Dicarboxylic acid

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A dicarboxylic acid is an organic compound containing two carboxyl functional groups (−COOH). The general molecular formula for dicarboxylic acids can be written as HO2C−R−CO2H, where R can be aliphatic or aromatic. In general, dicarboxylic acids show similar chemical behavior and reactivity to monocarboxylic acids. Dicarboxylic acids are also used in the preparation of copolymers such as polyamides and polyesters. The most widely used dicarboxylic acid in the industry is adipic acid, which is a precursor used in the production of nylon. Other examples of dicarboxylic acids include aspartic acid and glutamic acid, two amino acids in the human body.

Linear saturated dicarboxylic acids[edit]

General formula HO2C(CH2)nCO2H.[1] The PubChem links gives access to a wealth of information on the compounds.

n Common name Systematic IUPAC name Structure pKa1 pKa2 PubChem
0 Oxalic acid ethanedioic acid Oxalic acid.png 1.27 4.27 971
1 Malonic acid propanedioic acid Malonic acid structure.png 2.85 5.05 867
2 Succinic acid butanedioic acid Succinic acid.png 4.21 5.41 1110
3 Glutaric acid pentanedioic acid Glutaric acid.png 4.34 5.41 743
4 Adipic acid hexanedioic acid Adipic acid structure.png 4.41 5.41 196
5 Pimelic acid heptanedioic acid Pimelic acid.png 4.50 5.43 385
6 Suberic acid octanedioic acid Suberic acid.png 4.526 5.498 10457
7 Azelaic acid nonanedioic acid Azelaic acid.svg 4.550 5.498 2266
8 Sebacic acid decanedioic acid Sebacic acid.png 5192
10 dodecanedioic acid Dodecanedioic acid structure.svg 12736
11 Brassylic acid tridecanedioic acid 10458
12 Thapsic acid hexadecanedioic acid 10459


  • Pimelic acid (Greek pimelh, fat) was also first isolated from oxidized oil. Derivatives of pimelic acid are involved in the biosynthesis of lysine.
  • Suberic acid was first produced by nitric acid oxidation of cork (Latin suber). This acid is also produced when castor oil is oxidised. Suberic acid is used in the manufacture of alkyd resins and in the synthesis of polyamides (nylon variants).
  • Azelaic acid's name stems from the action of nitric acid (azote, nitrogen, or azotic, nitric) oxidation of oleic acid or elaidic acid. It was detected among products of rancid fats. Its origin explains for its presence in poorly preserved samples of linseed oil and in specimens of ointment removed from Egyptian tombs 5000 years old. Azelaic acid was prepared by oxidation of oleic acid with potassium permanganate, but now by oxidative cleavage of oleic acid with chromic acid or by ozonolysis. Azelaic acid is used, as simple esters or branched-chain esters) in the manufacture of plasticizers (for vinyl chloride resins, rubber), lubricants and greases. Azelaic acid is now used in cosmetics (treatment of acne). It displays bacteriostatic and bactericidal properties against a variety of aerobic and anaerobic micro-organisms present on acne-bearing skin. . Azelaic acid was identified as a molecule that accumulated at elevated levels in some parts of plants and was shown to be able to enhance the resistance of plants to infections.[2]
  • Sebacic acid, named from sebum (tallow). Thenard isolated this compound from distillation products of beef tallow in 1802. It is produced industrially by alkali fission of castor oil.[3] Sebacic acid and its derivatives have a variety of industrial uses as plasticizers, lubricants, diffusion pump oils, cosmetics, candles, etc. It is also used in the synthesis of polyamide, as nylon, and of alkyd resins. An isomer, isosebacic acid, has several applications in the manufacture of vinyl resin plasticizers, extrusion plastics, adhesives, ester lubricants, polyesters, polyurethane resins and synthetic rubber.
  • Dodecanedioic acid is used in the production of nylon (nylon-6,12), polyamides, coatings, adhesives, greases, polyesters, dyestuffs, detergents, flame retardants, and fragrances. It is now produced by fermentation of long-chain alkanes with a specific strain of Candida tropicalis.[4] Traumatic acid is its monounsaturated counterpart.

