Deuterium- and Tritium-Labelled Compounds: Applications in the Life Sciences

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

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)peer-review

440 Citations (Scopus)


Hydrogen isotopes are unique tools for identifying and understanding biological and chemical processes. Hydrogen isotope labelling allows for the traceless and direct incorporation of an additional mass or radioactive tag into an organic molecule with almost no changes in its chemical structure, physical properties, or biological activity. Using deuterium-labelled isotopologues to study the unique mass-spectrometric patterns generated from mixtures of biologically 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 increase in utilization, especially in pharmaceutical drug discovery. The efforts and costs associated with the synthesis of labelled compounds are more than compensated for by the enhanced molecular sensitivity during analysis and the high reliability of the data obtained. In this Review, advances in the application of hydrogen isotopes in the life sciences are described.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1758-1784
Number of pages27
JournalAngewandte Chemie - International Edition
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 12 Feb 2018


  • deuterium
  • drug discovery
  • isotopic labeling
  • life sciences
  • tritium


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