Enzymatic catalysis has become a common tool in both academia and industrial chemistry. The efforts of chemists over recent decades have led to the rationalization of the mechanism of action of biocatalysts, which have been routinely incorporated into many synthetic sequences. Nowadays, a further step consists in expanding the application of enzymes to the modification of complex molecular scaffolds common to many pharmaceutical leads isolated from nature. Regioselective enzymatic acylation is a process which has been profitably applied for this purpose in recent times, leading to new drugs with improved activity, stability and pharmacokinetic properties. This tutorial review provides an overview of this subject employing two classes of enzymes, hydrolases and acyltransferases, in the recently concluded decade although some representative older studies are commented upon, if required. We shall place special emphasis on those examples in which the novel acylated derivatives have improved the activity or properties of the parental molecules.
This journal is © The Royal Society of Chemistry 2011