Novel reaction pathways for the hypervalent iodine-mediated oxidation of bioactive phenols containing extended conjugated π-systems are described. Oxidation of 4-hydroxystilbenes in methanol using a hypervalent iodine-based oxidant led to the formal 1,2-addition of methoxy groups across the central stilbene double bond. Treatment of the structurally related 4-hydroxyisoflavone with di(trifluoroacetoxy)iodobenzene leads to the surprising formation of 2,4′-dihydroxybenzil. Potential mechanisms for these new reaction pathways are discussed, and the X-ray crystal structure of 2,4′-dihydroxybenzil is presented. In contrast, oxidation of the corresponding 3-hydroxystilbenes and 3-hydroxyisoflavone led to conventional dienone oxidation products. The antitumour implications of these oxidation processes are briefly highlighted; the novel 4-substituted phenolic oxidation products were found to be inactive in terms of in vitro antitumour cellular activity, whereas the 3-substituted phenol products gave novel agents with potent and enhanced antitumour activity in the HCT 116 cancer cell line. © The Royal Society of Chemistry 2005.
- hypervalent iodine-mediated oxidation
- bioactive phenols
- methoxy groups
- HCT 116 cancer cell line