Organocatalytic Glycosylations

We are interested in developing organocatalysts to promote glycosylations reactions.

In collaboration with Dr M Carmen Galan at the University of Bristol, we developed a highly stereoselective organocatalytic glycosylation of galactals. The readily available catalyst catalyses the addition of alcohols to galactal with virtually complete α-stereoselectivity. Our first paper on this topic was published in Angew Chem Int Ed in 2012.

Angew Chem Int Ed 2012, 51, 9152-9155. E I Balmond, D M Coe, M C Galan,* E M McGarrigle* — α-Selective Organocatalytic Synthesis of 2-Deoxygalactosides. DOI: 10.1002/anie.201204505

In 2016 we published our a follow-up paper in J Org Chem, detailing our identification of a catalyst poision. The amine poison arose during the benzylation of galactal and co-eluted with the product during chromatography. Interestingly, the side reaction that generates the amine seems to have been overlooked despite the fact that the benzylation conditions used are very common in the literature.


J Org Chem 2016, 81, 11394-11396. A C Colgan, H Müller-Bunz, E M McGarrigle* — Benzylation Reactions in DMF Lead to an Impurity Which Acts as an Organocatalyst Poison in Thiourea-Catalyzed Glycosylations. DOI: 10.1021/acs.joc.6b01914

Also in 2016, we published an article describing the glycosylation of nitrogalactals, which enabled a synthesis of mucin type Core 6 and 7 glycopeptide monomers.

OrgLett2016 graphical abstract

Org Lett 2016, 18, asap. S Medina, M J Harper, E I Balmond, S Miranda, G E M Crisenza, D M Coe, E M McGarrigle, M C Galan* — Stereoselective Glycosylation of 2-Nitrogalactals Catalyzed by a Bifunctional Organocatalyst. DOI: 10.1021/acs.orglett.6b01962

Very recently we have published an article with a cheaper, lower molecular weight catalyst at lower loading. Just 0.25 mg of thiouracil as catalyst was required to make 1 g of disaccharide product. The work evidences that the mechanism of activation is not through double H-bonding catalyst but rather by Brønsted acid/base catalysis. We also demonstrated application to the synthesis of glyconjugates and 1,1′-linked trehalose-type sugars.McGarrigle Graphical Abstract revised for websiteChem Sci 2019, advance article. G A BradshawA C ColganN P AllenI PongenerM B BolandY Ortin and E M McGarrigle* — Stereoselective organocatalyzed glycosylations – thiouracil, thioureas and monothiophthalimide act as Brønsted acid catalysts at low loadings. DOI: 10.1039/C8SC02788A


We are currently pursuing these glycosylation reactions with a view to inventing better catalysts, expanding the substrate scope of this system, and developing a deeper understanding of the origins of the stereoselectivity in these reactions.

We have written a SYNPACTS article highlighting developments in the field.

Synlett 2013, 24, 2335–2339. E I Balmond, M C Galan,* E M McGarrigle* — ‘Recent Developments in the Application of Organocatalysis to Glycosylations’. DOI: 10.1055/s-0033-1338970

In the course of Ed Balmond’s PhD we also developed a method to glycosylate glucals and rhamnals using a siloxane protecting group to obtain high stereoselectivity.

graphical abstract ACIE 2014

Angew Chem Int Ed 2014, 53, 8190-8194. E I Balmond, D Benito-Alifonso, D M Coe, R W Alder, E M McGarrigle,* M C Galan* — A 3,4-trans-Fused Cyclic Protecting Group Facilitates α-Selective Catalytic Synthesis of 2-Deoxyglycosides. DOI:10.1002/anie.201403543