Acetylenic coupling is currently experiencing some of the most intensive study of its long history. Rigid and sterically undemanding di- and oligoacetylene moieties, which are frequently encountered in natural products, are finding increasing application as key structural elements in synthetic receptors for molecular recognition. Interesting electronic and optical properties of extensively pi-conjugated systems have spurred research into new linear oligoalkynes and acetylenic carbon allotropes. The synthetic challenges associated with these efforts have in turn spawned new methods. While classical Glaser conditions are still frequently used for homocoupling, the demand for increasingly selective heterocoupling conditions has provided the focus of research over the past decades. These efforts have undoubtedly been hampered by a relatively poor mechanistic understanding of these processes. More recently, palladium-catalyzed coupling methods have led to improvements in both the selectivity and reliability of acetylenic homo- and heterocouplings and paved the way for their application to ever more complicated systems. The variety of acetylenic coupling protocols, the current mechanistic understanding, and their application in natural product and targeted synthesis are discussed comprehensively for the first time in this review, with an emphasis on the most recently developed methods, and their application to the synthesis of complex macromolecular structures.
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