Applications of hydrogen isotopes in the life sciences

Jens Atzrodt, Volker Derdau, William J. Kerr, Marc Reid

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

359 Citations (Scopus)
42 Downloads (Pure)


Hydrogen isotopes are unique tools for identifying and understanding biological or chemical processes. Hydrogen isotope labeling allows for a traceless and direct incorporation of an additional mass or radioactive tag into an organic molecule with almost no change in its chemical structure, physical properties or biological activity. Using deuterium labeled isotopologues to study the unique mass spectrometric (MS)-pattern generated from mixtures of biological relevant molecules drastically simplifies analysis. Such methods are now providing unprecedented levels of insight in a wide and continuously growing range of applications in the life sciences and beyond. Tritium (3H), in particular, has seen an increased utilization, especially in pharmaceutical drug discovery. The efforts and costs required for the synthesis of labeled compounds are more than compensated for by the enhanced molecular sensitivity for analysis and high reliability of the data obtained. In this review, advances in the applications of hydrogen isotopes in the life sciences are described.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalAngewandte Chemie International Edition
Early online date16 Aug 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Aug 2017


  • hydrogen isotopes
  • drug discovery


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