Enantiopure 2-hydroxy acids (2-HAs) are important intermediates for the synthesis of pharmaceuticals and fine chemicals. Deracemization of racemic 2-HAs into the corresponding single enantiomers represents an economical and highly efficient approach for synthesizing chiral 2-HAs in industry. In this work, a novel ketoacid reductase from Leuconostoc lactis (LlKAR) with higher activity and substrate tolerance towards aromatic α-ketoacids was discovered by genome mining, and then its enzymatic properties were characterized. Accordingly, an engineered Escherichia coli (HADH-LlKAR-GDH) co-expressing 2-hydroxyacid dehydrogenase, LlKAR, and glucose dehydrogenase was constructed for efficient deracemization of racemic 2-HAs. Most of the racemic 2-HAs were deracemized to their (R)-isomers at high yields and enantiomeric purity. In the case of racemic 2-chloromandelic acid, as much as 300 mM of substrate was completely transformed into the optically pure (R)-2-chloromandelic acid (> 99% enantiomeric excess) with a high productivity of 83.8 g L-1 day-1 without addition of exogenous cofactor, which make this novel whole-cell biocatalyst more promising and competitive in practical application.
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