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Biocatalytic ketone reduction—a powerful tool for the production of chiral alcohols—part I: processes with isolated enzymes


Enzymes are able to perform reactions under mild conditions, e.g., pH and temperature, with remarkable chemo-, regio-, and stereoselectivity. Because of this feature, the number of biocatalysts used in organic synthesis has rapidly increased during the last decades, especially for the production of chiral compounds. The present review highlights biotechnological processes for the production of chiral alcohols by reducing prochiral ketones. These reactions can be catalyzed by either isolated enzymes or whole cells that exhibit ketone-reducing activity. The use of isolated enzymes is often preferred because of a higher volumetric productivity and the absence of side reactions. Both types of catalysts have also deficiencies limiting their use in synthesis of chiral alcohols. Because reductase-catalyzed reactions are dependent on cofactors, one major task in process development is to provide an effective method for regeneration of the consumed cofactors. In this paper, strategies for cofactor regeneration in biocatalytic ketone reduction are reviewed. Furthermore, different processes carried out on laboratory and industrial scales using isolated enzymes are presented. Attention is turned to process parameters, e.g., conversion, yield, enantiomeric excess, and process strategies, e.g., the application of biphasic systems or methods of in situ (co)product recovery. The biocatalytic production of chiral alcohols utilizing whole cells is presented in part II of this review (Goldberg et al., Appl Microbiol Biotechnol, 2007).

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Correspondence to Andreas Liese.

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Katja Goldberg and Kirsten Schroer did equally contribute to this review.

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Goldberg, K., Schroer, K., Lütz, S. et al. Biocatalytic ketone reduction—a powerful tool for the production of chiral alcohols—part I: processes with isolated enzymes. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 76, 237–248 (2007).

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  • Ketone reduction
  • Cofactor regeneration
  • Chiral alcohol