An efficient conversion of (3R,3'R,6'R)-lutein to (3R,3'S,6'R)-lutein (3'-epilutein) and (3R,3'R)-zeaxanthin.J Nat Prod. 2003 Jan; 66(1):67-72.JN
Two dietary carotenoids, (3R,3'R,6'R)-lutein (1) and (3R,3'R)-zeaxanthin (2), and their metabolite (3R,3'S,6'R)-lutein (3'-epilutein) (3) accumulate in human serum, milk, and ocular tissues. There is increasing evidence that compounds 1 and 2 play an important role in the prevention of age-related macular degeneration. Therefore, the availability of these carotenoids for metabolic studies and clinical trials is essential. Compound 1 is isolated from extracts of marigold flowers (Tagete erecta) and is commercially available, whereas 2 is only accessible by a lengthy total synthesis, and a viable method for synthesis of 3 has not yet been developed. This report describes an efficient conversion of technical grade 1 to 2 via 3. Acid-catalyzed epimerization of 1 yields an equimolar mixture of diastereomers 1 and 3. The mixture was separated by enzyme-mediated acylation with lipase AK from Pseudomonas fluorescens that preferentially esterified 3 and after alkaline hydrolysis yielded this carotenoid in 90% diastereomeric excess (de). Compound 3 was also separated from 1 in 56-88% de by solvent extraction and low-temperature crystallization, Soxhlet extraction, or supercritical fluid extraction. Base-catalyzed isomerization of 3 gave 2 in excellent yield, providing a convenient alternative to the total synthesis of this important dietary carotenoid.