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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The chemistry of the Vinca alkaloids sitsirikine, catharanthine, and their derivatives Brown, Richard Talbot


In part I of this thesis are described the structural determinations of sitsirikine, dihydrositsirikine and isositsirikine, three new alkaloids from Vinca rosea Linn. Sitsirikine, C₂₁H₂₆O₃N₂, and dihydrositsirikine, C₂₁H₂₈ O₃N₂, were isolated as an inseparable mixture, which was shown by hydrogenation studies to be comprised of an olefin and its dihydro derivative. The formation of formaldehyde upon ozonisation of the mixture, and of propionic acid in a modified Kuhn-Roth oxidation of dihydrositsirikine demonstrated that, sitsirikine possessed a vinyl group. Both sitsirikine and dihydrositsirikine gave mono-acetates, and the N.M.R. data indicated that primary hydroxyl groups were present in the original alkaloids. A methyl ester function suggested by spectral evidence was established by hydride reduction of dihydrositsirikine to a diol. Since the diol, yielded an acetonide, it was inferred that dihydrositsirikine possessed a β-hydroxy-ester unit. The U.V. spectrum of dihydrositsirikine was characteristic of an indole chromophore, which the mass spectrum showed to be part of a tetrahydro-β-carboline system. Dehydrogenatioh afforded a compound with a flavocoryline-type U.V. spectrum, and this suggested that sitsirikine was a relative of the tetracyclic corynantheine class of alkaloids. This was confirmed by conversion of dihydro-corynantheine into dihydrositsirikine. The structure of the related indole alkaloid isositsirikine, C₂₁H₂₆O₃N₂, was determined by a similar series of reactions. Ozonolysis yielded acetaldehyde, which authenticated the ethylidene group indicated by the N.M.R. spectrum. Acetylation afforded a mono-acetate, whose N.M.R. spectrum suggested that isositsirikine had a primary hydroxyl function. A methyl ester was established by hydride reduction to a diol, which formed an acetonide and hence showed the presence of a β-hydroxy-ester unit in the original alkaloid. Since dehydrogena-tion of dihydro-isositsirikine yielded flavocoryline, a tetracyclic structure very similar to that of sitsirikine could be postulated for isositsirikine. Part II is concerned with the chemistry of cleavamine, a scission product, of the Vinca alkaloid catharanthine. Treatment of catharanthine with aqueous acid in the presence of a reducing agent, led to the isolation of descar-bomethoxycatharanthine, cleavamine and two epimeric dihydro-cleavamines. A tentative mechanism for the reaction is proposed, which can account for the formation of these compounds. Reduction of catharanthine in glacial acetic acid provided carbomethoxy-dihydrocleavamine. Mercuric acetate oxidised this compound to a mixture of two immonium ions, both of which underwent transannular cyclisations. One of the ions gave the known Iboga alkaloids coronaridine and dihydrocathafanthine, whereas the other afforded pseudo-vincadifformine - a synthetic analogue of the known Vinca alkaloid vincadifformine. The structure of pseudo-vincadifformine was determined by conversion into compounds which had U.V., I.R., N.M.R. and mass spectra completely analogous to the corresponding derivatives of vincadifformine. Similar transannular cyclisations to the above are postulated in the scheme advanced by Wenkert for the biogenesis of Iboga and Aspidosperma alkaloids, and the significance of our results with regard to this theory is duscussed. The formation of coronaridine and dihydrocatharanthine in the reaction constituted partial syntheses of these alkaloids, and the potential use of transannular cyclisations in laboratory syntheses of Iboga and Aspidosperma alkaloids is also considered.

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