, in particular, by the energy differences between the covalent triflate and the ion pairs. Of particular note is the importance of substitutents at the 3-position of the donor; an explanation is proposed that invokes their evolving torsional interaction with the substituent at C2 as the chair form of the covalent triflate moves toward the half-chair of the oxocarbenium ion.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 68 PubMed Central articles

See all "Cited by" articles