Enzymatic Catalysis of a Three Step Steroid Conversion

  • J. F. Studebaker
  • S. A. Slocum


The principal raw material for the production of steroid pharmaceuticals is diosgenin obtained from the Mexican plant Dioscorea. In light of the slow growth of diosgenin production, there is considerable interest in a more intensive use of stigma-sterol and cholesterol as raw materials (Fig. 1). One route from these sterols to the widely used steroid norethindrone involves initial conversion of the sterol to an intermediate called 1,4 androstadiene 3,17 dione (1,4 ADD). A number of bacteria are capable of transforming sterols to 1,4 ADD, synthesizing the necessary enzymes when steroids are present in their growth media (1,2). Mitsubishi Chemical Industries have recently developed a microbiological process to carry out this transformation (3). The possibility also exists of using bacterial extracts containing the appropriate enzymes to catalyze some or all of the steps in the process. Once the sterol side chain is oxidized to a 17 keto group, three enzymes from a strain of Pseudomonas testosteroni catalyze the remaining reactions in the process which are shown in Fig. 2 (4,5,6). Two problems must be solved before these enzymes can be reasonably applied to the conversion. One is that expensive electron acceptors must be recycled, and the other is that the enzymes must be in a form that allows them to be used in a continuous process or to be recovered at the end of each cycle of a batch process.


High Pressure Liquid Chromatography Keto Group Bacterial Extract Phenazine Methosulfate High Pressure Liquid Chromatography Analysis 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. F. Studebaker
    • 1
  • S. A. Slocum
    • 1
  1. 1.IBM Thomas J. Watson Research CenterYorktown HeightsUSA

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