Biosynthetic mechanisms of natural products primarily depend on systems of protein catalysts. However, within the field of biosynthesis, there are cases in which the inherent chemical reactivity of metabolic intermediates and substrates evades the involvement of enzymes. These reactions are difficult to characterize based on their reactivity and occlusion within the milieu of the cellular environment. As we continue to build a strong foundation for how microbes and higher organisms produce natural products, therein lies a need for understanding how protein independent or nonenzymatic biosynthetic steps can occur. We have classified such reactions into four categories: intramolecular, multicomponent, tailoring, and light-induced reactions. Intramolecular reactions is one of the most well studied in the context of biomimetic synthesis, consisting of cyclizations and cycloadditions due to the innate reactivity of the intermediates. There are two subclasses that make up multicomponent reactions, one being homologous multicomponent reactions which results in dimeric and pseudodimeric natural products, and the other being heterologous multicomponent reactions, where two or more precursors from independent biosynthetic pathways undergo a variety of reactions to produce the mature natural product. The third type of reaction discussed are tailoring reactions, where postmodifications occur on the natural products after the biosynthetic machinery is completed. The last category consists of light-induced reactions involving ecologically relevant UV light rather than high intensity UV irradiation that is traditionally used in synthetic chemistry. This review will cover recent nonenzymatic biosynthetic mechanisms and include sources for those reviewed previously.
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