Project Details Glossary of Small Molecules of Biological Interest

Project No.:
Start Date:
01 April 2011
End Date:


An authoritative source of accepted names, structure, numbering, and naming of derivatives, of important biological molecules, for which it is currently difficult to find such information.


Metabolism depends on a range of particular molecules which act as enzyme substrates, prosthetic groups and cosubstrates, or are involved in other biochemical processes. The quantitative study of these compounds in living systems represents the new field of Metabolomics. Some of are derived from vitamins.

At present, it is not easy to find nomenclature information about some of these compounds, such as thiamine diphosphate, riboflavin and coenzyme A. Some are not described in any IUPAC document. It is not obvious how the atoms are numbered, and how to name derivatives. There are many alternative names in the literature, leading to confusion. A IUPAC document which listed biochemical compounds was published in 1966. Some of them are now described in more comprehensive documents; many other compounds have subsequently been discovered. Information on most of them, and many more, may be found in databases such as PubChem and ChEBI, the Protein Databank and Bioinformatics websites such as KEGG.

The aim of this project is to make a bridge between biochemical and chemical terminology, so that compounds can be identified more easily.
The criteria for addition of compounds to the list will include frequency of use in the literature of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and their importance in Pharmacy and Nutrition. Entries will include IUPAC name, accepted name, synonyms, biological function, molecular formula, graphical structure, INCHI, numbering, charge, mass, INN, CAS Registry Number and links to the IUPAC/IUBMB enzyme list.
This project will bring together representatives of the Biochemical Nomenclature committees of IUPAC and IUBMB, and of ChEBI, the Protein Databank, BRENDA enzyme database, and other online resources.


July 2011 – project announcement published in Chem. Int. July-August, p. 20