Epimerization of Tertiary Carbon Centers via Reversible Radical Cleavage of Unactivated C(sp3)-H Bonds

Yaxin Wang, Xiafei Hu, Cristian A. Morales-Rivera, Guo Xing Li, Xin Huang, Gang He, Peng Liu, Gong Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Reversible cleavage of C(sp3)-H bonds can enable racemization or epimerization, offering a valuable tool to edit the stereochemistry of organic compounds. While epimerization reactions operating via cleavage of acidic C(sp3)-H bonds, such as the Cα-H of carbonyl compounds, have been widely used in organic synthesis and enzyme-catalyzed biosynthesis, epimerization of tertiary carbons bearing a nonacidic C(sp3)-H bond is much more challenging with few practical methods available. Herein, we report the first synthetically useful protocol for the epimerization of tertiary carbons via reversible radical cleavage of unactivated C(sp3)-H bonds with hypervalent iodine reagent benziodoxole azide and H2O under mild conditions. These reactions exhibit excellent reactivity and selectivity for unactivated 3° C-H bonds of various cycloalkanes and offer a powerful strategy for editing the stereochemical configurations of carbon scaffolds intractable to conventional methods. Mechanistic study suggests that the unique ability of N3 to serve as a catalytic H atom shuttle is critical to reversibly break and reform 3° C-H bonds with high efficiency and selectivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9678-9684
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number30
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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