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Name: Peter
Status: student
Grade: N/A
Location: RI
Country: N/A
Date: November 2006

What kinds of substances besides water can be involved in hydrogen bonding?

Since hydrogen bonding happens when a hydrogen is shared between electronegative atoms such as oxygen or nitrogen, it has important implications in many molecules other than water. Examples are in molecules that are very important in your body. In the structure of DNA, hydrogen bonds between the single strands of DNA are crucial in stabilizing the structure of the double helix, which in turn makes DNA such a stable and useful molecule.

You can see the hydrogen bonding between the DNA bases here:

Also, hydrogen bonds are very important in proteins as well. Certain side chains which are found in proteins have hydrogen bond donor and acceptor groups (donating a hydrogen or accepting a hydrogen through a lone pair), and these interactions are also important in stabilizing an active structure for the protein, as well as in the function of many proteins, such as serine proteases, which help you break down and digest protein in food.

If you are interested, the mechanism for how these proteins work is shown at:

Hope that helps,

Ethan Greenblatt
Stanford Department of Chemistry

Hydrogen is the only element that acts significantly as an electron "acceptor" in hydrogen bonding. However, many more elements, especially those with "lone pairs" in their outermost orbitals -- typically groups 15, 16, 17 -- are able to provide electrons to form hydrogen bonds.

Vince Calder


Way too many substances besides water can hydrogen bond to even begin listing here. In general, any substance with a Lewis acidic or Lewis basic site can hydrogen bond. Hydrogen cation transfer, i.e. proton transfer is the essence of acid/base chemistry. Hydrogen bonding is basically an acid/base reaction with an equilibrium that is close to 50/50 so as to no involve the complete transfer of the proton. Note that only one of the two or more molecules interacting actually needs to have an acidic proton, the other(s) need to have a Lewis basic site such as the oxygen of a carbonyl, nitrogen, sulfur, phosphorus and many transition metals such as palladium, titanium and many more. I am naming specific atoms or groups of atoms, so many molecules that contain these atoms may have the ability to hydrogen bond.

Matt Voss

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