Organocatalytic, diastereo- and enantioselective synthesis of nonsymmetric cis-stilbene diamines: a platform for the preparation of single-enantiomer cis-imidazolines for protein-protein inhibition

J Org Chem. 2014 Aug 1;79(15):6913-38. doi: 10.1021/jo501003r. Epub 2014 Jul 14.


The finding by scientists at Hoffmann-La Roche that cis-imidazolines could disrupt the protein-protein interaction between p53 and MDM2, thereby inducing apoptosis in cancer cells, raised considerable interest in this scaffold over the past decade. Initial routes to these small molecules (i.e., Nutlin-3) provided only the racemic form, with enantiomers being enriched by chromatographic separation using high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) and a chiral stationary phase. Reported here is the first application of an enantioselective aza-Henry approach to nonsymmetric cis-stilbene diamines and cis-imidazolines. Two novel mono(amidine) organocatalysts (MAM) were discovered to provide high levels of enantioselection (>95% ee) across a broad range of substrate combinations. Furthermore, the versatility of the aza-Henry strategy for preparing nonsymmetric cis-imidazolines is illustrated by a comparison of the roles of aryl nitromethane and aryl aldimine in the key step, which revealed unique substrate electronic effects providing direction for aza-Henry substrate-catalyst matching. This method was used to prepare highly substituted cis-4,5-diaryl imidazolines that project unique aromatic rings, and these were evaluated for MDM2-p53 inhibition in a fluorescence polarization assay. The diversification of access to cis-stilbene diamine-derived imidazolines provided by this platform should streamline their further development as chemical tools for disrupting protein-protein interactions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amidines / chemistry*
  • Apoptosis
  • Catalysis
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Diamines / chemistry*
  • Fluorescence Polarization
  • Humans
  • Imidazolines / chemistry*
  • Molecular Structure
  • Organic Chemistry Phenomena
  • Protein Interaction Domains and Motifs
  • Stereoisomerism
  • Stilbenes / chemistry*


  • Amidines
  • Diamines
  • Imidazolines
  • Stilbenes