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Protective group

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Protective group

A protecting group or protective group is introduced into a molecule by chemical modification of a functional group to obtain chemoselectivity in a subsequent chemical reaction. It plays an important role in multistep organic synthesis.


In many preparations of delicate organic compounds, some specific parts of their molecules cannot survive the required reagents or chemical environments. Then, these parts, or groups, must be protected. For example, lithium aluminium hydride is a highly reactive but useful reagent capable of reducing esters to alcohols. It will always react with carbonyl groups, and this cannot be discouraged by any means. When a reduction of an ester is required in the presence of a carbonyl, the attack of the hydride on the carbonyl has to be prevented. For example, the carbonyl is converted into an acetal, which does not react with hydrides. The acetal is then called a protecting group for the carbonyl. After the step involving the hydride is complete, the acetal is removed (by reacting it with an aqueous acid), giving back the original carbonyl. This step is called deprotection.

Protecting groups are more commonly used in small-scale laboratory work and initial development than in industrial production processes because their use adds additional steps and material costs to the process. However, the availability of a cheap chiral building block can overcome these additional costs (e.g. shikimic acid for oseltamivir).

Common protecting groups

Alcohol protecting groups

Protection of alcohols:

  • Acetyl (Ac) – Removed by acid or base (see Acetoxy group).
  • Benzoyl (Bz) – Removed by acid or base, more stable than Ac group.
  • Benzyl (Bn, Bnl) – Removed by hydrogenolysis. Bn group is widely used in sugar and nucleoside chemistry.
  • β-Methoxyethoxymethyl ether (MEM) – Removed by acid.
  • Dimethoxytrityl, [bis-(4-methoxyphenyl)phenylmethyl] (DMT) – Removed by weak acid. DMT group is widely used for protection of 5'-hydroxy group in nucleosides, particularly in oligonucleotide synthesis.
  • Methoxymethyl ether (MOM) – Removed by acid.
  • Methoxytrityl [(4-methoxyphenyl)diphenylmethyl, MMT) – Removed by acid and hydrogenolysis.
  • p-Methoxybenzyl ether (PMB) – Removed by acid, hydrogenolysis, or oxidation.
  • Methylthiomethyl ether – Removed by acid.
  • Pivaloyl (Piv) – Removed by acid, base or reductant agents. It is substantially more stable than other acyl protecting groups.
  • Tetrahydropyranyl (THP) – Removed by acid.
  • Tetrahydrofuran (THF) - Removed by acid.
  • Trityl (triphenylmethyl, Tr) – Removed by acid and hydrogenolysis.
  • Silyl ether (most popular ones include trimethylsilyl (TMS), tert-butyldimethylsilyl (TBDMS), tri-iso-propylsilyloxymethyl (TOM), and triisopropylsilyl (TIPS) ethers) – Removed by acid or fluoride ion. (such as NaF, TBAF (Tetra-n-butylammonium fluoride, HF-Py, or HF-NEt3)). TBDMS and TOM groups are used for protection of 2'-hydroxy function in nucleosides, particularly in oligonucleotide synthesis.
  • Methyl Ethers – Cleavage is by TMSI in DCM or MeCN or Chloroform. An alternative method to cleave methyl ethers is BBr3 in DCM
  • Ethoxyethyl ethers (EE) – Cleavage more trivial than simple ethers e.g. 1N Hydrochloric acid[1]

Amine protecting groups

Protection of amines:

Carbonyl protecting groups

Protection of carbonyl groups:

  • Acetals and Ketals – Removed by acid. Normally, the cleavage of acyclic acetals is easier than of cyclic acetals.
  • Acylals – Removed by Lewis acids.
  • Dithianes – Removed by metal salts or oxidizing agents.

Carboxylic acid protecting groups

Protection of carboxylic acids:

Phosphate protecting groups

  • 2-cyanoethyl – removed by mild base. The group is widely used in oligonucleotide synthesis.
  • Methyl (Me) – removed by strong nucleophiles e.c. thiophenole/TEA.

Terminal alkyne protecting groups

Orthogonal protection


Orthogonal protection is a strategy allowing the deprotection of multiple protective groups one at a time each with a dedicated set of reaction conditions without affecting the other. In the example shown, the protected amino acid tyrosine, the benzyl ester can be removed by hydrogenolysis, the fluorenylmethylenoxy group (Fmoc) by bases (such as piperidine), and the phenolic tert-butyl ether cleaved with acids (e.g. with trifluoroacetic acid).

A common example for this application, the Fmoc-peptide synthesis, in which peptides are grown in solution and on solid phase is very important.[5] The protecting groups in solid-phase synthesis with regard to the reaction conditions such as reaction time, temperature and reagents can be standardized so that they are carried out by a machine, while yields of well over 99% can be achieved. Otherwise, the separation of the resulting mixture of reaction products is virtually impossible.[6]

The technique was introduced in the field of peptide synthesis by Robert Bruce Merrifield in 1977.[7] As a proof of concept orthogonal deprotection is demonstrated in a photochemical transesterification by trimethylsilyldiazomethane utilizing the kinetic isotope effect:[8]

Due to this effect the quantum yield for deprotection of the right-side ester group is reduced and it stays intact. Significantly by placing the deuterium atoms next to the left-side ester group or by changing the wavelength to 254 nm the other monoarene is obtained.

Criticism

In a 2007 paper[9] Phil Baran notes that even though the textbooks state that the use of protective groups is unavoidable and that they are ideally easily added and removed, in practical terms in organic synthesis their use adds two synthetic steps (protection-deprotection sequence) to a chemical sequence and sometimes dramatically lowers chemical yield. Crucially, added complexity impedes the use of synthetic total synthesis in drug discovery. In contrast biomimetic synthesis does not employ protective groups. As an alternative, Baran presented a novel protective-group free synthesis of the compound hapalindole U. The previously published synthesis[10][11][12] according to Baran, contained 20 steps with multiple protective group manipulations (two confirmed):

Hapalindole U Baran 2007 protective-group free Hapalindole U Muratake 1990 Ts protective groups in blue

Industrial applications

Although the use of protecting groups is not preferred in industrial syntheses, they are still used in industrial contexts, e.g.:

External links

For introduction of protecting group and mechanism of deprotection See : http://www.biocis.u-psud.fr/spip.php?article332

  • Senior undergraduate study notes on this subject, from Prof. Rizzo.
  • A further set of study notes in tutorial form, with guidance and comments, from Profs. Grossman and Cammers.
  • A review by Prof. Kocienski.
  • A user site excerpting the classic Greene and Wuts text regarding stability of a few key groups, from this reference's extensive tables.
  • protecting group from organic-reaction.com

References

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