Paving the way to conformationally unravel complex glycopeptide antibiotics by means of Raman optical activity†
It is crucial for fundamental physical chemistry techniques to find their application in tackling real-world challenges. Hitherto, Raman optical activity (ROA) spectroscopy is one of the examples where a promising future within the pharmaceutical sector is foreseen, but has not yet been established. Namely, the technique is believed to be able to contribute in investigating the conformational behaviour of drug candidates. We, herein, strive towards the alignment of the ROA analysis outcome and the pharmaceutical expectations by proposing a fresh strategy that ensures a more complete, reliable, and transferable ROA study. The strategy consists of the treatment of the conformational space by means of a principal component analysis (PCA) and a clustering algorithm, succeeded by a thorough ROA spectral analysis and a novel way of estimating the contributions of the different chemical fragments to the total ROA spectral intensities. Here, vancomycin, an antibiotic glycopeptide, has been treated; it is the first antibiotic glycopeptide studied by means of ROA and is a challenging compound in ROA terms. By applying our approach we discover that ROA is capable of independently identifying the correct conformation of vancomycin in aqueous solution. In addition, we have a clear idea of what ROA can and cannot tell us regarding glycopeptides. Finally, the glycopeptide class turns out to be a spectroscopically curious case, as its spectral responses are unlike the typical ROA spectral responses of peptides and carbohydrates. This preludes future ROA studies of this intriguing molecular class.