Japan wax is a mixture containing triglycerides of C21, C22 and C23 dicarboxylic acids obtained from the sumac tree (Rhus sp.).

A large survey of the dicarboxylic acids present in Mediterranean nuts revealed unusual components.[5] A total of 26 minor acids (from 2 in pecan to 8% in peanut) were determined: 8 species derived from succinic acid, likely in relation with photosynthesis, and 18 species with a chain from 5 to 22 carbon atoms. Higher weight acids (>C20) are found in suberin present at vegetal surfaces (outer bark, root epidermis). C16 to C26 a, ω-dioic acids are considered as diagnostic for suberin. With C18:1 and C18:2, their content amount from 24 to 45% of whole suberin. They are present at low levels (< 5%) in plant cutin, except in Arabidopsis thaliana where their content can be higher than 50%.[6]

It was shown that hyperthermophilic microorganisms specifically contained a large variety of dicarboxylic acids.[7] This is probably the most important difference between these microorganisms and other marine bacteria. Dioic fatty acids from C16 to C22 were found in an hyperthermophilic archaeon, Pyrococcus furiosus. Short and medium chain (up to 11 carbon atoms) dioic acids have been discovered in Cyanobacteria of the genus Aphanizomenon.[8]

Dicarboxylic acids may be produced by ω-oxidation of fatty acids during their catabolism. It was discovered that these compounds appeared in urine after administration of tricaprin and triundecylin. Although the significance of their biosynthesis remains poorly understood, it was demonstrated that ω-oxidation occurs in rat liver but at a low rate, needs oxygen, NADPH and cytochrome P450. It was later shown that this reaction is more important in starving or diabetic animals where 15% of palmitic acid is subjected to ω-oxidation and then tob-oxidation,this generates malonyl-coA which is further used in saturated fatty acid synthesis.[9] The determination of the dicarboxylic acids generated by permanganate-periodate oxidation of monoenoic fatty acids was useful to study the position of the double bond in the carbon chain.[10]

Branched-chain dicarboxylic acids[edit]

Long-chain dicarboxylic acids containing vicinal dimethyl branching near the centre of the carbon chain have been discovered in the genus Butyrivibrio, bacteria which participate in the digestion of cellulose in the rumen.[11] These fatty acids, named diabolic acids, have a chain length depending on the fatty acid used in the culture medium. The most abundant diabolic acid in Butyrivibrio had a 32-carbon chain length. Diabolic acids were also detected in the core lipids of the genus Thermotoga of the order Thermotogales, bacteria living in solfatara springs, deep-sea marine hydrothermal systems and high-temperature marine and continental oil fields.[12] It was shown that about 10% of their lipid fraction were symmetrical C30 to C34 diabolic acids. The C30 (13,14-dimethyloctacosanedioic acid) and C32 (15,16-dimethyltriacontanedioic acid) diabolic acids have been described in Thermotoga maritima.[13]

Some parent C29 to C32 diacids but with methyl groups on the carbons C-13 and C-16 have been isolated and characterized from the lipids of thermophilic anaerobic eubacterium Themanaerobacter ethanolicus.[14] The most abundant diacid was the C30 a,ω-13,16-dimethyloctacosanedioic acid.

Biphytanic diacids are present in geological sediments and are considered as tracers of past anaerobic oxidation of methane.[15] Several forms without or with one or two pentacyclic rings have been detected in Cenozoic seep limestones. These lipids may be unrecognized metabolites from Archaea.


