Histamine forms colorless hygroscopic crystals that melt at 84°C, and are easily dissolved in water or ethanol, but not in ether. In aqueous solution histamine exists in two tautomeric forms, Nπ-H-histamine and Nτ-H-histamine. The imidazole ring has two nitrogens. The nitrogen farthest away from the side chain is the 'tele' nitrogen and is denoted by a lowercase tau sign. The nitrogen closest to the side chain is the 'pros' nitrogen and is denoted by the pi sign. Whichever position the nitrogen, which has the hydrogen on it, is in, is how the tautomer is named. If the nitrogen with the hydrogen is in the tele position, then histamine is in the tele-tautomer form. The tele-tautomer is preferred in solution.
Histamine has two basic centres, namely the aliphatic amino group and whichever nitrogen atom of the imidazole ring does not already have a proton. Under physiological conditions, the aliphatic amino group (having a pKa around 9.4) will be protonated, whereas the second nitrogen of the imidazole ring (pKa ≈ 5.8) will not be protonated. Thus, histamine is normally protonated to a singly charged cation.
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