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IUPAC name Aziridine
Other names Azacyclopropane, Ethylene imine
CAS number 151-56-4
Molecular formula C2H5N
Molar mass 43.07 g mol-1
Except where noted otherwise, data are given for
materials in their standard state
(at 25 °C, 100 kPa)

Infobox disclaimer and references

Aziridines are a group of organic compounds sharing the aziridine functional group which is a three membered heterocycle with one amine group and two methylene groups.[1][2] The parent compound of the aziridines is called aziridine (or ethylene imine) with molecular formula C2H5N (CAS 151-56-4).

Additional recommended knowledge



The bond angles in aziridine are around 60° which is considerably shorter than the bond angle of 109.5° found in ordinary hydrocarbons and this results in angle strain just like in the comparable cyclopropane and oxirane molecules. Bonding in this type of compound can be explained by invoking a banana bond model. Aziridine is less basic than acyclic aliphatic amines with a pKa of 7.9 for the conjugate acid due to increased s character of the nitrogen free electron pair. Increased angle strain in aziridine is also responsible for increased barrier for nitrogen inversion. This barrier is high enough for the isolation of separate invertomers for instance the cis and trans invertomers of N-chloro-2-methylaziridine.


Aziridines can be prepared in organic synthesis in several ways.

Cyclization of haloamines and amino alcohols

An amine functional group displaces the adjacent halide in an intramolecular nucleophilic substitution reaction to generate an aziridine. Amino alcohols have the same reactivity but it is required to convert the hydroxy group into a good leaving group first. The cyclization of an amino alcohol is called a Wenker synthesis (1935) and that of a haloamine the Gabriel ethylenimine method (1888) [3]

Nitrene addition

Nitrene addition to alkenes is a well established method for the synthesis of aziridines. Photolysis or thermolysis of azides are a good way to generate nitrenes. Nitrenes can also be prepared in-situ from iodosobenzene diacetate and sulfonamides or the ethoxycarbonylnitrene from the N-sulfonyloxy precursor.[4]

Triazoline decomposition

On thermal treatment or photolysis of triazolines, nitrogen is expelled and an aziridine remains. The required triazoline is generated from reaction of an azide with an alkene in a cycloaddition reaction.

From epoxides

One methods involves the ring-opening reaction of an epoxide with sodium azide followed by organic reduction of the azide with triphenylphosphine accompanied by expulsion of nitrogen gas:[5]


Nucleophilic ring opening

Aziridines are reactive substrates in ring opening reactions with many nucleophiles due to their ring strain. Alcoholysis and aminolysis are basically the reverse reactions of the cyclizations. Effective nucleophiles are also carbon nucleophiles such as organolithium reagent and organocuprates.

One application of a ring-opening reaction in asymmetric synthesis is that with trimethylsilylazide TMSN3 and an asymmetric ligand[6] in scheme 2[7] in an organic synthesis of oseltamivir:


Certain N-substituted azirines with electron withdrawing groups on both carbons form azomethine ylides in an electrocyclic ring opening reaction. These ylides can be trapped with a suitable dipolarophile in a 1,3-dipolar cycloaddition.


  1. ^ Heterocyclic chemistry T.L. Gilchrist ISBN 0-582-01421-2
  2. ^ Epoxides and aziridines - A mini review Albert Padwaa and S. Shaun Murphreeb Arkivoc (JC-1522R) pp 6-33 Online article
  3. ^
  4. ^ Addition reactions of ethoxycarbonylnitrene and ethoxycarbonylnitrenium ion to allylic ethers M. Antonietta Loreto, Lucio Pellacani, Paolo A. Tardella, and Elena Toniato Tetrahedron Letters, Volume 25, Issue 38, 1984, Pages 4271-4274 Abstract
  5. ^ Readily Available Unprotected Amino Aldehydes Ryan Hili and Andrei K. Yudin J. Am. Chem. Soc.; 2006; 128(46) pp 14772 - 14773; (Communication) doi:10.1021/ja065898s
  6. ^ De Novo Synthesis of Tamiflu via a Catalytic Asymmetric Ring-Opening of meso-Aziridines with TMSN3 Yuhei Fukuta, Tsuyoshi Mita, Nobuhisa Fukuda, Motomu Kanai, and Masakatsu Shibasaki J. Am. Chem. Soc.; 2006; 128(19) pp 6312 - 6313; Abstract
  7. ^ The catalyst is based on yttrium with three isopropyloxy substituents, the ligand is a phosphine oxide (Ph = phenyl). with 91% enantiomeric excess (ee)

Human Toxicology

The toxicology of any specific aziridine compound will depend on its own structure and activity although sharing the general characteristics of the aziridine group. As an electrophile, aziridines are subject to attack and ring-opening by endogenous nucleophiles such as nitrogenous bases in DNA base pairs, resulting in potential mutagenicity.


Inhalation and direct contact. It is noted in some reports that even when gloves have been used these have not prevented permeation of aziridine. It is therefore important that users check the breakthrough permeation times for gloves and pay scrupulous attention to avoiding contamination when degloving.


The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has reviewed aziridine compounds and classified them as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B). In making the overall evaluation, the IARC Working Group took into consideration that aziridine is a direct acting alkylating agent which is mutagenic in a wide range of test systems and forms DNA adducts that are promutagenic.


Irritant effects are caused to mucosal surfaces e.g. eyes, nose, respiratory tract and skin.


Aziridine rapidly penetrates skin on skin contact.

Skin sensitiser - causing allergic contact dermatitis and urticaria.

Respiratory sensitiser - causing occupational asthma


L. Kanerva, H. Keskinen, P. Autio, T. Estlander, M. Tuppurainen, R. Jolanki Occupational respiratory and skin sensitization caused by polyfunctional aziridine hardener Clinical & Experimental Allergy 1995; 25 (5), 432–439.

Sartorelli P, Pistolesi P, Cioni F, Napoli R, Sisinni AG, Bellussi L, Passali GC, Cherubini Di Simplicio E, Flori L. Skin and respiratory allergic disease caused by polyfunctional aziridine Med Lav. 2003;94(3):285-95.

Mapp CE, Agents, old and new, causing occupational asthma Occup. Environ. Med. 2001;58;354-60

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Aziridine". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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