Nat Commun. 2022 Oct 28;13(1):6424. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-34123-w.
Catalyzed oxidative C-C bond coupling reactions play an important role in the chemical synthesis of complex natural products of medicinal importance. However, the poor functional group tolerance renders them unfit for the synthesis of naturally occurring polyphenolic flavones. We find that molecular oxygen in alkaline water acts as a hydrogen atom acceptor and oxidant in catalyst-free (without added catalyst) oxidative coupling of luteolin and other flavones. By this facile method, we achieve the synthesis of a small collection of flavone dimers and trimers including naturally occurring dicranolomin, philonotisflavone, dehydrohegoflavone, distichumtriluteolin, and cyclodistichumtriluteolin. Mechanistic studies using both experimental and computational chemistry uncover the underlying reasons for optimal pH, oxygen availability, and counter-cations that define the success of the reaction. We expect our reaction opens up a green and sustainable way to synthesize flavonoid dimers and oligomers using the readily available monomeric flavonoids isolated from biomass and exploiting their use for health care products and treatment of diseases.