Acridine chemical structure
Preferred IUPAC name
Other names
3D model (JSmol)
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EC Number
  • 205-971-6
RTECS number
  • AR7175000
UN number 2713
  • InChI=1S/C13H9N/c1-3-7-12-10(5-1)9-11-6-2-4-8-13(11)14-12/h1-9H checkY
  • InChI=1/C13H9N/c1-3-7-12-10(5-1)9-11-6-2-4-8-13(11)14-12/h1-9H
  • n1c3c(cc2c1cccc2)cccc3
  • c1ccc2c(c1)cc3ccccc3n2
Molar mass 179.222 g·mol−1
Appearance White powder
Odor Irritating
Density 1.005 g/cm3 (20 °C)[1]
Melting point 106–110 °C (223–230 °F; 379–383 K)
at standard pressure[1]
Boiling point 344.86 °C (652.75 °F; 618.01 K)
at standard pressure[1]
46.5 mg/L[1]
Solubility Soluble in CCl4, alcohols, (C2H5)2O, C6H6[1]
log P 3.4[1]
Vapor pressure 0.34 kPa (150 °C)
2.39 kPa (200 °C)
11.13 kPa (250 °C)[4]
Acidity (pKa) 5.58 (20 °C)[1]
UV-vismax) 392 nm[5]
−123.3×10−6 cm3/mol
205.07 J/mol·K[4]
208.03 J/mol·K[4]
179.4 kJ/mol[1]
6581.3 kJ/mol[4]
GHS labelling:
GHS07: Exclamation mark[5]
H302, H312, H315, H319, H332, H335[5]
P261, P264, P270, P271, P280, P301+P312, P302+P352, P304+P312, P304+P340, P305+P351+P338, P312, P321, P322, P330, P332+P313, P337+P313, P362, P363, P403+P233, P405, P501
NFPA 704 (fire diamond)
Lethal dose or concentration (LD, LC):
500 mg/kg (mice, oral)[2]
NIOSH (US health exposure limits):
PEL (Permissible)
TWA 0.2 mg/m3 (benzene-soluble fraction)[6]
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
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Acridine is an organic compound and a nitrogen heterocycle with the formula C13H9N. Acridines are substituted derivatives of the parent ring. It is a planar molecule that is structurally related to anthracene with one of the central CH groups replaced by nitrogen. Like the related molecules pyridine and quinoline, acridine is mildly basic. It is an almost colorless solid, which crystallizes in needles. There are few commercial applications of acridines; at one time acridine dyes were popular, but they are now relegated to niche applications, such as with acridine orange. The name is a reference to the acrid odour and acrid skin-irritating effect of the compound.

Isolation and syntheses

Carl Gräbe and Heinrich Caro first isolated acridine in 1870 from coal tar.[7] Acridine is separated from coal tar by extracting with dilute sulfuric acid. Addition of potassium dichromate to this solution precipitates acridine bichromate. The bichromate is decomposed using ammonia.

Acridine and its derivatives can be prepared by many synthetic processes. In the Bernthsen acridine synthesis, diphenylamine is condensed with carboxylic acids in the presence of zinc chloride. When formic acid is the carboxylic acid, the reaction yields the parent acridine. With the higher larger carboxylic acids, the derivatives substituted at the meso carbon atom are generated.

The Bernthsen acridine synthesis
The Bernthsen acridine synthesis

Other older methods for the organic synthesis of acridines include condensing diphenylamine with chloroform in the presence of aluminium chloride, by passing the vapours of orthoaminodiphenylmethane over heated litharge, by heating salicylaldehyde with aniline and zinc chloride or by distilling acridone (9-position a carbonyl group) over zinc dust.[8] Another classic method for the synthesis of acridones is the Lehmstedt-Tanasescu reaction.

In enzymology, an acridone synthase (EC is an enzyme that catalyzes the chemical reaction

3 malonyl-CoA + N-methylanthraniloyl-CoA ⇌ 4 CoA + 1,3-dihydroxy-N-methylacridone + 3 CO2

Thus, the two substrates of this enzyme are malonyl-CoA and N-methylanthraniloyl-CoA, whereas its three products are CoA, 1,3-dihydroxy-N-methylacridone, and CO2.[9]


Acridine displays the reactions expected of an unsaturated N-heterocycle. It undergoes N-alkylation with alkyl iodides to form alkyl acridinium iodides, which are readily transformed by the action of alkaline potassium ferricyanide to N-alkyl acridones.


Acridine and its homologues are weakly basic. Acridine is a photobase which has a ground state pKa of 5.1, similar to that of pyridine, and an excited state pKa of 10.6.[10] It also shares properties with quinoline.

Reduction and oxidation

Acridines can be reduced to the 9,10-dihydroacridines, sometimes called leucoacridines. Reaction with potassium cyanide gives the 9-cyano-9,10-dehydro derivative. On oxidation with potassium permanganate, it yields acridinic acid (C9H5N(CO2H)2) otherwise known as quinoline-1,2-dicarboxylic acid.[8] Acridine is easily oxidized by peroxymonosulfuric acid to the acridine amine oxide. The carbon 9-position of acridine is activated for addition reactions.[11]


Several dyes and drugs feature the acridine skeleton.[12] Many acridines, such as proflavine, also have antiseptic properties. Acridine and related derivatives (such as amsacrine) bind to DNA and RNA due to their abilities to intercalate. Acridine orange (3,6-dimethylaminoacridine) is a nucleic acid-selective metachromatic stain useful for cell cycle determination.


