Chemoenzymatic Synthesis of Trinitrobenzyl Halides as an Alternative Approach to Hexanitrostilbene

Inmar Z. Munir, Shanghui Hu, Jonathan S. Dordick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The selective oxidation and halogenation of nitroaromatics is a difficult task both chemically and enzymatically. We have discovered that vanadium chloro- and bromoperoxidases from Curvularia inaequalis and Corralina officinalis, respectively, are capable of catalyzing the hydroxylation, halogenation, and demethylation of 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT) under alkaline conditions. At pH 8, the conversions for hydroxylation and demethylation reached 38 and 45%, respectively, while direct halogenation was minimal. Vanadium chloroperoxidase generated trinitrobenzyl alcohol with initial rates of 0.27 μM/h-unit enzyme as compared with 0.11 μM/ h-unit enzyme for the vanadium bromoperoxidase. The products of the enzymatic reaction were easily separated and purified and the unreacted substrate recovered. In the presence of PCI5, the trinitrobenzyl alcohol produced by vanadium chloroperoxidase was readily converted to trinitrobenzyl chloride (TNBCI). This chemoenzymatic synthesis may be useful in the environmentally benign synthesis of hexanitrostilbene, a key component of heat-resistant explosive materials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1097-1102
Number of pages6
JournalAdvanced Synthesis and Catalysis
Issue number10
StatePublished - Dec 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Benzylic hydroxylation
  • Chemoenzymatic synthesis
  • Halogenation
  • Vanadium chloroperoxidase


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