A survey highlighting the most recent palladium catalytic systems produced and their performances for progress in direct synthesis of indole backbones by heterocarbocyclization of reactive substrates is provided. The discussion is developed in relation with the principles of sustainable chemistry concerning atom and mass economy. In this respect, the general convergent character of the syntheses is of particular interest (one-pot, domino, cascade or tandem reactions), and the substrates accessibility and reactivity, together with the final waste production, are also important. This critical review clearly indicates that the development of ligand chemistry, mainly phosphines and carbenes, in the last few decades gave a significant impetus to powerful functionalization of indoles at virtually all positions of this ubiquitous backbone (118 references).
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