Crocetin is the core compound of crocins (crocetin glycosides) which are the main red pigments of the stigmas of saffron (Crocus sativus) and the fruits of gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides). Crocetin is a 20-carbon chain dicarboxylic acid which is a diterpenenoid and can be considered as a carotenoid. It was the first plant carotenoid to be recognized as early as 1818 while the history of saffron cultivation reaches back more than 3,000 years. The major active ingredient of saffron is the yellow pigment crocin 2 (three other derivatives with different glycosylations are known) containing a gentiobiose (disaccharide) group at each end of the molecule. A simple and specific HPLC-UV method has been developed to quantify the five major biologically active ingredients of saffron, namely the four crocins and crocetin.[16]

Unsaturated dicarboxylic acids[edit]

Main articles: Maleic acid and Fumaric acid
Type Common name IUPAC name Isomer Structural formula PubChem
Monounsaturated Maleic acid (Z)-Butenedioic acid cis Maleic-acid-2D-skeletal-A.png 444266
Fumaric acid (E)-Butenedioic acid trans Fumaric-acid-2D-skeletal.png 444972
Glutaconic acid Pent-2-enedioic acid cis Glutaconic acid cis vinyl-H.png 5280498
trans Glutaconic acid trans vinyl-H.png
Traumatic acid Dodec-2-enedioic acid Traumatic acid structure.png 5283028
Diunsaturated Muconic acid (2E,4E)-Hexa-2,4-dienedioic acid trans,trans Muconic acid EE.png 5280614
cis,trans Muconic acid EZ.png
cis,cis Muconic acid ZZ.png
Glutinic acid
(Allene-1,3-dicarboxylic acid)
(6CI,7CI,8CI); (RS)-2,3-Pentadienedioic acid HO2CCH=C=CHCO2H 5242834
Branched Citraconic acid (2Z)-2-Methylbut-2-enedioic acid cis HO2CCH=C(CH3)CO2H 643798
Mesaconic acid (2E)-2-Methyl-2-butenedioic acid trans HO2CCH=C(CH3)CO2H 638129

Traumatic acid, was among the first biologically active molecules isolated from plant tissues. This dicarboxylic acid was shown to be a potent wound healing agent in plant that stimulates cell division near a wound site,[17] it derives from 18:2 or 18:3 fatty acid hydroperoxides after conversion into oxo- fatty acids.

trans,trans-Muconic acid is a metabolite of benzene in humans. The determination of its concentration in urine is therefore used as a biomarker of occupational or environmental exposure to benzene.[18][19]

Glutinic acid, a substituted allene, was isolated from Alnus glutinosa (Betulaceae).[20]

While polyunsaturated fatty acids are unusual in plant cuticles, a diunsaturated dicarboxylic acid has been reported as a component of the surface waxes or polyesters of some plant species. Thus, octadeca-c6,c9-diene-1,18-dioate, a derivative of linoleic acid, is present in Arabidopsis and Brassica napus cuticle.[21]


Itaconic acid
PubChem 811

Several dicarboxylic acids having an alkyl side chain and an itaconate core have been isolated from lichens and fungi, itaconic acid (methylenesuccinic acid) being a metabolite produced by filamentous fungi. Among these compounds, several analogues, called chaetomellic acids with different chain lengths and degrees of unsaturation have been isolated from various species of the lichen Chaetomella. These molecules were shown to be valuable as basis for the development of anticancer drugs due to their strong farnesyltransferase inhibitory effects.[22]

A series of alkyl- and alkenyl-itaconates, known as ceriporic acids (Pub Chem 52921868), were found in cultures of a selective lignin-degrading fungus (white rot fungus), Ceriporiopsis subvermispora.[23][24] The absolute configuration of ceriporic acids, their stereoselective biosynthetic pathway and the diversity of their metabolites have been discussed in detail.[25]

Substituted dicarboxylic acids[edit]

