Metal-free alkene carbooxygenation following tandem intramolecular alkoxylation/Claisen rearrangement: stereocontrolled access to bridged [4.2.1] lactones†
Alkene carbooxygenation has attracted considerable attention over the past few decades as this approach provides an efficient access to various oxygen-containing molecules, especially the valuable O-heterocycles. However, examples of catalytic alkene carbooxygenation via a direct C–O cleavage are quite scarce, and the C–O cleavage in these cases is invariably initiated by transition metal-catalyzed oxidative addition. We report here a novel Brønsted acid-catalyzed intramolecular alkoxylation-initiated tandem sequence, which represents the first metal-free intramolecular alkoxylation/Claisen rearrangement. Significantly, an unprecedented Brønsted acid-catalyzed intramolecular alkene insertion into the C–O bond via a carbocation pathway was discovered. This method allows the stereocontrolled synthesis of valuable indole-fused bridged [4.2.1] lactones, providing ready access to biologically relevant scaffolds in a single synthetic step from an acyclic precursor. Moreover, such an asymmetric cascade cyclization has also been realized by employing a traceless chiral directing group. Control experiments favor the feasibility of a carbocation pathway for the process. In addition, biological tests showed that some of these newly synthesized indole-fused lactones exhibited their bioactivity as antitumor agents against different breast cancer cells, melanoma cells, and esophageal cancer cells.