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Nomenclature of Amines

Amines are organic derivatives of ammonia, and the class of compounds known as amines therefore are commonly as amines therefore are commonly named as substituted ammonia’s. Like ammonia, amines contains nitrogen atom with a lone pair of electrons, making amines both basic and nucleophilic.

1. Amines are clasified iether as  primary (RNH2), secondary (R2NH) and tertiary (R3N) depending on the number of substituents attached to nitrogen. In this system, primary amines, having only one substituent on nitrogen, are named with the substituent as a prefix. More systematic nomenclature appends -amine to the longest chain, as for alcohols:

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2. Secondary and tertiary amines, which have two and three substituents on nitrogen, commonly are named as N-substituted amines. As for substituted amides, N is included to indicate that the substituent is on the nitrogen atom unless there is no ambiguity as to where the substituent is located. Systematic nomenclature of secondary and tertiary amines is related to the systematic ether nomenclature discussed in Section 7-3:

3. As a substituent, the —NH2 group is called amino. N-Substituted amino groups are named accordingly:

Some natural amines or nitrogen compounds*

Nature abounds with nitrogen compounds, many of which occur in plants and are referred to as alkaloids. Structural formulas for some representative alkaloids and other nitrogen containing natural products are displayed below, and we can recognize many of the basic structural features listed above in their formulas. Thus, Serotonin and Thiamine are 1º-amines, Coniine is a 2º-amine, Atropine, Morphine and Quinine are 3º-amines, and Muscarine is a 4º-ammonium salt.


The reader should be able to recognize indole, imidazole, piperidine, pyridine, pyrimidine & pyrrolidine moieties among these structures. These will be identified by pressing the “Show Structures” button under the diagram. Nitrogen atoms that are part of aromatic rings , such as pyridine, pyrrole & imidazole, have planar configurations (sp2 hybridization), and are not stereogenic centers. Nitrogen atoms bonded to carbonyl groups, as in caffeine, also tend to be planar. In contrast, atropine, coniine, morphine, nicotine and quinine have stereogenic pyramidal nitrogen atoms in their structural formulas (think of the non-bonding electron pair as a fourth substituent on a sp3 hybridized nitrogen). In quinine this nitrogen is restricted to one configuration by the bridged ring system. The other stereogenic nitrogens are free to assume two pyramidal configurations, but these are in rapid equilibrium so that distinct stereoisomers reflecting these sites cannot be easily isolated.
It should be noted that structural factors may serve to permit the resolution of pyramidal chiral amines. Two examples of such 3º-amines, compared with similar non-resolvable analogs, are shown in the following diagram. The two nitrogen atoms in Trögers base are the only stereogenic centers in the molecule. Because of the molecule’s bridged structure, the nitrogens have the same configuration and cannot undergo inversion. The chloro aziridine can invert, but requires a higher activation energy to do so, compared with larger heterocyclic amines. It has in fact been resolved, and pure enantiomers isolated. An increase in angle strain in the sp2-hybridized planar transition state is responsible for the greater stability of the pyramidal configuration. The rough estimate of angle strain is made using a C-N-C angle of 60º as an arbitrary value for the three-membered heterocycle.

Nomenclature of amines video

Above is a tutorial video on naming amines.



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