Structural formula of nitroso group

In organic chemistry, nitroso refers to a functional group in which the nitric oxide (−N=O) group is attached to an organic moiety. As such, various nitroso groups can be categorized as C-nitroso compounds (e.g., nitrosoalkanes; R−N=O), S-nitroso compounds (nitrosothiols; RS−N=O), N-nitroso compounds (e.g., nitrosamines, RN(−R’)−N=O), and O-nitroso compounds (alkyl nitrites; RO−N=O).


Nitroso compounds can be prepared by the reduction of nitro compounds[1] or by the oxidation of hydroxylamines.[2] Ortho-nitrosophenols may be produced by the Baudisch reaction. In the Fischer–Hepp rearrangement aromatic 4-nitrosoanilines are prepared from the corresponding nitrosamines.


Structure of 2-nitrosotoluene dimer[3]

Nitrosoarenes typically participate in a monomer–dimer equilibrium. The dimers, which are often pale yellow, are often favored in the solid state, whereas the deep-green monomers are favored in dilute solution or at higher temperatures. They exist as cis and trans isomers.[4]

Due to the stability of the nitric oxide free radical, nitroso organyls tend to have very low C–N bond dissociation energies: nitrosoalkanes have BDEs on the order of 30–40 kcal/mol (130–170 kJ/mol), while nitrosoarenes have BDEs on the order of 50–60 kcal/mol (210–250 kJ/mol). As a consequence, they are generally heat- and light-sensitive. Compounds containing O–(NO) or N–(NO) bonds generally have even lower bond dissociation energies. For instance, N-nitrosodiphenylamine, Ph2N–N=O, has a N–N bond dissociation energy of only 23 kcal/mol (96 kJ/mol).[5] Organonitroso compounds serve as a ligands for transition metals.[6]


Many reaction exists which make use of an intermediate nitroso compound, such as the Barton reaction and Davis–Beirut reaction, as well as in the synthesis of indoles, for example: Baeyer–Emmerling indole synthesis, Bartoli indole synthesis. In the Saville reaction, mercury is used to replace a nitrosyl from a thiol group.

Nitrosation vs. nitrosylation

Nitrite can enter two kinds of reaction, depending on the physico-chemical environment.

Many primary alkyl N-nitroso compounds, such as CH3N(H)NO, tend to be unstable with respect to hydrolysis to the alcohol. Those derived from secondary amines (e.g., (CH3)2NNO derived from dimethylamine) are more robust. It is these N-nitrosamines that are carcinogens in rodents.

Nitrosyl in inorganic chemistry

Linear and bent metal nitrosyls

Nitrosyls are non-organic compounds containing the NO group, for example directly bound to the metal via the N atom, giving a metal–NO moiety. Alternatively, a nonmetal example is the common reagent nitrosyl chloride (Cl−N=O). Nitric oxide is a stable radical, having an unpaired electron. Reduction of nitric oxide gives the nitrosyl anion, NO:

Oxidation of NO yields the nitrosonium cation, NO+:

Nitric oxide can serve as a ligand forming metal nitrosyl complexes or just metal nitrosyls. These complexes can be viewed as adducts of NO+, NO, or some intermediate case.

In food


In foodstuffs and in the gastro-intestinal tract, nitrosation and nitrosylation do not have the same consequences on consumer health.

See also


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