Counterion influence on chemical shifts in strychnine salts


Correspondence to: John R. Cort, PNNL, PO Box 999, MSIN: K8-98, Richland WA 99352, USA. E-mail:


The highly toxic plant alkaloid strychnine is often isolated in the form of the anion salt of its protonated tertiary amine. Here, we characterize the relative influence of different counterions on 1H and 13C chemical shifts in several strychnine salts in D2O, methanol-d4 (CD3OD), and chloroform-d (CDCl3) solvents. In organic solvents but not in water, substantial variation in chemical shifts of protons near the tertiary amine was observed among different salts. These secondary shifts reveal differences in the way each anion influences electronic structure within the protonated amine. The distributions of secondary shifts allow salts to be easily distinguished from each other as well as from the free base form. Slight concentration dependence in chemical shifts of some protons near the amine was observed for two salts in CDCl3, but this effect is small compared with the influence of the counterion. Distinct chemical shifts in different salt forms of the same compound may be useful as chemical forensic signatures for source attribution and sample matching of alkaloids such as strychnine and possibly other organic acid and base salts. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.