First-principles calculation of pKa for cocaine, nicotine, neurotransmitters, and anilines in aqueous solution

Halting Lu, Xi Chen, Chang Guo Zhan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


The absolute pKa values of 24 representative amine compounds, including cocaine, nicotine, 10 neurotransmitters, and 12 anilines, in aqueous solution were calculated by performing first-principles electronic structure calculations that account for the solvent effects using four different solvation models, i.e., the surface and volume polarization for electrostatic interaction (SVPE) model, the standard polarizable continuum model (PCM), the integral equation formalism for the polarizable continuum model (IEFPCM), and the conductor-like screening solvation model (COSMO). Within the examined computational methods, the calculations using the SVPE model lead to the absolute pKa values with the smallest root-mean-square-deviation (rmsd) value (1.18). When the SVPE model was replaced by the PCM, IEFPCM, and COSMO, the rmsd value of the calculated absolute pKa values became 3.21, 2.72, and 3.08, respectively. All types of calculated pKa values linearly correlate with the experimental pKa values very well. With the empirical corrections using the linear correlation relationships, the theoretical pKa values are much closer to the corresponding experimental data and the rmsd values become 0.51-0.83. The smallest rmsd value (0.51) is also associated with the SVPE model. All of the results suggest that the first-principles electronic structure calculations using the SVPE model are a reliable approach to the pKa prediction for the amine compounds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10599-10605
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number35
StatePublished - Sep 6 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films
  • Materials Chemistry


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