At one time acridine dyes were commercially significant, but they are now uncommon because they are not lightfast. Acridine dyes are prepared by condensation of 1,3-diaminobenzene derivatives. Illustrative is the reaction of 2,4-diaminotoluene with acetaldehyde:[13]

Synthesis of C.I. Basic Yellow 9, an acridine dye.

9-Phenylacridine is the parent base of chrysaniline or 3,6-diamino-9-phenylacridine, which is the chief constituent of the dyestuff phosphine (not to be confused with phosphine gas), a byproduct in the manufacture of rosaniline. Chrysaniline forms red-coloured salts, which dye silk and wool in a fine yellow; and the solutions of the salts are characterized by their fine yellowish-green fluorescence. Chrysaniline was synthesized by O. Fischer and G. Koerner by condensing o-nitrobenzaldehyde with aniline, the resulting o-nitro-p-diaminotriphenylmethane being reduced to the corresponding o-amino compound, which on oxidation yields chrysaniline.

Benzoflavin, an isomer of chrysaniline, is also a dyestuff, and has been prepared by K. Oehler from m-phenylenediamine and benzaldehyde. These substances condense to form tetraaminotriphenylmethane, which, on heating with acids, loses ammonia and yields 3,6-diamino-9,10-dihydrophenylacridine, from which benzoflavin is obtained by oxidation. It is a yellow powder, soluble in hot water.[8]

Molecular biology

Acridine is known to induce small insertions or deletions in nucleotide sequences, resulting in frameshift mutations.[14] This compound was useful to identify the triplet nature of the genetic codes.[14]


As established by X-ray crystallography, acridine has been obtained in eight polymorphs. All feature very similar planar molecules with nearly identical bond lengths and bond distances.[15][16]


Acridine is a skin irritant. Its LD50 (rats, oral) is 2,000 mg/kg and 500 mg/kg (mice, oral).[2]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Lide DR, ed. (2009). CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics (90th ed.). Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press. ISBN 978-1-4200-9084-0.
  2. ^ a b c d "MSDS of Acridine". Fisher Scientific. Retrieved 2014-06-22.
  3. ^ Nomenclature of Organic Chemistry : IUPAC Recommendations and Preferred Names 2013 (Blue Book). Cambridge: The Royal Society of Chemistry. 2014. pp. 211, 214. doi:10.1039/9781849733069-FP001. ISBN 978-0-85404-182-4.
  4. ^ a b c d Acridine in Linstrom, Peter J.; Mallard, William G. (eds.); NIST Chemistry WebBook, NIST Standard Reference Database Number 69, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg (MD) (retrieved 2014-06-22)
  5. ^ a b c Sigma-Aldrich Co., Acridine. Retrieved on 2014-06-22.
  6. ^ NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards. "#0145". National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
  7. ^ Gräbe C, Caro H (July 1870). "Ueber Acridin". Berichte der Deutschen Chemischen Gesellschaft (in German). 3 (2): 746–747. doi:10.1002/cber.18700030223.
  8. ^ a b c  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm H, ed. (1911). "Acridine". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 155.
  9. ^ Maier W, Baumert A, Schumann B, Furukawa H, Gröger D (1993). "Synthesis of 1,3-dihydroxy-N-methylacridone and its conversion to rutacridone by cell-free extracts of Ruta-graveolens cell cultures". Phytochemistry. 32 (3): 691–698. Bibcode:1993PChem..32..691M. doi:10.1016/S0031-9422(00)95155-0.
  10. ^ Joseph R. Lakowicz. Principles of Fluorescence Spectroscopy 3rd edition. Springer (2006). ISBN 978-0387-31278-1. Chapter 7. page 260.
  11. ^ G. Collin, H. Höke,"Acridine" in Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry 2012, Wiley-VCH, Weinheim.doi:10.1002/14356007.a01_147
  12. ^ Denny (2002). "Acridine Derivatives as Chemotherapeutic Agents". Current Medicinal Chemistry. 9 (18): 1655–65. doi:10.2174/0929867023369277. PMID 12171548.
  13. ^ Gessner T, Mayer U. "Triarylmethane and Diarylmethane Dyes". Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. Weinheim: Wiley-VCH. doi:10.1002/14356007.a27_179. ISBN 978-3527306732.
  14. ^ a b Krebs JE, Goldstein ES, Kilpatrick ST (2017-03-02). Lewin's GENES XII. Jones & Bartlett Learning. pp. 157, 2927. ISBN 978-1-284-10449-3.
  15. ^ Stephens PW, Schur E, Lapidus SH, Bernstein J (2019). "Acridine form IX". Acta Crystallographica Section E. 75 (4): 489–491. Bibcode:2019AcCrE..75..489S. doi:10.1107/S2056989019003645. PMC 6509685. PMID 31161062. S2CID 174807725.
  16. ^ Schur E, Bernstein J, Price LS, Guo R, Price SL, Lapidus SH, Stephens PW (2019). "The (Current) Acridine Solid Form Landscape: Eight Polymorphs and a Hydrate" (PDF). Crystal Growth & Design. 19 (8): 4884–4893. doi:10.1021/acs.cgd.9b00557. S2CID 198349955.