Chiral centre

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A Chiral centre is an atom that is attached to four different atoms or groups of atoms.

A main example of a chiral centre is the central carbon atom in amino acids. You can arrange the groups around the carbon in two different ways so two differnet molecules are made. These two molecules are enantiomers as they are non-superimposable mirror images of each other. One enantiomer is labelled D the other is labelled L.

Chiral compounds are found in nature but only one enantiomer. For example L-amino acids are found in nature rather than the D form.

All amino acids apart from Glycine have a central chiral carbon. This carbon atom is attached to the R group, a hydrogen atom, the COO- and the NH3+ [1].


  1. J.Berg, J.Tymoczko, L.Stryer, 2012, Biochemistry, 7th Edition, England, W.H.Freeman and Company

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