Laccase in organic synthesis and its applications
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Laccase (benzenediol:oxygen oxidoreductase, EC 18.104.22.168), a multi-copper-containing oxidoreductase enzyme, is able to catalyze the oxidation of various low-molecular weight compounds, specifically, phenols and anilines. Due to their high stability, selectivity for phenolic substructures, and mild reaction conditions, laccases are attractive for fine chemical synthesis. In this study, new green domino syntheses were developed by conducting the reaction in an aqueous medium, an environmentally-friendly solvent, and using laccase as a biocatalyst. The first study presents a work on the synthesis of naphthoquinones in the aqueous medium. Herein, laccase was used to oxidize o- and p-benzenediols to generate o- and p-benzoquinones in situ. These quinones then underwent Diels-Alder and oxidation reactions to finally generate napthoquinone products. This reaction system can yield naphthoquinones in up to 80% yield. The next part of this thesis reports the cascade synthesis of benzofuran derivatives from the reaction of catechols and 1,3-dicarbonyl compounds via oxidation-Michael addition in the presence of laccase and Sc(OTf)3/SDS in an aqueous medium. Depending on the substrates, one-pot yields of benzofurans averaged 50-79%. From an environmental concern, this system still produced a hazardous waste from the transition metal catalyst. Therefore, the development of alternative methodologies to replace the lanthanide metal catalyst in this synthesis is a high priority to enhance the overall green chemistry aspect. As a consequence, lipase was used as a catalyst to replace Sc(OTf)3 for the synthesis of benzofuran derivatives. In addition, this catalytic system was also used to catalyze the reaction of anilines and catechol. In the last part of this thesis, laccase was applied to the modification of high-lignin softwood kraft pulp. This modification demonstrates the potential of laccase-facilitated grafting of amino acids to high lignin content pulps to improve their physical properties in paper products which resulted from the increase of carboxylic acid group of the fibers. In this study, a variety of amino acids were examined. Laccase-histidine treatment provided the best yield of acid groups on pulp fiber and was used in the preparation of handsheets for physical strength testing. Laccase-histidine-treated pulp showed an increase in the strength properties of the resulting paper.