Atypical McMurry Cross-Coupling Reactions Leading to a New Series of Potent Antiproliferative Compounds Bearing the Key [Ferrocenyl-Ene-Phenol] Motif
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In the course of the preparation of a series of ferrocenyl derivatives of diethylstilbestrol (DES), in which one of the 4-hydroxyphenyl moieties was replaced by a ferrocenyl group, the McMurry reaction of chloropropionylferrocene with a number of mono-aryl ketones unexpectedly yielded the hydroxylated ferrocenyl DES derivatives, 5a-c, in poor yields (10%-16%). These compounds showed high activity on the hormone-independent breast cancer cell line MDA-MB-231 with IC50 values ranging from 0.14 to 0.36 µM. Surprisingly, non-hydroxylated ferrocenyl DES, 4, showed only an IC50 value of 1.14 µM, illustrating the importance of the hydroxyethyl function in this promising new series. For comparison, McMurry reactions of the shorter chain analogue chloroacetylferrocene were carried out to see the difference in behaviour with mono-aryl ketones versus a diaryl ketone. The effect of changing the length of the alkyl chain adjacent to the phenolic substituent of the hydroxylated ferrocenyl DES was studied, a mechanistic rationale to account for the unexpected products is proposed, and the antiproliferative activities of all of these compounds on MDA-MB-231 cells lines were measured and compared. X-ray crystal structures of cross-coupled products and of pinacol-pinacolone rearrangements are reported.
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