Synthesis of the catechols of natural and synthetic estrogens by using 2-iodoxybenzoic acid (IBX) as the oxidizing agent

Muhammad Saeed, Muhammad Zahid, Eleanor Rogan, Ercole Cavalieri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


A method for the synthesis of 2-hydroxyestrone/estradiol, 4-hydroxyestrone/estradiol, 3′-hydroxydiethylstilbestrol, 3′-hydroxyhexestrol, and 3′-hydroxydienestrol is reported, in which 2-iodoxybenzoic acid (IBX) and the corresponding phenolic estrogen are reacted. Treatment of the natural estrogens, estrone/estradiol, with stoichiometric amounts of IBX in dimethylformamide initially yielded a mixture of estrone/estradiol-2,3- and -3,4-quinones, which were reduced in situ to the corresponding catechols by treatment with a 1 M aqueous solution of ascorbic acid. Chromatographic separation of the reaction products afforded 2- and 4-hydroxyestrone/estradiol in good overall yields (79%). In the case of the synthetic estrogens containing two identical phenolic rings, protection of one ring is a prerequisite for the synthesis of the monocatechol. Thus, diethylstilbestrol and dienestrol were protected at one phenol ring as their methyl ethers. The resulting monophenols were treated with stoichiometric amounts of IBX for 1 h, followed by treatment with 1 M aqueous ascorbic acid to obtain the corresponding catechols in more than 70% yield. Furthermore, the catechol of diethylstilbestrol, protected at one ring, was reduced by catalytic hydrogenation at the C3-C4 double bond to obtain 3′-hydroxyhexestrol in 90% yield. Removal of the protected methoxy groups of the synthetic estrogen catechols was carried out by treatment with a 1 M solution of boron tribromide in dichloromethane. This method is highly efficient for the preparative scale synthesis of catechols of both natural and synthetic estrogens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-178
Number of pages6
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2005


  • 2-Iodoxybenzoic acid (IBX)
  • Catechol synthesis
  • Dienestrol
  • Diethylstilbestrol
  • Estradiol
  • Estrone
  • Hexestrol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Endocrinology
  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Organic Chemistry


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