Proline-based organocatalysts have been developed for a highly enantioselective, direct aldol reaction of aldehydes and ketones in the presence of water. While several surfactant-proline combined catalysts have proved effective, proline derivatives with a hydrophobic moiety such as rraw-siloxy-L-proline and cis-siloxy-D-proline, both of which are easily prepared from the same commercially available 4-hydroxy-L-proline. have been found to be the most effective organocatalysts examined in this study, affording the aldol product with excellent diastereo- and enantioselectivities, these two catalysts generating opposite enantiomers. Water affects the selectivity, and poor results are obtained under neat reaction conditions or in dry organic solvents. More than three equivalents of water are required for the best diastereo- and enantioselectivities. while three equivalents is the recommended amount from a synthetic point of view. The reaction proceeds in the organic phase, and also proceeds in the presence of a large amount of water. The large-scale preparation of aldols with the minimal use of an organic solvent, including in the purification step. is described.
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