The regiospecific or preferential ω-hydroxylation of hydrocarbon chains is thermodynamically disfavored because the ease of C-H bond hydroxylation depends on the bond strength, and the primary C-H bond of a terminal methyl group is stronger than the secondary or tertiary C-H bond adjacent to it. The hydroxylation reaction will therefore occur primarily at the adjacent secondary or tertiary C-H bond unless the protein structure specifically enforces primary C-H bond oxidation. Here we review the classes of enzymes that catalyze ω-hydroxylation and our current understanding of the structural features that promote the ω-hydroxylation of unbranched and methyl-branched hydrocarbon chains. The evidence indicates that steric constraints are used to favor reaction at the ω-site rather than at the more reactive (ω-1)-site.
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