"Strong" hydrogen bonds in chemistry and biology

Annu Rev Phys Chem. 1997;48:511-44. doi: 10.1146/annurev.physchem.48.1.511.


Hydrogen bonds are a key feature of chemical structure and reactivity. Recently there has been much interest in a special class of hydrogen bonds called "strong" or "low-barrier" and characterized by great strength, short distances, a low or vanishing barrier to hydrogen transfer, and distinctive features in the NMR spectrum. Although the energy of an ordinary hydrogen bond is ca 5 kcal mol-1, the strength of these hydrogen bonds may be > or = 10 kcal mol-1. The properties of these hydrogen bonds have been investigated by many experimental techniques, as well as by calculation and by correlations among those properties. Although it has been proposed that strong, short, low-barrier hydrogen bonds are important in enzymatic reactions, it is concluded that the evidence for them in small molecules and in biomolecules is inconclusive.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biology*
  • Chemical Phenomena
  • Chemistry, Physical*
  • Hydrogen Bonding
  • Molecular Structure
  • Serine Endopeptidases / chemistry
  • Solutions
  • Steroid Isomerases / chemistry
  • Thermodynamics


  • Solutions
  • Serine Endopeptidases
  • Steroid Isomerases