ConspectusAlthough glycosyl iodides have been known for more than 100 years, it was not until the 21st century that their full potential began to be harnessed for complex glycoconjugate synthesis. Mechanistic studies in the late 1990s probed glycosyl iodide formation by NMR spectroscopy and revealed important reactivity features embedded in protecting-group stereoelectronics. Differentially protected sugars having an anomeric acetate were reacted with trimethylsilyl iodide (TMSI) to generate the glycosyl iodides. In the absence of C-2 participation, generation of the glycosyl iodide proceeded by inversion of the starting anomeric acetate stereochemistry. Once formed, the glycosyl iodide readily underwent in situ anomerization, and in the presence of excess iodide, equilibrium concentrations of α- and β-iodides were established. Reactivity profiles depended upon the identity of the sugar and the protecting groups adorning it. Consistent with the modern idea of disarmed versus armed sugars, ester protecting groups diminished the reactivity of glycosyl iodides and ether protecting groups enhanced the reactivity. Thus, acetylated sugars were slower to form the iodide and anomerize than their benzylated analogues, and these disarmed glycosyl iodides could be isolated and purified, whereas armed ether-protected iodides could only be generated and reacted in situ. All other things being equal, the β-iodide was orders of magnitude more reactive than the thermodynamically more stable α-iodide, consistent with the idea of in situ anomerization introduced by Lemieux in the mid-20th century.Glycosyl iodides are far more reactive than the corresponding bromides, and with the increased reactivity comes increased stereocontrol, particularly when forming α-linked linear and branched oligosaccharides. Reactions with per-O-silylated glycosyl iodides are especially useful for the synthesis of α-linked glycoconjugates. Silyl ether protecting groups make the glycosyl iodide so reactive that even highly functionalized aglycon acceptors add. Following the coupling event, the TMS ethers are readily removed by methanolysis, and since all of the byproducts are volatile, multiple reactions can be performed in a single reaction vessel without isolation of intermediates. In this fashion, per-O-TMS monosaccharides can be converted to biologically relevant α-linked glycolipids in one pot. The stereochemical outcome of these reactions can also be switched to β-glycoside formation by addition of silver to chelate the iodide, thus favoring SN2 displacement of the α-iodide. While iodides derived from benzyl and silyl ether-protected oligosaccharides are susceptible to interglycosidic bond cleavage when treated with TMSI, the introduction of a single acetate protecting group prevents this unwanted side reaction. Partial acetylation of armed glycosyl iodides also attenuates HI elimination side reactions. Conversely, fully acetylated glycosyl iodides are deactivated and require metal catalysis in order for glycosidation to occur. Recent findings indicate that I2 activation of per-O-acetylated mono-, di-, and trisaccharides promotes glycosidation of cyclic ethers to give β-linked iodoalkyl glycoconjugates in one step. Products of these reactions have been converted into multivalent carbohydrate displays. With these synthetic pathways elucidated, chemical reactivity can be exquisitely controlled by the judicious selection of protecting groups to achieve high stereocontrol in step-economical processes.
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