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Nature. 2016 Sep 8;537(7619):214-219. doi: 10.1038/nature18941. Epub 2016 Aug 1.

Oxidative diversification of amino acids and peptides by small-molecule iron catalysis.

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Department of Chemistry, Roger Adams Laboratory, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois 61801, USA.
Pfizer Worldwide Research and Development, Groton Laboratories, Eastern Point Road, Groton, Connecticut 06340, USA.
Worldwide Medicinal Chemistry, Pfizer Worldwide Research and Development, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.


Secondary metabolites synthesized by non-ribosomal peptide synthetases display diverse and complex topologies and possess a range of biological activities. Much of this diversity derives from a synthetic strategy that entails pre- and post-assembly oxidation of both the chiral amino acid building blocks and the assembled peptide scaffolds. The vancomycin biosynthetic pathway is an excellent example of the range of oxidative transformations that can be performed by the iron-containing enzymes involved in its biosynthesis. However, because of the challenges associated with using such oxidative enzymes to carry out chemical transformations in vitro, chemical syntheses guided by these principles have not been fully realized in the laboratory. Here we report that two small-molecule iron catalysts are capable of facilitating the targeted C-H oxidative modification of amino acids and peptides with preservation of α-centre chirality. Oxidation of proline to 5-hydroxyproline furnishes a versatile intermediate that can be transformed to rigid arylated derivatives or flexible linear carboxylic acids, alcohols, olefins and amines in both monomer and peptide settings. The value of this C-H oxidation strategy is demonstrated in its capacity for generating diversity: four 'chiral pool' amino acids are transformed to twenty-one chiral unnatural amino acids representing seven distinct functional group arrays; late-stage C-H functionalizations of a single proline-containing tripeptide furnish eight tripeptides, each having different unnatural amino acids. Additionally, a macrocyclic peptide containing a proline turn element is transformed via late-stage C-H oxidation to one containing a linear unnatural amino acid.

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