Accessing non-natural reactivity by irradiating nicotinamide-dependent enzymes with light

Megan A. Emmanuel, Norman R. Greenberg, Daniel G. Oblinsky, Todd K. Hyster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

240 Scopus citations


Enzymes are ideal for use in asymmetric catalysis by the chemical industry, because their chemical compositions can be tailored to a specific substrate and selectivity pattern while providing efficiencies and selectivities that surpass those of classical synthetic methods. However, enzymes are limited to reactions that are found in nature and, as such, facilitate fewer types of transformation than do other forms of catalysis. Thus, a longstanding challenge in the field of biologically mediated catalysis has been to develop enzymes with new catalytic functions. Here we describe a method for achieving catalytic promiscuity that uses the photoexcited state of nicotinamide co-factors (molecules that assist enzyme-mediated catalysis). Under irradiation with visible light, the nicotinamide-dependent enzyme known as ketoreductase can be transformed from a carbonyl reductase into an initiator of radical species and a chiral source of hydrogen atoms. We demonstrate this new reactivity through a highly enantioselective radical dehalogenation of lactones - a challenging transformation for small-molecule catalysts. Mechanistic experiments support the theory that a radical species acts as an intermediate in this reaction, with NADH and NADPH (the reduced forms of nicotinamide adenine nucleotide and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate, respectively) serving as both a photoreductant and the source of hydrogen atoms. To our knowledge, this method represents the first example of photo-induced enzyme promiscuity, and highlights the potential for accessing new reactivity from existing enzymes simply by using the excited states of common biological co-factors. This represents a departure from existing light-driven biocatalytic techniques, which are typically explored in the context of co-factor regeneration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)414-417
Number of pages4
Issue number7633
StatePublished - Dec 14 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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