Multicomponent reactions (MCRs) are extremely popular owing to their facile execution, high atom-efficiency and the high diversity of products. MCRs can be used to access various heterocycles and highly functionalized scaffolds, and thus have been invaluable tools in total synthesis, drug discovery and bioconjugation. Traditional isocyanide-based MCRs utilize an external nucleophile attacking the reactive nitrilium ion, the key intermediate formed in the reaction of the imine and the isocyanide. However, when reactants with multiple nucleophilic groups (bisfunctional reactants) are used in the MCR, the nitrilium intermediate can be trapped by an intramolecular nucleophilic attack to form various heterocycles. The implications of nitrilium trapping along with widely applied conventional isocyanide-based MCRs in drug design are discussed in this review.
Keywords: Ugi reaction; heterocycles; nitrilium trapping.