Amino acid synthesis is a field of research that has existed for over 150 years, but renewed interest has led to an exponential increase in publications in the past two decades. The Handbook on Syntheses of Amino Acids
provides a comprehensive survey of synthetic procedures that prepare natural and unnatural amino acids in both racemic and optically active forms. The book begins with an introduction to amino acids, their properties, and analytical techniques, including a detailed examination of methods used to establish enantiomeric configuration and optical purity. The next two chapters focus on processes for preparing racemic amino acids, divided into those syntheses that introduce the amino and/or carboxy groups, and those that introduce the side chain. While some of these procedures date from the 1800s, modified versions are still extensively employed. A key component of these chapters is tables that summarize the many compounds made by each method. A chapter devoted to 2,3-dehydroamino acids provides the bridge between racemic and asymmetric syntheses, as dehydroamino acids are themselves achiral, but can be transformed into optically active products. Asymmetric amino acid preparations are then divided into six chapters, based on methods that introduce the amino and/or carboxy groups, those that introduce the side chains to acyclic synthons, those that introduce side chain to cyclic templates, those that open small ring systems, and those that derive the amino acid from other amino acids (with a separate chapter for serine-derived products). The growing field of non-alpha-amino acid synthesis is addressed in a separate chapter . The book is completed by a discussion of amino acid modifications, including resolutions, N-alkylations, amidations and peptide couplings.