A novel approach to preparing optically active α-substituted carboxylic acids using the whole cells of Nocardia diaphanozonaria JCM 3208 is described. When 2-phenylthiopropanoic acid and 2-methyl-3-phenylpropanoic acid were subjected to the reaction under aerobic conditions, the oxidation reaction proceeded preferentially rather than deracemization of these substrates. Herein, we report the design of reaction conditions to increase the deracemization activity in preference to oxidation reactions. In addition, we have successfully detected a metabolic intermediate in the reaction mixture of 2-methyl-3-phenylpropanoic acid, which indicates that the deracemization is a competitive reaction against the α-oxidation pathway of fatty acid metabolism.
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