Strategies for the chemoenzymatic transformation of a racemate into a single stereoisomeric product in quantitative yield have been developed. A range of industrially relevant α-hydroxycarboxylic acids was deracemized in a stepwise fashion via lipase-catalysed enantioselective O-acylation, followed by mandelate racemase-catalysed racemization of the remaining non-reacted substrate enantiomer. Alternatively, aliphatic α-hydroxycarboxylic acids were enzymatically isomerized using whole resting cells of Lactobacillus spp. Enantioselective hydrolysis of rac-sec-alkyl sulphate esters was accomplished using novel alkyl sulphatases of microbial origin. The stereochemical path of catalysis could be controlled by choice of the biocatalyst. Whereas Rhodococcus ruber DSM 44541 and Sulfolobus acidocaldarius DSM 639 act through inversion of configuration, stereo-complementary retaining sulphatase activity was detected in the marine planctomycete Rhodopirellula baltica DSM 10527.

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