Site-selective enzymatic C‒H amidation for synthesis of diverse lactams

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Science  10 May 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6440, pp. 575-578
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw9068

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The right bond in the right place

Enzymes excel at specificity because of their constrained active sites. With appropriate evolutionary pressure, they can be made to differentiate between similar substrates or between positions on a single substrate. Cho et al. used directed evolution to generate cytochrome P450 variants that target different C–H bonds in substrates, forming lactam rings of varying size (see the Perspective by Hepworth and Flitsch). The enzyme directs amidation to the desired position and simultaneously prevents other side reactions.

Science, this issue p. 575; see also p. 529


A major challenge in carbon‒hydrogen (C‒H) bond functionalization is to have the catalyst control precisely where a reaction takes place. In this study, we report engineered cytochrome P450 enzymes that perform unprecedented enantioselective C‒H amidation reactions and control the site selectivity to divergently construct β-, γ-, and δ-lactams, completely overruling the inherent reactivities of the C‒H bonds. The enzymes, expressed in Escherichia coli cells, accomplish this abiological carbon‒nitrogen bond formation via reactive iron-bound carbonyl nitrenes generated from nature-inspired acyl-protected hydroxamate precursors. This transformation is exceptionally efficient (up to 1,020,000 total turnovers) and selective (up to 25:1 regioselectivity and 97%, please refer to compound 2v enantiomeric excess), and can be performed easily on preparative scale.

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