Common name IUPAC name Structural formula PubChem
Malic acid Hydroxybutanedioic acid Äpfelsäure3.svg 525
Aspartic acid 2-Aminobutanedioic acid Asparaginsäure - Aspartic acid.svg 5960
Glutamic acid 2-Aminopentanedioic acid Glutaminsäure - Glutamic acid.svg 611
Tartronic acid 2-Hydroxypropanedioic acid Tartronic acid.svg 45
Tartaric acid 2,3-Dihydroxybutanedioic acid Tartaric acid.svg 875
Diaminopimelic acid (2R,6S)-2,6-Diaminoheptanedioic acid Diaminopimelic acid.svg 865
Saccharic acid (2S,3S,4S,5R)-2,3,4,5-Tetrahydroxyhexanedioic acid Glucaric acid structure.svg 33037
Mesoxalic acid Oxopropanedioic acid Mesoxalic acid.png 10132
Oxaloacetic acid Oxobutanedioic acid Oxaloacetic acid.png 970
Acetonedicarboxylic acid 3-Oxopentanedioic acid Acetonedicarboxylic acid.png 68328
Arabinaric acid 2,3,4-Trihydroxypentanedioic acid 109475

Aromatic dicarboxylic acids[edit]

Common names IUPAC name Structure PubChem
Phthalic acid
o-phthalic acid
Benzene-1,2-dicarboxylic acid Phthalic-acid-2D-skeletal.png 1017
Isophthalic acid
m-phthalic acid
Benzene-1,3-dicarboxylic acid Isophthalic-acid-2D-skeletal.png 8496
Terephthalic acid
p-phthalic acid
Benzene-1,4-dicarboxylic acid Terephthalic-acid-2D-skeletal.png 7489
Diphenic acid
Biphenyl-2,2′-dicarboxylic acid
2-(2-Carboxyphenyl)benzoic acid Diphenic Acid Structural Formula V.1.svg 10210
2,6-Naphthalenedicarboxylic acid 2,6-Naphthalenedicarboxylic acid 2,6-Naphthalenedicarboxylic acid.svg 14357

Terephthalic acid is a commodity chemical used in the manufacture of the polyester known by brand names such as PET, Terylene, Dacron and Lavsan.


Dicarboxylic acids are crystalline solids. Solubility in water and melting point of the α,ω- compounds progress in a series as the carbon chains become longer with alternating between odd and even numbers of carbon atoms, so that for even numbers of carbon atoms the melting point is higher than for the next in the series with an odd number.[26] These compounds are weak dibasic acids with pKa tending towards values of ca. 4.5 and 5.5 as the separation between the two carboxylate groups increases. Thus, in aqueous solution at pH about 7, typical of biological systems, the Henderson–Hasselbalch equation indicates they exist predominantly as dicarboxylate anions.

Dicarboxylic acids where the carboxylic groups are separated by none or one carbon atom decompose when they are heated to give off carbon dioxide and leave behind a monocarboxylic acid.[26]

Blanc's Rule says that heating a barium salt of a dicarboxylic acid, or dehydrating it with acetic anhydride will yield a cyclic acid anhydride if the carbon atoms bearing acid groups are in position 1 and (3,4 or 5). So succinic acid will yield succinic anhydride. For acids with carboxylic groups at position 1 and 6 this dehydration causes loss of carbon dioxide and water to form a cyclic ketone, for example adipic acid will form cyclopentanone.[26]


