Acetals as Protecting Groups
The importance of acetals as carbonyl derivatives lies chiefly in their stability and lack of reactivity in neutral to strongly basic environments. As long as they are not treated by acids, especially aqueous acid, acetals exhibit all the lack of reactivity associated with ethers in general. Among the most useful and characteristic reactions of aldehydes and ketones is their reactivity toward strongly nucleophilic (and basic) metallo-hydride, alkyl and aryl reagents. If the carbonyl functional group is converted to an acetal these powerful reagents have no effect; thus, acetals are excellent protective groups, when these irreversible addition reactions must be prevented.
In the following example we would like a Grignard reagent to react with the ester and not the ketone. This cannot be done without a protecting group because Grignard reagents react with esters and ketones.
Prof. Steven Farmer (Sonoma State University)