Boron insertion into alkyl ether bonds via zinc/nickel tandem catalysis

Mild methods to cleave the carbon-oxygen (C–O) bond in alkyl ethers could simplify chemical syntheses through the elaboration of these robust, readily available precursors. Here we report that dibromoboranes react with alkyl ethers in the presence of a nickel catalyst and zinc reductant to insert boron into the C–O bond. Subsequent reactivity can effect oxygen-to-nitrogen substitution or one-carbon homologation of cyclic ethers and more broadly streamline preparation of bioactive compounds. Mechanistic studies reveal a cleavage-then-rebound pathway via zinc/nickel tandem catalysis.