As for monofunctional carboxylic acids, derivatives of the same types exist. However, there is the added complication that either one or two of the carboxylic groups could be altered. If only one is changed then the derivative is termed "acid", and if both ends are altered it is called "normal". These derivatives include salts, chlorides, esters, amides, and anhydrides. In the case of anhydrides or amides, two of the carboxyl groups can come together to form a cyclic compound, for example succinimide.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Boy Cornils, Peter Lappe "Dicarboxylic Acids, Aliphatic" in Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry 2006, Wiley-VCH, Weinheim. doi:10.1002/14356007.a08_523
  2. ^ Jung, Ho Won; Tschaplinski, Timothy J.; Wang, Lin; Glazebrook, Jane; Greenberg, Jean T. (2009). "Priming in Systemic Plant Immunity". Science. 324 (3 April 2009): 89–91. doi:10.1126/science.1170025. PMID 19342588. 
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  11. ^ Klein, RA; Hazlewood, GP; Kemp, P; Dawson, RM (1 December 1979). "A new series of long-chain dicarboxylic acids with vicinal dimethyl branching found as major components of the lipids of Butyrivibrio spp." (PDF). The Biochemical Journal. 183 (3): 691–700. doi:10.1042/bj1830691. PMC 1161651Freely accessible. PMID 540040. Retrieved 29 January 2015. 
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  15. ^ Birgel, Daniel; Elvert, Marcus; Han, Xiqiu; Peckmann, Jörn (January 2008). "13C-depleted biphytanic diacids as tracers of past anaerobic oxidation of methane". Organic Geochemistry. 39 (1): 152–156. doi:10.1016/j.orggeochem.2007.08.013. 
  16. ^ Li, Na; Lin, Ge; Kwan, Yiu-Wa; Min, Zhi-Da (July 1999). "Simultaneous quantification of five major biologically active ingredients of saffron by high-performance liquid chromatography". Journal of Chromatography A. 849 (2): 349–355. doi:10.1016/S0021-9673(99)00600-7. 
  17. ^ Farmer, Edward E. (1994). "Fatty acid signalling in plants and their associated microorganisms". Plant Molecular Biology. 26 (5): 1423–1437. doi:10.1007/BF00016483. 
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  19. ^ Weaver VM, Davoli CT, Heller PJ, et al. (1996). "Benzene exposure, assessed by urinary trans,trans-muconic acid, in urban children with elevated blood lead levels". Environ. Health Perspect. Brogan &#38. 104 (3): 318–23. doi:10.2307/3432891. JSTOR 3432891. PMC 1469300Freely accessible. PMID 8919771. 
  20. ^ Sati, Sushil Chandra; Sati, Nitin; Sati, O. P. (2011). "Bioactive constituents and medicinal importance of genus Alnus". Pharmacognosy Review. 5 (10): 174–183. doi:10.4103/0973-7847.91115. PMC 3263052Freely accessible. PMID 22279375. 
  21. ^ Bonaventure, Gustavo; Ohlrogge, John; Pollard, Mike (2004). "Analysis of the aliphatic monomer composition of polyesters associated with Arabidopsis epidermis: occurrence of octadeca-cis-6, cis-9-diene-1,18-dioate as the major component". The Plant Journal. 40 (6): 920–930. doi:10.1111/j.1365-313X.2004.02258.x. 
  22. ^ Singh, SB; Jayasuriya, H; Silverman, KC; Bonfiglio, CA; Williamson, JM; Lingham, RB (March 2000). "Efficient syntheses, human and yeast farnesyl-protein transferase inhibitory activities of chaetomellic acids and analogues.". Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry. 8 (3): 571–80. doi:10.1016/S0968-0896(99)00312-0. PMID 10732974.  – via ScienceDirect (Subscription may be required or content may be available in libraries.)
  23. ^ Enoki, Makiko; Watanabe, Takashi; Honda, Yoichi; Kuwahara, Masaaki (2000). "A Novel Fluorescent Dicarboxylic Acid, (Z)-1,7-Nonadecadiene-2,3-dicarboxylic Acid, Produced by White-Rot Fungus Ceriporiopsis subvermispora.". Chemistry Letters (1): 54–55. doi:10.1246/cl.2000.54. 
  24. ^ Amirta, Rudianto; Fujimori, Kenya; Shirai, Nobuaki; Honda, Yoichi; Watanabe, Takashi (December 2003). "Ceriporic acid C, a hexadecenylitaconate produced by a lignin-degrading fungus, Ceriporiopsis subvermispora". Chemistry and Physics of Lipids. 126 (2): 121–131. doi:10.1016/S0009-3084(03)00098-7. 
  25. ^ Nishimura, Hiroshi; Murayama, Kyoko; Watanabe, Takahito; Honda, Yoichi; Watanabe, Takashi (June 2009). "Absolute configuration of ceriporic acids, the iron redox-silencing metabolites produced by a selective lignin-degrading fungus, Ceriporiopsis subvermispora". Chemistry and Physics of Lipids. 159 (2): 77–80. doi:10.1016/j.chemphyslip.2009.03.006. 
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