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  • 1 Amersham International Limited Amersham Buckinghamshire England
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Compounds labelled with radioisotopes such as14C,3H,32P,35S and125I, are essential tools for research and especially in the life sciences. Syntheses can be directed to isotopic labelling or to non-isotopic labelling. In isotopic labelling a compound is labelled with an isotope of an element already present in the compound whereas non-isotopic labelling is achieved with an isotope is foreign to the material or compound being labelled. This paper reviews the properties of the more important and commonly used radioisotopes in research and methods currently employed for the synthesis of radiolabelled compounds. The relative ease of measurement of radioactivity in large numbers of samples, when compared for example with the measurement of mass, and the great sensitivity with which very small quantities of radioactive compounds can be accurately measured, has resulted in the widespread need and use of radiolebelled compounds. Methods for the practicable labelling of compounds for use as radiotracers all into three main categories, namely, chemical systhesis, biochemical methods and isotope exchange reactions. Examples are chosen to illustrate these methods for the labelling of amino acids, peptides, proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, neurochemicals, nucleic acids, steroids and miscellaneous compounds of interest in biological research. Most methods of labelling employed lead to specific labelling, that is, to modecules in which the position(s) of the radioactive atom(s) is known with certainty. However, isotope exchange reactions which are especially useful for labelling molecules with tritium are often non-specific. The routine use of tritium nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy has resolved any uncertainties in the specificity of labelling with tritium. Examples are given illustrating the effectiveness of this valuable analytical technique. A review of the synthesis of radiolabelled compounds would not be complete without reference to the special properties of the labelled compounds themselves which affect their useful shelf-life, self-decomposition, purification and analysis; factors which all need to be clearly understood in order to use radiolabelled compounds with confidence in scientific research.