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Laboratory Evolution of Stereoselective Enzymes: A Prolific Source of Catalysts for Asymmetric Reactions



Asymmetric catalysis plays a key role in modern synthetic organic chemistry, with synthetic catalysts and enzymes being the two available options. During the latter part of the last century the use of enzymes in organic chemistry and biotechnology experienced a period of rapid growth. However, these biocatalysts have traditionally suffered from several limitations, including in many cases limited substrate scope, poor enantioselectivity, insufficient stability, and sometimes product inhibition. During the last 15 years, the genetic technique of directed evolution has been developed to such an extent that all of these long-standing problems can be addressed and solved. It is based on repeated cycles of gene mutagenesis, expression, and screening (or selection). This Review focuses on the directed evolution of enantioselective enzymes, which constitutes a fundamentally new approach to asymmetric catalysis. Emphasis is placed on the development of methods to make laboratory evolution faster and more efficient, thus providing chemists and biotechnologists with a rich and non-ending source of robust and selective catalysts for a variety of useful applications.