Topicity - Enantiotopic

The stereochemical term enantiotopic refers to the relationship between two groups in a molecule which, if one or the other were replaced, would generate a chiral compound. The two possible compounds resulting from that replacement would be enantiomers.

For example, the two hydrogen atoms attached to the second carbon in butane are enantiotopic. Replacement of one hydrogen atom (colored blue) with a bromine atom will produce (R)-2-bromobutane. Replacement of the other hydrogen atom (colored red) with a bromine atom will produce the enantiomer (S)-2-bromobutane.


Butane (R)-2-bromobutane (S)-2-bromobutane

Enantiotopic groups are identical and indistinguishable except in chiral environments. For instance, the CH2 hydrogens in ethanol (CH3CH2OH) are normally enantiotopic, but can be made different (diastereotopic) if combined with a chiral center, for instance by conversion to an ester of a chiral carboxylic acid such as lactic acid, or if coordinated to a chiral metal center, or if associated with an enzyme active site, since enzymes are constituted of chiral amino acids. Indeed, in the presence of the enzyme LADH, one specific hydrogen is removed from the CH2 group during the oxidation of ethanol to acetaldehyde, and it gets replaced in the same place during the reverse reaction. The chiral environment needs not be optically pure for this effect.

Enantiotopic groups are mirror images of each other about an internal plane of symmetry. A chiral environment removes that symmetry. Enantiotopic pairs of NMR-active nuclei are also indistinguishable by NMR and produce a single signal.

Enantiotopic groups need not be attached to the same atom. For example, two hydrogen atoms adjacent to the carbonyl group in cis-2,6-dimethylcyclohexanone are enantiotopic; they are related by an internal plane of symmetry passing through the carbonyl group, but deprotonation on one side of the carbonyl group or on the other will generate compounds which are enantiomers. Similarly, replacement of one or the other with deuterium will generate enantiomers.

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