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Olefination of 6-bromo-1H-indole-2,3-dione with 1H-indol-3-yl acetate via the 2-chloroindoleninone; 6-Bromoindigo

SyntheticPage 465
DOI: 10.1039/SP465
Submitted Aug 17, 2010, published Aug 24, 2010
Christopher Cooksey (
A contribution from R J H Clark Group, UCL

			Reaction Scheme: Olefination of <SPAN class=csm-chemical-name id=csm1282741373305 title=6-bromo-1H-indole-2,3-dione>6-bromo-1H-indole-2,3-dione</SPAN> with <SPAN class=csm-chemical-name id=csm1282741379915 title="1H-indol-3-yl acetate">1H-indol-3-yl acetate</SPAN> via the 2-chloroindoleninone

Chemicals Used

6-Bromoisatin 464

Indoxyl acetate (Aldrich)



A mixture of 6-bromoisatin (1.0 g, 4.4 mmol) and PCl5 (1.0 g, 4.8 mmol) in chlorobenzene (30 cm3) was heated under N2 at 98 – 102 °C for 4 h. After cooling the brown solution, indoxyl acetate (716 mg, 4.2 mmol) was added and the mixture was allowed to stand overnight. The violet reaction mixture was diluted with ethanol (30 cm3), filtered, and the residue washed with ethanol (2 x 30 cm3) to give a dark blue solid (309 mg), which was recrystallized from ethyl benzoate (100 cm3), washing with ethanol (25 cm3) then ethanol – diethyl ether (1:1, 25 cm3), to give a black solid with a coppery lustre (282 mg, 20% yield).

Author's Comments

Isatins react with PCl5 to give (supposedly) 2-chloroindoleninones. 6-Bromoisatin is reported (Baker JT, Duke CC, Aust J Chem 1976, 29, 1023 – 1030) to be unreactive to PCl5 in refluxing toluene and decomposition occurred with higher boiling point solvents. Using chlorobenzene appeared to be satisfactory but yields were modest. But the reaction is convenient and the product is easily isolated because it is insoluble in nearly all cold solvents. The lack of solubility precludes chromatographic separation of useful amounts of the product, but recrystallisation can be achieved from nearly any solvent with b.p. >200 °C. Recrystallisation of 6-bromoindigo (18.1 mg) from ethyl benzoate (10 cm3) gave 14.5 mg. NMR characterisation was via the orange N,N'-trifluoroacetate derivative. 6-Bromoindigo, isolated from natural shellfish purple, has more recently been directly characterised by NMR (

Heating to 130 °C for 1 h gave a lower yield (16%); the reverse reaction using isatin and 6-bromoindoxyl acetate gave an even lower yield (10%). Modest yields were obtained from the appropriate bromoisatin for other monobromoindigos: 4-bromo (28%), 5-bromo (38%), 7-bromo (27%).


EI-MS m/z (%) 342 (100), 340 (100), 314 (14), 312 (14), 262 (5), 233 (9), 205 (28)

λmax (tetrachloroethane) 601 nm


δH (CDCl3) 8.30d (1H, 1.2), 8.06d (1H, 8.4), 7.95d (1H, 7.7), 7.79td (1H, 7.4, 1.3), 7.75d (1H, 8.1), 7.56dd (1H, 8.1, 1.4), 7.42t (1H, 7.4)


Lead Reference

Clark RJH, Cooksey CJ, New J Chem, 1999, 3, 323–328; DOI: 10.1039/a808562e

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Keywords: nucleophilic

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  • Guest Chris CookseyJun 15 2013 3:21PMmonobromoindigo yields

    Recently, others have repeated this synthesis and obtained much higher yields: Ajiki H, Pozzi F, Huang L, Massa L, Leona M and Lombardi JR, Raman spectrum of monobromoindigo, J Raman Spectr, 2011; doi: 10.1002/jrs.3066 (40%) Irina Mironova, Reflectance Analysis and Thermochromicity of Fabrics Dyed with Indigo, 6-Bromoindigo, and 6,6’- Dibromoindigo, BA thesis, Baruch College of the City University of New York 2013 (53%)

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