In situ generation of N-unsubstituted imines from alkyl azides and their applications for imine transfer via copper catalysis

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Science Advances  09 Aug 2017:
Vol. 3, no. 8, e1700826
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1700826

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Although azides have been widely used in nitrene transfer reactions, in situ generation of N-H imines from azides for downstream transformations has rarely been explored. We report copper-mediated formation of N-unsubstituted aliphatic imines from easily available aliphatic azides using a customized phenanthroline-based ligand (L1*). Through trapping in situ–generated N-H imines, multisubstituted pyridines or indoles were readily synthesized. 13C-labeled azide was used as part of an isotope labeling study, which suggests that the construction of pyridine derivatives involves a three-component dehydrogenative condensation. The construction of 2,3,5-triaryl pyridines using this method provided evidence supporting a proposed pathway involving both imine formation and abnormal Chichibabin pyridine synthesis. The generation of N-unsubstituted imine intermediates was also confirmed by formation of indole derivatives from alkyl azides.

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