Tetracoordinate MIDA (N-methyliminodiacetic acid) boronates have found broad utility in chemical synthesis. Here, we describe mechanistic insights into the migratory aptitude of the MIDA boryl group in boron transfer processes, and show that the hemilability of the nitrogen atom on the MIDA ligand enables boron to mechanistically resemble either a hydride or a proton. The first case involves a 1,2-boryl shift, in which boron migrates as a nucleophile in its tetracoordinate form. The second case involves a neighbouring atom-promoted 1,4-boryl shift, in which boron migrates as an electrophile in its pseudo-tricoordinate form. Density functional theory studies and in situ NMR measurements all suggest that MIDA can act as a dynamic switch. These findings encouraged the development of novel migration processes involving boron that exploit the chameleonic behaviour of boron by acting as both a nucleophile and an electrophile, including the first report of a compound with a boronate functionality bound to carbon in the carboxylic acid oxidation state.

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Change history

  • 10 September 2018

    During the revision of this Article prior to publication, a computational study was reported (Vallejos, M. M. & Pellegrinet, S. C. Theoretical study of the BF3-promoted rearrangement of oxiranyl N-methyliminodiacetic acid boronates. J. Org. Chem. 82, 5917–5925; 2017) that evaluates the nucleophilic boryl transfer mechanism predicted in this Article; this reference has now been added as number 19, and the subsequent references renumbered.


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A.K.Y. acknowledges financial support from the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC). T.D. acknowledges the computing infrastructure provided by SHARCNET (www.sharcnet.ca). The authors also acknowledge NSERC and the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, Project Number 19119, and the Ontario Research Fund for funding of the Centre for Spectroscopic Investigation of Complex Organic Molecules and Polymers. Helpful discussions with A.P. Dicks (University of Toronto), H. Soor (University of Toronto) and C. Apte (University of Toronto) are appreciated. The authors thank D. Burns, J. Sheng and S. Nokhrin for assistance with NMR spectroscopic experiments, and H. Foy (Brock University) for assistance in the computational calculations on the 1,4-migration. C.F.L., D.B.D. and A.H. thank NSERC for PGS-D funding. S.J.K. thanks NSERC for CGS-D funding. This paper is in memory of Dr Zhi He.

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Author notes

  1. These authors contributed equally: C. Frank Lee, Diego B. Diaz.


  1. Davenport Research Laboratories, Department of Chemistry, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

    • C. Frank Lee
    • , Diego B. Diaz
    • , Aleksandra Holownia
    • , Sherif J. Kaldas
    • , Sean K. Liew
    • , Graham E. Garrett
    •  & Andrei K. Yudin
  2. Department of Chemistry, Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada

    • Travis Dudding


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A.K.Y. conceived the idea. Experimental work was conducted by C.F.L., D.B.D., A.H., S.J.K. and S.K.L. Kinetic data were processed and analysed by G.E.G. Computational work was conducted by T.D. The manuscript was written by C.F.L., D.B.D. and A.K.Y.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Travis Dudding or Andrei K. Yudin.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary information

    Full experimental procedures, computational details and experimental data

  2. Supplementary dataset

    Eyring data processing and fitting

  3. Supplementary dataset

    Hammett data processing and fitting

  4. Supplementary dataset

    Product inhibition data processing and fitting

  5. Calculations archive file

    Raw coordinate files for the computational studies

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