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Book Review Introduction to Biocatalysis Using Enzymes and Micro-Organisms. By S. M. Roberts N. J. Turner A. J. Willetts and M. K

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BOOKS
scribed with instructive examples; in
many cases there is the additional bonus
of a high degree of regio- and stereoselectivity. Some useful guidelines for predicting reactivities and cyclization routes, for
example in the intramolecular etherification of unsaturated alcohols, are also included here.
Chapter4, the longest in the book, is
concerned with developments in the
chemistry of 1.3-dithioacetals. This class
of compounds is closely associated with
“Umpolung” processes, but these are deliberately avoided in this chapter, as they
are already very adequately covered elsewhere. At the beginning of the chapter is
a very useful table listing review articles
on 1,3-dithioacetals. Applications of these
compounds in pharmacology and plant
protection are then described. These include various interesting examples that
act as mimetics of cyclohexane rings or as
“super-t-butyl groups”, and have applications as calcium channel blockers, leucotriene antagonists, or highly efficient insecticides. The sections on the synthesis of
these compounds and their properties as
functional groups are especially important from the synthetic chemist’s standpoint. Various methods of synthesis are
presented in the form of tables, including
such details as advice on differentiating
between aldehydes and ketones; analogous procedures have been used for regenerating carbonyl functions. The chapter
ends with a brief section on applications
in asymmetric synthesis. transformations
yielding dithiins or geminally-substituted
difluoro compounds, and reductions
giving methylene groups.
The final chapter is devoted to thioaldehydes, and provides evidence that these
are by no means birds of paradise (although thioformaldehyde has been found
to occur in interstellar space!), but are
useful intermediates for syntheses. Some
interesting physicochemical properties of
these compounds are also described.
Their synthesis, properties, and reactions
are treated, classifying them into transient
species and stable compounds. In accordance with the chemical nature of these
species, the main emphasis is on cycloadditions and their retro-variants and on
sigmatropic processes. Their crystal structures and spectroscopic properties are
also discussed.
Despite a few errors, especially in the
reaction schemes, and some poorly drawn
structural formulas, the book contains a
valuable review of selected topics in
organosulfur chemistry. It can be especially recommended for reading by
synthetic chemists and as a source of
ideas.
Rainer Beckert
Institut fur Organische
und Makromolekulare Chemie
der Universitiit Jena (Germany)
Introduction to Biocatalysis Using
Enzymes and Micro-Organisms. By
S. M . Roberts, N . J. Turner, A . J. Willefts, and M . K. Turner. Cambridge
University Press, Cambridge, 1995.
195 pp., hardcover 5 11.95.-1SBN
0-521-43070-4
Twenty or thirty years ago the study of
biotransformations of organic substrates
was still more a matter of academic interest than of practical significance, but in
recent years this field has increased greatly
in importance, with regard to applications
and future potential. This growing recognition has been accompanied by the appearance of a huge wealth of review articles
and books. The authors of this book, who
are recognized experts in the field of biotransformations of organic molecules, define their aim as being “to give the non-specialist a comprehensive insight into the
science of biotransformations”.
The book begins with a historical introduction of about 30 pages, starting from
the beginnings of modern biochemistry in
the early 19th century, exemplified by the
development of the technologies of brewing and fermentation processes. The scientific developments described range from
the contributions of Kirchhoff and Pasteur
to the work of Reichstein, and the chapter
makes interesting and enjoyable reading.
Chapter 2 (40 pp.) begins by describing the
use of enzymes and discussing the advantages and drawbacks of this method compared with the use of whole cells. Problems
of immobilizing enzymes are discussed, as
well as optimization strategies. The chapter
contains a wealth of useful practical advice,
but stops short of being a laboratory handbook. Appendix A, which describes the
breeding and cultivation of microorganisms, seems rather out of place here, and
the information about sterile procedures
seems somewhat trivial.
Chapter 3 (about 20 pp.) is concerned
with hydrolysis. which the authors illustrate by describing examples from their
own synthetic work. These examples (including syntheses of the nucleoside
analogs neplanocin, carbovir, aristeromycin. and others) are certainly highly
topical, but does that necessarily make
them good examples for teaching purpos-
es? The chapter ends with an explanation
of the “E-value” introduced by C. Sih.
Unfortunately, however, the bibliography
does not include a reference to the original
publication. Also it would have greatly
helped the non-specialist readers, for
whom the book is intended. if the authors
had included diagrams showing the relationship between (enantiomeric excess)/
(conversion rate) and enantiomer ratio.
The descriptions of the basic reactions
are completed by Chapter 4 (20 pp.) on
redox reactions, with many examples
from the authors’ own research, and
Chapter 5 (also 20 pp.) on methods for
forming carbon -carbon, carbon-nitrogen, carbon-oxygen, and carbon-sulfur
bonds. Chapter 6 (40 pp.) describes processes for the manufacture of various important fine chemicals, including antibiotics, amino-acids, nucleic acids, peptides,
and oligosaccharides, and summarizes the
basic principles of genetic engineering. A
separate section is devoted to “novel reaction conditions”; however, the curiosity
awakened by this misleading title is soon
dispelled, as one finds here only some further reactions in non-aqueous media.
Hardly any applications in inorganic or
organometallic chemistry are mentioned.
Much of the book is intended specifically for newcomers to the field, with the aim
of encouraging them to incorporate biotransformations into the planning of their
synthetic work. Nevertheless, even specialists will find here and there some useful bits of information, though unfortunately without references to the original
publications. Each chapter has an appendix giving references, but only to review articles and books, and even these
lists are incomplete. Both the bibliographies and the text contain annoying mistakes, which could easily have been avoided by a little more care on the part of the
authors and final checking by the publishers. Already it has come to be regarded as
something of an achievement to avoid incorrect spellings of names such as Liebig,
which are hardly unfamiliar. The book is
a useful addition to the many excellent
publications covering the field of biocatalysis. It makes no claim to be comprehensive. Reading it will not make one an expert on the subject, but that was not the
authors‘ intention. With a little more love
and care it could have been a very good
book; however, despite the fact that it has
some shortcomings, I enjoyed reading it.
RenP Csuk
Institut fur Organische Chemie
der Universitiit Halle-Wittenberg
(Germany)
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