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The general structure of a boronic acid, where R is a substituent.
A boronic acid is a compound related to boric acid in which one of the three hydroxyl groups is replaced by an alkyl or aryl group. As a compound containing a carbon-boron bond, members of this class thus belong to the larger class of organoboranes. Boronic acids act as Lewis acids. Their unique feature is that they are capable of forming reversible covalent complexes with sugars, amino acids, hydroxamic acids, etc. (molecules with vicinal, (1,2) or occasionally (1,3) substituted Lewis base donors (alcohol, amine, carboxylate)). The pKa of a boronic acid is ~9, but they can form tetrahedral boronate complexes with pKa ~7. They are occasionally used in the area of molecular recognition to bind to saccharides for fluorescent detection or selective transport of saccharides across membranes.
The compound bortezomib with a boronic acid group is a drug used in chemotherapy. The boron atom in this molecule is a key substructure because through it certain proteasomes are blocked that would otherwise degrade proteins. Boronic acids are known to bind to active site serines and are part of inhibitors for porcine pancreatic lipase,subtilisin and the protease Kex2. Furthermore, boronic acid derivatives constitute a class of inhibitors for human acyl-protein thioesterase 1 and 2, which are cancer drug targets within the Ras cycle.
The boronic acid functional group is reputed to have low inherent toxicity. This is one of the reasons for the popularity of the Suzuki coupling in the development and synthesis of pharmaceutical agents. However, a significant fraction of commonly used boronic acids and their derivatives were recently found to gives a positive Ames test and act as chemical mutagens. The mechanism of mutagenicity is thought to involve the generation of organic radicals via oxidation of the boronic acid by atmospheric oxygen.
A third method is by palladium catalysed reaction of aryl halides and triflates with diboronyl esters in a coupling reaction. An alternative to esters in this method is the use of diboronic acid or tetrahydroxydiboron ([B(OH2)]2).
Boronic esters (also named boronate esters)
Boronic esters are esters formed between a boronic acid and an alcohol.
Comparison between boronic acids and boronic esters
The compounds can be obtained from borate esters by condensation with alcohols and diols. Phenylboronic acid can be selfcondensed to the cyclic trimer called triphenyl anhydride or triphenylboroxin.
The boronic acid organic residue is a nucleophile in conjugate addition also in conjunction with a metal. In one study the pinacol ester of allylboronic acid is reacted with dibenzylidene acetone in such a conjugate addition:
Protodeboronation is a chemical reaction involving the protonolysis of a boronic acid (or other organoborane compound) in which a carbon-boron bond is broken and replaced with a carbon-hydrogen bond. Protodeboronation is a well-known undesired side reaction, and frequently associated with metal-catalysed coupling reactions that utilise boronic acids (see Suzuki reaction). For a given boronic acid, the propensity to undergo protodeboronation is highly variable and dependent on various factors, such as the reaction conditions employed and the organic substituent of the boronic acid:
The covalent pair-wise interaction between boronic acids and hydroxy groups as found in alcohols and acids is rapid and reversible in aqueous solutions. The equilibrium established between boronic acids and the hydroxyl groups present on saccharides has been successfully employed to develop a range of sensors for saccharides. One of the key advantages with this dynamic covalent strategy lies in the ability of boronic acids to overcome the challenge of binding neutral species in aqueous media. If arranged correctly, the introduction of a tertiary amine within these supramolecular systems will permit binding to occur at physiological pH and allow signalling mechanisms such as photoinduced electron transfer mediated fluorescence emission to report the binding event.
Potential applications for this research include blood glucose monitoring systems to help manage diabetes mellitus. As the sensors employ an optical response, monitoring could be achieved using minimally invasive methods, one such example is the investigation of a contact lens that contains a boronic acid based sensor molecule to detect glucose levels within ocular fluids.
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