Anti-Markovnikov alkene oxidation by metal-oxo–mediated enzyme catalysis

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Science  13 Oct 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6360, pp. 215-218
DOI: 10.1126/science.aao1482

Teaching an enzyme to switch sites

There has been a recent flurry of activity in modifying enzymes to conduct unnatural chemical reactions more cleanly or selectively than synthetic chemical catalysts. Hammer et al. now report application of a cytochrome P450 variant to an oxidation that has largely eluded efficient catalysis. They used directed evolution to mutate the enzyme so that it placed oxygen at the less substituted carbon of the C=C double bond in styrenes, forming aldehyde products. They thereby attained opposite site selectivity to that of the widely used palladium-catalyzed Wacker-Tsuji oxidation.

Science, this issue p. 215


Catalytic anti-Markovnikov oxidation of alkene feedstocks could simplify synthetic routes to many important molecules and solve a long-standing challenge in chemistry. Here we report the engineering of a cytochrome P450 enzyme by directed evolution to catalyze metal-oxo–mediated anti-Markovnikov oxidation of styrenes with high efficiency. The enzyme uses dioxygen as the terminal oxidant and achieves selectivity for anti-Markovnikov oxidation over the kinetically favored alkene epoxidation by trapping high-energy intermediates and catalyzing an oxo transfer, including an enantioselective 1,2-hydride migration. The anti-Markovnikov oxygenase can be combined with other catalysts in synthetic metabolic pathways to access a variety of challenging anti-Markovnikov functionalization reactions.

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