C–H···O interaction

In chemistry, a C–H···O interaction is occasionally described as a special type of weak hydrogen bond. These interactions frequently occur in the structures of important biomolecules like amino acids, proteins, sugars, DNA and RNA.[1][2]


The C–H···O interaction was discovered in 1937 by Samuel Glasstone. Glasstone studied properties of mixtures of acetone with different halogenated derivatives of hydrocarbons and realized that dipole moments of these mixtures differ from dipole moments of pure substances. He explained this by establishing the concept of C–H···O interactions.


Similar to hydrogen bonds, a C–H···O interaction involves interactions of dipoles and therefore has directionality.[3] The directionality of a C–H···O interaction is usually defined by the angle α between the С, Н and О atoms, and the distance d between the O and H atoms. In a С–Н···О interaction, the angle α is in the range between 90 and 180°, and the distance d is usually smaller than 3.2 Å.[4] In the case of aromatic C–H donors, C–H···O interactions are not linear due to influence of aromatic ring substituents near the interacting C-H group.[5][6]

C–H···O interactions can be important in drug design, being present in structures of therapeutic proteins,[7][8] and nucleic acids.[9]


  1. G. R. Desiraju, T. Steiner, The Weak Hydrogen Bond in Structural Chemistry and Biology, 1999, OxfordUniversity Press, Oxford (1999).
  2. M. S. Weiss, Trends Biochem. Sci., 2001, 26, 521.
  3. T. Steiner, G. R. Desiraju, Chem. Commun., 1998, 891.
  4. T. Steiner, CrystRev, 2003, 9, 2-3, 177.
  5. D. Ž.Veljković, G. V. Janjić, S. D. Zarić, "Are C–H···O interactions linear? Case of aromatic CH donors.", CrystEngComm, 2011, 13, 5005. DOI: 10.1039/C1CE05065F
  6. J. Lj. Dragelj, G. V. Janjić, D. Ž. Veljković and S. D. Zarić, "Crystallographic and ab initio Study of Pyridine CH/O Interactions. Linearity of the interactions and influence of pyridine classical hydrogen bonds", CrystEngComm, (2013), vol. 15, 10481. DOI: 10.1039/C3CE40759D
  7. K. Ramanathan, V. Shanthi, R. Sethumadhavan, Int J Pharm Pharm Sci, 2011, 3, 3, 324.
  8. D. P. Malenov, G. V. Janjić, D. Ž. Veljković, S. D. Zarić, "Mutual influence of parallel, CH/O, OH/π and lone pair/π interactions in water/benzene/water system", Computational and Theoretical Chemistry, (2013), vol. 1018, 59 - 65. DOI: 10.1016/j.comptc.2013.05.030
  9. D. Ž Veljković, V. B Medakovic, J. M. Andric and S. D. Zaric, "C–H/O interactions of nucleic bases with water molecule. Crystallographic and quantum chemical study.", CrystEngComm, 2014., DOI: 10.1039/C4CE00595C
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