Biotransformations in Organic Chemistry

pp 1-28

Introduction and Background Information

  • Kurt FaberAffiliated withDepartment of Chemistry, Organic & Bioorganic Chemistry, University of Graz

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Any exponents of classical organic chemistry will probably hesitate to consider a biochemical solution for one of their synthetic problems. This would be due, very often, to the fact, that biological systems would have to be handled. Where the growth and maintainance of whole microorganisms is concerned, such hesitation is probably justified. In order to save endless frustrations, close collaboration with a biochemist is highly recommended to set up and use fermentation systems [1, 2]. On the other hand, isolated enzymes (which may be obtained increasingly easily from commercial sources either in a crude or partially purified form) can be handled like any other chemical catalyst [3]. Due to the enormous complexity of biochemical reactions compared to the repertoire of classical organic reactions, it follows that most of the methods described will have a strong empirical aspect. This ‘black box’ approach may not entirely satisfy the scientific purists, but as organic chemists are rather prone to be pragmatists, they may accept that the understanding of a biochemical reaction mechanism is not a conditio sine qua non for the success of a biotransformation [4]. in other words, a lack of understanding of biochemical reactions should never deter us from using them if their usefulness has been established. Notwithstanding, it is undoubtedly an advantage to have an acquaintance with basic biochemistry, and with enzymology in particular.