Biocatalytic Transformations of Silicon—the Other Group 14 Element


Significant inroads have been made using biocatalysts to perform new-to-nature reactions with high selectivity and efficiency. Meanwhile, advances in organosilicon chemistry have led to rich sets of reactions holding great synthetic value. Merging biocatalysis and silicon chemistry could yield new methods for the preparation of valuable organosilicon molecules as well as the degradation and valorization of undesired ones. Despite silicon’s importance in the biosphere for its role in plant and diatom construction, it is not known to be incorporated into any primary or secondary metabolites. Enzymes have been found that act on silicon-containing molecules, but only a few are known to act directly on silicon centers. Protein engineering and evolution has and could continue to enable enzymes to catalyze useful organosilicon transformations, complementing and expanding upon current synthetic methods. The role of silicon in biology and the enzymes that act on silicon-containing molecules are reviewed to set the stage for a discussion of where biocatalysis and organosilicon chemistry may intersect.

ACS Central Science