Olefin Functionalization/Isomerization Enables Stereoselective Alkene Synthesis

Nat Catal. 2021 Aug;4(8):674-683. doi: 10.1038/s41929-021-00658-2. Epub 2021 Jul 29.


Despite tremendous efforts aimed at devising methods for stereoselective alkene synthesis, critical challenges are yet to be addressed. Direct access to a diverse range of 1aryl(boryl)-1-methyl-functionalized tri- and tetrasubstituted trans alkenes, entities that are prevalent in many important molecules of interest, through a catalytic manifold from readily available α-olefin substrates remains elusive. Here, we demonstrate that catalytic amounts of a nonprecious N-heterocyclic carbene-Ni(I) complex in conjunction with a sterically bulky base promote site- and trans-selective union of monosubstituted olefins with a wide array of electrophilic reagents to deliver tri- and tetrasubstituted alkenes in up to 92% yield and >98% regio- and stereoselectivity. The protocol is amenable to the preparation of carbon- and heteroatom-substituted C=C bonds, providing distinct advantages over existing transformations. Utility is highlighted through concise stereoselective synthesis of biologically active compounds.