Synthetic Catalysts Inspired by Hydrolytic Enzymes

Mitchell D. Nothling, Zeyun Xiao, Ayana Bhaskaran, Mitchell T. Blyth, Christopher W. Bennett, Michelle L. Coote, Luke A. Connal

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

94 Citations (Scopus)


Enzymes, as nature's catalysts, speed up the very reactions that make life possible. Hydrolytic enzymes are a particularly important enzyme class responsible for the catalytic breakdown of lipids, starches, and proteins in nature, and they are displaying increasing industrial relevance. While the unrivalled catalytic effect of enzymes continues to be unmatched by synthetic systems, recent progress has been made in the design of hydrolase-inspired catalysts by imitating and incorporating specific features observed in native enzyme protein structures. The development of such enzyme-inspired materials holds promise for more robust and industrially relevant alternatives to enzymatic catalysis, as well as deeper insights into the function of native enzymes. This Review will explore recent research in the development of synthetic catalysts based on the chemistry of hydrolytic enzymes. A focus on the key aspects of hydrolytic enzyme structure and catalytic mechanism will be explored - including active-site chemistry, tuning transition-state interactions, and establishing reactive nanoenvironments conducive to attracting, binding, and releasing target molecules. A key focus is to highlight the progress toward an effective, versatile hydrolase-inspired catalyst by incorporating the molecular design principles laid down by nature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-187
Number of pages20
JournalACS Catalysis
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jan 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • catalyst
  • catalytic triad
  • enzyme mimic
  • hydrolytic enzyme
  • reaction mechanism


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