Regio- and stereoselective intermolecular phenol coupling enzymes in secondary metabolite biosynthesis†
Covering: 2005 to 2020
Phenol coupling is a key reaction in the biosynthesis of important biopolymers such as lignin and melanin and of a plethora of biarylic secondary metabolites. The reaction usually leads to several different regioisomeric products due to the delocalization of a radical in the reaction intermediates. If axial chirality is involved, stereoisomeric products are obtained provided no external factor influences the selectivity. Hence, in non-enzymatic organic synthesis it is notoriously difficult to control the selectivity of the reaction, in particular if the coupling is intermolecular. From biosynthesis, it is known that especially fungi, plants, and bacteria produce biarylic compounds regio- and stereoselectively. Nonetheless, the involved enzymes long evaded discovery. First progress was made in the late 1990s; however, the breakthrough came only with the genomic era and, in particular, in the last few years the number of relevant publications has dramatically increased. The discoveries reviewed in this article reveal a remarkable diversity of enzymes that catalyze oxidative intermolecular phenol coupling, including various classes of laccases, cytochrome P450 enzymes, and heme peroxidases. Particularly in the case of laccases, the catalytic systems are often complex and additional proteins, substrates, or reaction conditions have a strong influence on activity and regio- and atroposelectivity. Although the field of (selective) enzymatic phenol coupling is still in its infancy, the diversity of enzymes identified recently could make it easier to select suitable candidates for biotechnological development and to approach this challenging reaction through biocatalysis.