Exploration of Visible-Light Photocatalysis in Heterocycle Synthesis and Functionalization: Reaction Design and Beyond.

Chen JR , Hu XQ , Lu LQ , Xiao WJ
Accounts of chemical research
Visible-light photocatalysis has recently received increasing attention from chemists because of its wide application in organic synthesis and its significance for sustainable chemistry. This catalytic strategy enables the generation of various reactive species, frequently without stoichiometric activation reagents under mild reaction conditions. Manipulation of these reactive intermediates can result in numerous synthetically useful bond formations in a controllable manner. In this Account, we describe our recent advances in the rational design and strategic application of photocatalysis in the synthesis of various synthetically and biologically important heterocycles. Our main research efforts toward this goal can be classified into four categories: formal cycloaddition and cyclization reactions, radical-mediated olefin functionalization/cyclization cascades, photocatalytic generation and cyclization of N-centered radicals, and photocatalytic functionalization of heterocycles by visible-light-induced dual catalysis. Inspired by the wide application of tertiary amines as reductive additives in photoredox catalysis, we exploited a series of readily accessible or rationally designed tertiary amines with reactive sites in a range of photocatalytic formal cycloaddition and cyclization reactions, providing efficient access to diverse nitrogen heterocycles. Employing various photogenerated radical species, we further developed a series of radical-mediated olefin functionalization/cyclization cascade reactions to successfully assemble various five- and six-membered heterocycles. We have also achieved for the first time the direct catalytic conversion of recalcitrant N-H bonds into neutral N-centered radicals through a visible-light-photocatalytic oxidative deprotonation electron transfer. Using this generic strategy, we have devised several types of radical cyclizations of unsaturated hydrazones, leading to the construction of diversely functionalized pyrazoline and pyridazine derivatives in good yields and selectivity. Moreover, we have demonstrated that this photocatalysis can serve as a mild and highly selective tool for direct functionalization of heterocycles because of its powerful capability to controllably generate diverse reactive intermediates under mild reaction conditions. Guided by the fundamental principles of photocatalysis and the redox properties of the photocatalysts, we successfully developed an array of dual-catalyst systems by combining the photocatalysts with palladium, nickel, or amine, enabling efficient and selective coupling reactions. An intriguing phototandem catalytic system using a single photocatalyst was also identified for the development of cascade reactions. Notably, some of the newly developed methodologies have also been successfully utilized for late-stage modification of biologically active natural compounds and complex molecules and as key steps for formal synthesis of natural products. This Account presents a panoramic view and the logic of our recent contributions to the design, development, and application of photocatalytic systems and reactions that provide not only methods for the efficient synthesis of heterocycles but also useful insights into the exploration of new photochemical reactions.

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