Finding the right (bioorthogonal) chemistry

ACS Chem Biol. 2014 Mar 21;9(3):592-605. doi: 10.1021/cb400828a. Epub 2014 Jan 30.


Bioorthogonal chemistries can be used to tag diverse classes of biomolecules in cells and other complex environments. With over 20 unique transformations now available, though, selecting an appropriate reaction for a given experiment is challenging. In this article, we compare and contrast the most common classes of bioorthogonal chemistries and provide a framework for matching the reactions with downstream applications. We also discuss ongoing efforts to identify novel biocompatible reactions and methods to control their reactivity. The continued expansion of the bioorthogonal toolkit will provide new insights into biomolecule networks and functions and thus refine our understanding of living systems.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biochemistry / methods*
  • Chemistry Techniques, Synthetic / methods*
  • Chemistry, Pharmaceutical / methods*
  • Cycloaddition Reaction