N-Heterocyclic carbenes (NHCs) catalyze a domino Michael addition/acylation reaction to form 3,4-dihydrocoumarins. The reaction proceeds through addition of the NHC to an aryloxyaldehyde followed by elimination of a phenoxide leaving group, generating an enol intermediate. This transient nucleophile generated in situ performs a 1,4-addition onto a conjugate acceptor, and the carbene catalyst is regenerated upon acylation of the phenoxide anion resulting in formation of 3,4-dihydrocoumarins.
Phillips, E. M., Wadamoto, M., Roth, H. S., Ott, A. W., & Scheidt, K. A. (2009). NHC-Catalyzed Reactions of Aryloxyacetaldehydes: A Domino Elimination/Conjugate Addition/Acylation Process for the Synthesis of Substituted Coumarins. Organic Letters, 11, 105-108. https://doi.org/10.1021/ol802448c