Stereoisomers are isomers that differ in spatial arrangement of atoms, rather than order of atomic connectivity. One of their most interesting type of isomer is the mirror-image stereoisomers, a non-superimposable set of two molecules that are mirror image of one another. The existence of these molecules are determined by concept known as chirality.
You are watching: The structure of a chiral isomer is given below
Organic compounds, molecules created around a chain of carbon atom (more commonly known as carbon backbone), play an essential role in the thedailysplash.tvistry of life. These molecules derive their importance from the energy they carry, mainly in a form of potential energy between atomic molecules. Since such potential force can be widely affected due to changes in atomic placement, it is important to understand the concept of an isomer, a molecule sharing same atomic make up as another but differing in structural arrangements. This article will be devoted to a specific isomers called stereoisomers and its property of chirality (Figure 1).
Chirality essentially means “mirror-image, non-superimposable molecules”, and to say that a molecule is chiral is to say that its mirror image (it must have one) is not the same as it self. Whether a molecule is chiral or achiral depends upon a certain set of overlapping conditions. Figure 4 shows an example of two molecules, chiral and achiral, respectively. Notice the distinct characteristic of the achiral molecule: it possesses two atoms of same element. In theory and reality, if one were to create a plane that runs through the other two atoms, they will be able to create what is known as bisecting plane: The images on either side of the plan is the same as the other (Figure 4).
As you can see, D-erythrose is a chiral molecule: C2 and C3 are stereocenters, both of which have the R configuration. In addition, you should make a model to convince yourself that it is impossible to find a plane of symmetry through the molecule, regardless of the conformation. Does D-erythrose have an enantiomer? Of course it does – if it is a chiral molecule, it must. The enantiomer of erythrose is its mirror image, and is named L-erythrose (once again, you should use models to convince yourself that these mirror images of erythrose are not superimposable).
Notice that both chiral centers in L-erythrose both have the S configuration. In a pair of enantiomers, all of the chiral centers are of the opposite configuration.
What happens if we draw a stereoisomer of erythrose in which the configuration is S at C2 and R at C3? This stereoisomer, which is a sugar called D-threose, is not a mirror image of erythrose. D-threose is a diastereomer of both D-erythrose and L-erythrose.
The definition of diastereomers is simple: if two molecules are stereoisomers (same molecular formula, same connectivity, different arrangement of atoms in space) but are not enantiomers, then they are diastereomers by default. In practical terms, this means that at least one – but not all – of the chiral centers are opposite in a pair of diastereomers. By definition, two molecules that are diastereomers are not mirror images of each other.
L-threose, the enantiomer of D-threose, has the R configuration at C2 and the S configuration at C3. L-threose is a diastereomer of both erythrose enantiomers.
In general, a structure with n stereocenters will have 2n different stereoisomers. (We are not considering, for the time being, the stereothedailysplash.tvistry of double bonds – that will come later). For example, let”s consider the glucose molecule in its open-chain form (recall that many sugar molecules can exist in either an open-chain or a cyclic form). There are two enantiomers of glucose, called D-glucose and L-glucose. The D-enantiomer is the common sugar that our bodies use for energy. It has n = 4 stereocenters, so therefore there are 2n = 24 = 16 possible stereoisomers (including D-glucose itself).
In L-glucose, all of the stereocenters are inverted relative to D-glucose. That leaves 14 diastereomers of D-glucose: these are molecules in which at least one, but not all, of the stereocenters are inverted relative to D-glucose. One of these 14 diastereomers, a sugar called D-galactose, is shown above: in D-galactose, one of four stereocenters is inverted relative to D-glucose. Diastereomers which differ in only one stereocenter (out of two or more) are called epimers. D-glucose and D-galactose can therefore be refered to as epimers as well as diastereomers.