Pyrrole, or pyrrol, is a heterocyclic aromatic organic compound, a five-membered ring with the formula C4H4NH.
Substituted derivatives are also called pyrroles. For example, C4H4NCH3 is N-methylpyrrole. Porphobilinogen is a trisubstituted pyrrole, which is the biosynthetic precursor to many natural products.
Pyrroles are components of more complex macrocycles, including the porphyrins of heme, the chlorins and bacteriochlorins of chlorophyll, and porphyrinogens.
Pyrrole has very low basicity compared to amines
and other aromatic compounds like pyridine
, wherin the ring nitrogen
is not bonded to a hydrogen atom
. This decreased basicity is attributed to the delocalization of the lone pair
of the nitrogen atom in the aromatic ring. Pyrrole is a very weak base with a pKaH
of about −4. Protonation results in loss of aromaticity, and is, therefore, unfavorable.
Many methods exist for the organic synthesis
of pyrrole and its derivatives. Classic named reactions are the Knorr pyrrole synthesis
, the Hantzch pyrrole synthesis
, and the Paal-Knorr synthesis
The starting materials in the Piloty-Robinson pyrrole synthesis are 2 equivalents of an aldehyde and hydrazine. The product is a pyrrole with specific substituents in the 3 and 4 positions. The aldehyde reacts with the diamine to an intermediate di-imine (R–C=N−N=C–R), which, with added hydrochloric acid, gives ring-closure and loss of ammonia to the pyrrole.
In one modification, propionaldehyde is reacted first with hydrazine and then with benzoyl chloride at high temperatures and assisted by microwave irradiation:
In the second step, a [3,3]sigmatropic reaction takes place between two intermediates.
Both NH and CH protons in pyrroles are moderately acidic and can be deprotonated
with strong bases
such as butyllithium
and the metal hydrides
. The resulting "pyrrolides" are nucleophilic
. Trapping of the conjugate base
with an electrophile
(e.g., an alkyl or acyl halide
) reveals which sites were deprotonated based on which ring positions actually react as nucleophiles. The product distribution of such a reaction can often be complex and depends on the base used (especially the counterion, such as lithium from butyllithium or sodium from sodium hydride), existing substitution of the pyrrole, and the electrophile.
The resonance contributors of pyrrole provide insight to the reactivity of the compound. Like furan and thiophene, pyrrole is more reactive than benzene towards nucleophilic aromatic substitution because it is able to stabilize the positive charge of the intermediate carbanion. This is because the nitrogen can donate a lone pair into the ring by resonance
Pyrrole undergoes electrophilic aromatic substitution predominantly at the 2 and 5 positions, though the substitution product at positions 3 and 4 is obtained in low yields. Two such reactions that are especially significant for producing functionalized pyrroles are the Mannich reaction and the Vilsmeier-Haack reaction (depicted below) , both of which are compatible with a variety of pyrrole substrates. Reaction of pyrroles with formaldehyde form porphyrins.
Pyrrole compounds can also participate in cycloaddition (Diels-Alder) reactions under certain conditions, such as Lewis acid catalysis, heating, or high pressure.
In a 1994 report released by five top cigarette companies, pyrrole is one of the 599 additives to cigarettes.