Biological and Medicinal Chemistry

Substituents of life: The most common substituent patterns present in natural products


  • Peter Ertl Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research


Comparison of substituents present in natural products with the substituents found in average synthetic molecules revealed considerable differences between these 2 groups. The natural products substituents contain mostly oxygen atoms and very little other heteroatoms, are structurally more complex, often containing double bonds and are rich in stereocenters. Substituents found in synthetic molecules contain nitrogen and sulfur atoms, halogenes and more aromatic and particularly heteroaromatic rings. The characteristics of substituents typical for natural products identified here can be useful in the medicinal chemistry context, for example to guide the synthesis of natural product-like libraries and natural product-inspired fragment collections. The results may be used also to support compound derivatization strategies and the design of pseudo-natural natural products.


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Supplementary weblinks

natural product substituents
The 2003 substituents typical for NPs that are present in the database 10 or more times encoded as SMILES.