Substances that mimic the enzyme action of glutathione transferases (which serve in detoxification) are described. These micellar catalysts enhance the reaction rate between thiols and activated halogenated nitroarenes as well as α,β-unsaturated carbonyls. The nucleophilic aromatic substitution reaction is enhanced by the following surfactants in descending order: poly(dimethyldiallylammonium-co-dodecylmethyldiallylammon ium) bromide (86/14) ≫cetyltrimethylammonium bromide > zwittergent 3-16 (n-hexadecyl-N,N-dimethyl-3-ammonio-1-propanesulphonate) > zwittergent 3-14 (n-tetradecyl-N,N-dimethyl-3-ammonio-1-propanesulphonate) ≈ N,N-dimethyl-laurylamine N-oxide > N,N-dimethyloctylamine N-oxide. The most efficient catalyst studied is a polymeric material that incorporates surfactant properties (n-dodecylmethyldiallylammonium bromide) and opens up possibilities for engineering sequences of reactions on a polymeric support. Michael addition to α,β-unsaturated carbonyls is exemplified by a model substance, trans-4-phenylbut-3-en-2-one, and a toxic compound that is formed during oxidative stress, 4-hydroxy-2-undecenal. The latter compound is conjugated with the highest efficiency of those tested. Micellar catalysts can thus be viewed as simple models for the glutathione transferases highlighting the influence of a positive electrostatic field and a non-specific hydrophobic binding site, pertaining to two catalytic aspects, namely thiolate anion stabilization and solvent shielding.

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