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In this work, the 3-D structure of the well-known opioid drug heroin in a solution was investigated. The goal was to provide a complete and detailed description of the stable conformers with their relative abundances. This knowledge is very important from the pharmaceutical and forensic point of view as it could help significantly with deeper understanding of heroin's metabolism and the development of antagonist medicines for the case of an overdose. As heroin is a chiral compound with five stereogenic centres, the methods of chiroptical spectroscopy supplemented by density functional theory (DFT) calculations were applied to study its conformations in chloroform solution. The selected chiroptical methods, namely, electronic circular dichroism (ECD) and vibrational circular dichroism (VCD), are inherently sensitive to the 3-D structure of small- to medium-sized chiral organic molecules. A thorough conformational analysis revealed four stable conformers of heroin in chloroform solution, where the conductor-like polarizable continuum model of the solvent was used for all the calculations. The simulated ultraviolet (UV), infrared (IR), ECD, and VCD spectra were compared with the experimental ones and very good agreement was found, which enabled a detailed structure description and interpretation of the spectra. Chiroptical spectroscopy in combination with DFT calculations proved to be a very sensitive tool for the analysis of the 3-D structure of heroin in a solution in contrast with conventional spectroscopic methods. Especially, the application of VCD seems to be a promising approach for monitoring structural changes, for instance, those caused by solvents or interactions with other agents. © 2020 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


František Králík, Patrik Fagan, Martin Kuchař, Vladimír Setnička. Structure of heroin in a solution revealed by chiroptical spectroscopy. Chirality. 2020 Jun;32(6):854-865

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PMID: 32078763

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