Rhodococcus rhodochrous IFO 15564 enantioselectively hydrolysed racemic 3-benzoyloxypentanenitrile and 3-benzoyloxypentanamide to afford (R)-amide and (S)-carboxylic acid with high enantiomeric excess (> 90%). In this reaction, both enantiomers of the starting nitrile were converted to the amide by nitrile hydratase, and amidase-catalysed enantioselective hydrolysis of the amide was responsible for the kinetic resolution. The lack of enantioselectivity of the nitrile hydratase toward the racemic nitrile forms a marked contrast to the case of previously reported highly enantioselective conversion of prochiral 3-benzoyloxypentanedinitrile by this enzyme. Since (R)-amide could be hydrolysed chemically to (R)-carboxylic acid without any loss of its ee, the present microbial kinetic resolution serves as an effective method for preparing both enantiomers of synthetically useful 3-hydroxypentanoic acid derivatives.
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