C-H functionalization of heterocycles with triplet carbenes via an unexpected 1,2-alkyl radical migration



The C-H functionalization of indole heterocycles constitutes a key strategy to leverage the synthesis of endogenous signaling molecules such as tryptamine or tryptophol. Herein, we report on the photocatalytic reaction of ethyl diazoacetate with indole, which shows an unusual solvent dependency. While C2-functionalization occurs under protic conditions, the use of aprotic solvents leads to a complete reversal of selectivity and exclusive C3-functionalization occurs. To rationalize for this unexpected reactivity switch, we have conducted detailed theoretical and experimental studies, which suggest the participation of a triplet carbene intermediate that undergoes initial C2-functionalization. A distinct cationic [1,2]-alkyl radical migration then leads to formation of C3-functionalized indole. We conclude with the application of this photocatalytic reaction to access oxidized tryptophol derivatives including gram-scale synthesis and derivatization reactions. (46 examples, up to 93% yield).


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