Properties of Configurationally Stable Atropoenantiomers in Macrocyclic Natural Products and the Chrysophaentin Family

Acc Chem Res. 2023 Feb 21;56(4):414-424. doi: 10.1021/acs.accounts.2c00648. Epub 2023 Feb 2.


development of antibiotics, antineoplastics, and therapeutics for other diseases. Natural products are unique among all other small molecules in that they are produced by dedicated enzymatic assembly lines that are the protein products of biosynthetic gene clusters. As the products of chiral macromolecules, natural products have distinct three-dimensional shapes and stereochemistry is often encoded in their structures through the presence of stereocenters, or in the case of molecules that lack a stereocenter, the presence of an axis or plane of chirality. In the latter forms of chirality, if the barrier to rotation about the chiral axis or chiral plane is sufficiently high, stable conformers may exist allowing for isolation of discrete conformers, also known as atropisomers. Importantly, the diverse functions and biological activities of natural products are contingent upon their structures, stereochemistry and molecular shape. With continued innovation in methods for natural products discovery, synthetic chemistry, and analytical and computational tools, new insights into atropisomerism in natural products and related scaffolds are being made. As molecular complexity increases, more than one form of stereoisomerism may exist in a single compound (for example, point chirality, chiral axes, and chiral planes), sometimes creating atypical or noncanonical atropisomers, a term used to distinguish physically noninterconvertable atropisomers from typical atropisomers.Here we provide an account of the discovery and unusual structural and stereochemical features of the chrysophaentins, algal derived inhibitors of the bacterial cytoskeletal protein FtsZ and its associated protein partners. Eleven members of the chrysophaentin family have been discovered to date; seven of these are macrocyclic bis-bibenzyl ethers wherein the site of the ether linkage yields either a symmetrical or asymmetrical macrocyclic ring system. The asymmetrical ring system is highly strained and corresponds to the compounds having the most potent antimicrobial activity among the family. We review the structure elucidation and NMR properties that indicate restricted rotation between axes of two biaryl ethers, and the plane represented by the substituted 2-Z-butene bridge common to all of the macrocycles. Computational studies that corroborate high barriers to rotation about one representative plane, on the order of 20+ kcal/mol are presented. These barriers to rotation fix the conformation of the macrocycle into a bowl-like structure and suggest that an atropisomer should exist. Experimental evidence for atropisomerism is presented, consistent with computational predictions. These properties are discussed in the context of the total synthesis of 9-dechlorochrysophaenin A and its ring C isomers. Last, we discuss the implications for the presence of enantiomers in the biological activity and macrocyclization of the natural product.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Biological Products*
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins / metabolism
  • Ethers
  • Stereoisomerism


  • Biological Products
  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • Ethers