Thioacetals are the sulfur analogues of acetals. There are two classes: monothioacetals and dithioacetals. Monothioacetals are less common, have the functional group RC(OR')(SR")H. Dithioacetals have the formula RC(SR')2H (symmetric dithioacetals) and RC(SR')(SR")H (asymmetric dithioacetals).
- Thiol addition to give hemithioacetal: RSH + R'CH(O) → R'CH(SR)(OH)
- Thiol addition with loss of water to give dithioacetal: RSH + R'CH(OH)SR → R'CH(SR)2 + H2O
The carbonyl carbon of an aldehyde is electrophilic and therefore susceptible to attack by nucleophiles, whereas the analogous central carbon of a dithioacetal is not electrophilic. As a result, dithioacetals can serve as protective groups for aldehydes.
Far from being unreactive, and in a reaction unlike that of aldehydes, that carbon can be deprotonated to render it nucleophilic:
- R'CHS2C2H4 + R2NLi → R'CLiS2C2H4 + R2NH
The inversion of polarity between R'(H)Cδ+=Oδ− and R'CLi(SR)2 is referred to as umpolung. The reaction is commonly performed using the 1,3-dithiane. The lithiated intermediate can be used for various nucleophilic bond-forming reactions, and then the dithioketal hydrolyzed back to its carbonyl form. This overall process, the Corey–Seebach reaction, gives the synthetic equivalent of an acyl anion.