Using Enzymes to Tame Nitrogen-Centered Radicals for Enantioselective Hydroamination



The construction of C–N bonds is essential for the preparation of numerous molecules critical to modern society1,2. Nature has evolved enzymes to facilitate these transformations using nucleophilic and nitrene transfer mechanisms3,4. However, neither natural nor engineered enzymes are known to generate and control nitrogen-centered radicals, which serve as valuable species for C–N bond formation. Herein, we describe a platform for generating nitrogen-centered radicals within protein active sites, thus enabling asymmetric hydroamination reactions. Using flavin- dependent ‘ene’-reductases with an exogenous photoredox catalyst, amidyl radicals are generated selectively within the protein active site. Empowered by directed evolution, these enzymes are engineered to catalyze 5-exo, 6-endo, 7-endo, 8-endo, and intermolecular hydroamination reactions with high levels of enantioselectivity. Mechanistic studies suggest that radical initiation occurs via an enzyme-gated mechanism, where the protein thermodynamically activates the substrate for reduction by the photocatalyst. Molecular dynamics studies suggest that the enzymes bind substrates using non-canonical binding interactions, which may serve as a handle to further manipulate reactivity. This approach demonstrates the versatility of these enzymes for controlling the reactivity of high-energy radical intermediates and highlight the opportunity for synergistic catalyst strategies to unlock new enzymatic functions.


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Supplementary material

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Supplemental Information
NMR, HPLC, Docking Information