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Remote control with engineered enzymes

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Science  10 May 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6440, pp. 529
DOI: 10.1126/science.aax3335

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Summary

Many syntheses of organic molecules require that certain carbon-hydrogen bonds are targeted for reaction over others with similar reactivity (16). This high selectivity to one specific C–H bond is frequently achieved by a remote activating group in the molecule (known as remote functionalization). A particularly attractive group of synthesis targets in pharmaceutical chemistry are chiral lactams, which are structural motifs in many bioactive compounds. The challenge is to design catalytic processes that can start from easily accessible derivatives of carboxylic acids and provide tunable control over stereoselective installation of the nitrogen at desired positions in the substrate, leading to lactams of varying ring size. On page 575 of this issue, Cho et al. (7) achieve this goal by harnessing the power of directed evolution. The authors engineered a toolbox of enzymes that are not found in nature for the remote C–H functionalization of chemically diverse substrates to yield valuable lactam products.

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