A new strategy for the synthesis of benzo[de][1,6]naphthyridine derivative 2,3,3a,4,5,6-hexahydroaaptamine, which involves the construction of the isoquinoline ring after elaboration of the quinoline moiety, is described. Since 2,3,3a,4,5,6-hexahydroaaptamine has been previously synthesized as a key intermediate en route to the marine alkaloid aaptamine, access to this compound represents a formal total synthesis of the natural product. (c) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.