Bioinspired desaturation of alcohols enabled by photoredox proton-coupled electron transfer and cobalt dual catalysis

Long Huang*, Tengfei Ji, Chen Zhu, Huifeng Yue, Nursaya Zhumabay, Magnus Rueping*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


In the biosynthesis sterols an enzyme-catalyzed demethylation is achieved via a stepwise oxidative transformation of alcohols to olefins. The overall demethylation proceeds through two sequential monooxygenation reactions and a subsequent dehydroformylative saturation. To mimic the desaturation processes observed in nature, we have successfully integrated photoredox proton-coupled electron transfer (PCET) and cobaloxime chemistry for the acceptorless dehydrogenation of alcohols. The state-of-the-art remote and precise desaturation of ketones proceeds efficiently through the activation of cyclic alcohols using bond-dissociation free energy (BDFE) as thermodynamic driving force. The resulting transient alkoxyl radical allows C-C bond scission to generate the carbon-centered radical remote to the carbonyl moiety. This key intermediate is subsequently combined with cobaloxime photochemistry to furnish the alkene. Moreover, the mild protocol can be extended to desaturation of linear alcohols as well as aromatic hydrocarbons. Application to bioactive molecules and natural product derivatives is also presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number809
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was financially supported by the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia, Office of Sponsored Research (URF/1/4025).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • General
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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