Sunday, May 27, 2012

Confusing Toxibbreviations

Dr. Freddy, over at Synthetic Remarks, presented an interesting problem: why do so many molecules have such confusing abbreviations? If you think of an abbreviation as a linguistic shortcut, a way to save time while communicating complex ideas, it makes sense to use something everyone can understand. Unfortunately, the simplest workarounds can also be the most confusing; when I write "RM," do I mean 'recovered material,' or just an alkyl group attached to a catalyst? Depends on your audience.

The strangest shorthands? Natural product toxins.
Batrachotoxin: "Nothing like Brevetoxin."

For convenience, when chemists isolate a new biocide, they assign it a name ending in "toxin," which inevitably shortens to "TX." Pop another letter on the front to differentiate, et voila! (This probably made sense back when we'd found just a small handful of these compounds, but they're getting crowded now.)

Here's a few I tracked down, listed alphabetically:

ATX: Antillatoxin, Anenome toxin, Ammodytoxin, Altertoxin, Aflatoxin, Anatoxin, Adriatoxin
BTX: Botulinum toxin, Batrachotoxin, Brevetoxin
CTX: Charybdotoxin, Conotoxin, Cholera toxin, Ciguatoxin
DTX: Dendrotoxin, Dinophysistoxin, Diphtheria toxin
ETX: Epsilon toxin, Erabutoxin, Edema toxin, exotoxin
FTX: Funnel Web Spider Toxin
Nereistoxin: "Don't call me  Noxiustoxin!"
GTX: Gonyautoxin, Geographutoxin, Gambierotoxin, Gila toxin
HTX: Histrionicotoxin, Hemitoxin, Horridum toxin, Homoanatoxin
ITX: Iota toxin, Paralytic insecticidal toxin, immunotoxin
JTX: Joro spider toxin
KTX: Kaliotoxin
LTX: Latrotoxin, Leukotoxin, Anthrax Lethal toxin
MTX:  Maurotoxin, Maitotoxin, Maculotoxin, Mosquitocidal toxin
NTX: Nereistoxin, Noxiustoxin, neurotoxin
OTX: Ostreotoxin, Orphan toxin
PTX: Pertussis toxin, Palytoxin, Pectenotoxin, Pumiliotoxin
QTX: Quinquestriatus toxin
RTX: Repeat toxins
Saxitoxin: "Will the real STX please stand up?"
STX: Shiga toxin, Saxitoxin
TTX: Tetrodotoxin, Tetanus toxin
UTX: Uraemic toxins
VTX: Verotoxin, Verrucotoxin
WTX: Weak toxin (cobra), Waglerin
XTX: None for business!
YTX: Yessotoxin
ZTX: Zetekitoxin, Zeta toxin

Readers - Have I left out your favorite poison or abbreviation? Let me know in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. BTX = benzene, toluene, xylene (petroleum industry)