How does an anaesthetic work? Surprisingly, it is only recently that the possible binding sites of the anaesthetic propofol (2,6-di-isopropylphenol) have been identified using a technique known as photoaffinity labelling. A propofol analogue was constructed by replacing one of the isopropyl groups with a trifluoromethyl diazirine group (R=CF3, X=Y=N below). Upon photolysis, this species looses nitrogen and forms a carbene as a reactive species, which with further chemistry binds covalently to adjacent amino acids in the binding pocket.These modified segments could then be analysed by mass spectrometry. An isomer of diazirine is diazomethane, which is some 11 kcal/mol lower in free energy, but fortunately the diazirene is preventing from thermally isomerising to this species by a large kinetic barrier. That was the intro; now for a connection.‡ I recently attended a presentation on another medical topic, the therapeutic uses of carbon monoxide. In higher concentrations it is notoriously lethal, but with appropriate delivery it can be therapeutic. So, intertwingling, I asked myself what the properties of the carbon monoxide isoelectronic analogue of a diazirine might be (X=C, Y=O below).
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