Enzymes in the synthesis of bioactive compounds: the prodigious decades

Bioorg Med Chem. 2004 Apr 15;12(8):1817-34. doi: 10.1016/j.bmc.2004.01.032.


The growing demand for enantiomerically pure pharmaceuticals has impelled research on enzymes as catalysts for asymmetric synthetic transformations. However, the use of enzymes for this purpose was rather limited until the discovery that enzymes can work in organic solvents. Since the advent of the PCR the number of available enzymes has been growing rapidly and the tailor-made biocatalysts are becoming a reality. Thus, it has been possible the use of enzymes for the synthesis of new innovative medicines such as carbohydrates and their incorporation to modern methods for drug development, such as combinatorial chemistry. Finally, the genomic research is allowing the manipulation of whole genomes opening the door to the combinatorial biosynthesis of compounds. In this review, our intention is to highlight the main landmarks that have led to transfer the chemical efficiency shown by the enzymes in the cell to the synthesis of bioactive molecules in the lab during the last 20 years.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Catalysis / drug effects
  • Combinatorial Chemistry Techniques / methods*
  • Combinatorial Chemistry Techniques / trends*
  • Drug Design*
  • Enzyme Induction / genetics
  • Enzymes, Immobilized / chemistry*
  • Enzymes, Immobilized / genetics
  • Humans
  • Stereoisomerism


  • Enzymes, Immobilized