Enantioselective extraction of unprotected amino acids coupled with racemization

Haofei Huang, Yingji Jin, Mukesh E. Shirbhate, Dayoung Kang, Misun Choi, Qian Chen, Youngmee Kim, Sung Jin Kim, Il Suk Byun, Ming Wang, Jean Bouffard, Seong Kyu Kim, Kwan Mook Kim

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14 Scopus citations


Scalable and economical methods for the production of optically pure amino acids, both natural and unnatural, are essential for their use as synthetic building blocks. Currently, enzymatic dynamic kinetic resolution (DKR) underpins some of the most effective processes. Here we report the development of enantioselective extraction coupled with racemization (EECR) for the chirality conversion of underivatized amino acids. In this process, the catalytic racemization of amino acids in a basic aqueous solution is coupled with the selective extraction of one enantiomer into an organic layer. Back-extraction from the organic layer to an acidic aqueous solution then completes the deracemization of the amino acid. The automation of the EECR process in a recycling flow reactor is also demonstrated. Continuous EECR is made possible by the sterically hindered chiral ketone extractant 5, which prevents the coextraction of the copper racemization catalyst because of its nonplanar geometry. Furthermore, the extractant 5 unexpectedly forms imines with amino acids faster and with greater enantioselectivity than less bulky derivatives, even though 5 cannot participate in intramolecular resonance-assisted hydrogen bonding. These features may allow EECR to challenge the preponderance of enzymatic DKR in the production of enantiomerically enriched amino acids.

Original languageEnglish
Article number125
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2021

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