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3.3: Nitrogen-contaning compounds in Nature

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  • 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.



    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 pyramidal nitrogen atoms in their structural formulas (think of the non-bonding electron pair as a fourth substituent on a sp3 hybridized nitrogen).  Of course, quaternary ammonium salts, such as that in muscarine, have a tetrahedral configuration. With four different substituents, such a nitrogen would be a stable stereogenic center.



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