Direct and selective terminal oxidation of medium-chain n-alkanes is a major challenge in chemistry. Efforts to achieve this have so far resulted in low specificity and overoxidized products. Biocatalytic oxidation of medium-chain n-alkanes - with for example the alkane monooxygenase AlkB from P. putida GPo1- on the other hand is highly selective. However, it also results in overoxidation. Moreover, diterminal oxidation of medium-chain n-alkanes is inefficient. Hence, α,ω-bifunctional monomers are mostly produced from olefins using energy intensive, multi-step processes. By combining biocatalytic oxidation with esterification we drastically increased diterminal oxidation upto 92mol% and reduced overoxidation to 3% for n-hexane. This methodology allowed us to convert medium-chain n-alkanes into α,ω-diacetoxyalkanes and esterified α,ω-dicarboxylic acids. We achieved this in a one-pot reaction with resting-cell suspensions of genetically engineered Escherichia coli. The combination of terminal oxidation and esterification constitutes a versatile toolbox to produce α,ω-bifunctional monomers from n-alkanes.
Keywords: Alkanes; Monooxygenases; Whole-cell biocatalysis; α,ω-dicarboxylic acids; α,ω-diols.
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