Photoenzymatic Enantioselective Intermolecular Radical Hydroamination

Nat Catal. 2023 Aug;6(8):687-694. doi: 10.1038/s41929-023-00994-5. Epub 2023 Jul 31.


Since the discovery of Hofmann-Löffler-Freytag reaction more than 130 years ago, nitrogen-centered radicals have been widely studied in both structures and reactivities1-2. Nevertheless, catalytic enantioselective intermolecular radical hydroamination remains a challenge due to the existence of side reactions, short lifetime of nitrogen-centered radicals, and lack of understanding of the fundamental catalytic steps. In chemistry, nitrogen-centered radicals are produced with radical initiators, photocatalysts, or electrocatalysts. On the other hand, the generation and reaction of nitrogen-centered radicals are unknown in nature. Here we report a pure biocatalytic system by successfully repurposing an ene-reductase through directed evolution for the photoenzymatic production of nitrogen-centered radicals and enantioselective intermolecular radical hydroaminations. These reactions progress efficiently at room temperature under visible light without any external photocatalysts and exhibit excellent enantioselectivities. Detailed mechanistic study reveals that the enantioselectivity originates from the radical-addition step while the reactivity originates from the ultrafast photoinduced electron transfer (ET) from reduced flavin mononucleotide (FMNH-) to nitrogen-containing substrates.