Exo-Selective Diels-Alder Reactions

Chemistry. 2024 Mar 20;30(17):e202304371. doi: 10.1002/chem.202304371. Epub 2024 Feb 27.


The Diels-Alder reaction stands as one of the most pivotal transformations in organic chemistry. Its efficiency, marked by the formation of two carbon-carbon bonds and up to four new stereocenters in a single step, underscores its versatility and indispensability in synthesizing natural products and pharmaceuticals. The most significant stereoselectivity feature is the "endo rule". While this rule underpins the predictability of the stereochemical outcomes, it also underscores the challenges in achieving the opposite diastereoselectivity, making the exo-Diels-Alder reactions often considered outliers. This review delves into recent examples of exo-Diels-Alder reactions, shedding light on the factors inverting the intrinsic tendency. We explore the roles of steric, electrostatic, and orbital interactions, as well as thermodynamic equilibriums in influencing exo/endo selectivity. Furthermore, we illustrate strategies to manipulate these factors, employing approaches such as bulky substituents, s-cis conformations, transient structural constraints, and innovative control physics. Through these analyses, our aim is to provide a comprehensive understanding of how to predict and design exo-Diels-Alder reactions, paving the way for new diastereoselective catalyst systems and expanding the chemical scope of Diels-Alder reactions.

Keywords: Diels–Alder reactions; catalysis; exo-selectivity; pericyclic reactions; s-cis conformation.

Publication types

  • Review