Enzyme catalysed Pictet-Spengler formation of chiral 1,1'-disubstituted- and spiro-tetrahydroisoquinolines

Benjamin R. Lichman, Jianxiong Zhao, Helen C. Hailes, John M. Ward*

*Corresponding author for this work

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The Pictet-Spengler reaction (PSR) involves the condensation and ring closure between a β-arylethylamine and a carbonyl compound. The combination of dopamine and ketones in a PSR leads to the formation of 1,1′-disubstituted tetrahydroisoquinolines (THIQs), structures that are challenging to synthesize and yet are present in a number of bioactive natural products and synthetic pharmaceuticals. Here we have discovered that norcoclaurine synthase from Thalictrum flavum (TfNCS) can catalyse the PSR between dopamine and unactivated ketones, thus facilitating the facile biocatalytic generation of 1,1′-disubstituted THIQs. Variants of TfNCS showing improved conversions have been identified and used to synthesize novel chiral 1,1′-disubstituted and spiro-THIQs. Enzyme catalysed PSRs with unactivated ketones are unprecedented, and, furthermore, there are no equivalent stereoselective chemical methods for these transformations. This discovery advances the utility of enzymes for the generation of diverse THIQs in vitro and in vivo.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14883
Number of pages9
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2017

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© The Author(s) 2017.

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