Anaerobic functionalization of unactivated C-H bonds

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The functionalization of alkanes was once thought to lie strictly within the domain of enzymes that activate dioxygen in order to generate an oxidant with suitable potency to cleave inert C-H bonds. The emergence of the radical SAM superfamily of enzymes - those which use S-adenosyl-l-methionine as a precursor to a 5′-deoxyadenosyl 5′-radical - has kindled a renaissance in the study of radical-dependent enzymatic reactions, and is ushering in a wealth of new and intriguing chemistry that remains to be elucidated. This review will focus on a special subclass of radical SAM enzymes that functionalize inert C-H bonds, highlighting the functional groups and the chemistry that leads to their insertion. Within this class are first, enzymes that catalyze sulfur insertion, the prototype of which is biotin synthase; second, enzymes that catalyze P-methylation or C-methylation, such as P-methylase or Fom3; third, enzymes that catalyze oxygen insertion, such as the anaerobic magnesium protoporphyrin-IX oxidative cyclase (BchE); and fourth, enzymes that functionalize n-hexane or other alkanes as the first step in the metabolism of these inert compounds by certain bacteria. In addition to surveying reactions that have been studied at various levels of detail, this review will speculate on the mechanisms of other types of reactions that this chemistry lends itself to.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)58-73
Number of pages16
JournalCurrent Opinion in Chemical Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry


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