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Selectivity in Cationic Cyclizations Involving Alkynes: a Computational Study on Biomimetic Synthesis of Steroids

Computational studies on the electrophilic cyclization between alkynes and transient carbocations or Lewis acid activated epoxides show that the regiochemistry of the reaction depends on the terminal or internal position of the triple bond. Reactants possessing terminal alkynyl groups lead to six-membered rings whereas internal alkynes yield five-membered rings via 6-endo-dig and 5-exo-dig electrophilic cyclizations, respectively. The regiochemistry of the reaction is not determined by two-electron interactions, but by minimization of Pauli repulsion. This scenario is preserved in related biomimetic reactions leading to steroid scaffolds. In this latter case, the stereochemistry of the cyclization reaction is oriented towards the formation of equatorial C-C bonds connecting the new six-six- and six-five-membered fused rings.

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