Lignans are a large class of naturally occurring secondary metabolites which are widely spread within the plant kingdom. Their diverse structures and variety of biological activities have fascinated organic chemists. For synthesizing optically active lignans, we have developed the novel asymmetric dimerization of cinnamic acid derivatives, and applied it to the enantioselective syntheses of furofuran lignans (yangambin, sesamin, eudesmin, caruilignan A) and diarylbutane lignans (sauriols A and B). This review summarizes the methodology of our asymmetric dimerization of cinnamic acid derivatives, and efficient total syntheses of furofuran and diarylbutane lignans reported by our and other groups.
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