Bioorthogonal chemistry: fishing for selectivity in a sea of functionality

Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 2009;48(38):6974-98. doi: 10.1002/anie.200900942.


The study of biomolecules in their native environments is a challenging task because of the vast complexity of cellular systems. Technologies developed in the last few years for the selective modification of biological species in living systems have yielded new insights into cellular processes. Key to these new techniques are bioorthogonal chemical reactions, whose components must react rapidly and selectively with each other under physiological conditions in the presence of the plethora of functionality necessary to sustain life. Herein we describe the bioorthogonal chemical reactions developed to date and how they can be used to study biomolecules.

MeSH terms

  • Alkynes / chemistry*
  • Animals
  • Azides / chemistry*
  • Biochemical Phenomena
  • Biochemistry
  • Cellular Structures / chemistry
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / chemistry*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Indicators and Reagents / chemistry
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Molecular Structure
  • Staining and Labeling


  • Alkynes
  • Azides
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Indicators and Reagents
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins